Cheque Washing and Pens

Handwritten documents are important to any Investigator or Researcher as they are either creating them, or reading them. Archives throughout the country are full of original handwritten documents of value to researchers.

The age of the ubiquitous ballpoint pen began in the 40’s and this has caused some problems for archivists as so many companies strove to create inexpensive ballpoint pens. The problem has become one of education. The pen may write, but the ink may fade over time, or be vulnerable to water and other solvents. UV light and poor quality paper also do a fine job of obliterating cheap ink from poor quality ballpoint pens. The forgers art of cheque-washing in the following examples illustrate what can happen to documents that encounter solvents.

Cheque-washing is the process of taking a cheque that’s already been filled out, removing the pen’s ink, then re-writing in a new dollar amount and recipient. Sean Kane’s project to test pens and solvents is very educational. Another test of 3 solvents on 22 pens indicates that the pigment inks similar as used in the Uniball 207 fared better. Mike Shea did some interesting tests of the ink in the uni-ball 207 and the G-2 and three other inks. The G-2 survived water but not soap and bleach. The Uniball ink survived all the tests.

In Europe, all cheques are printed on CBS1 security paper, which visibly reacts to solvent attack. Choosing the proper paper is half the job of maintaining any document’s integrity. In most places other than North America, cheques are uncommon and very expensive.

If your writings must endure getting wet or survive the ages, then write with the Uniball 207 or a DIN ISO standard 12757-2 archival quality ball point pen. (DIN ISO standard 12757-2 defines the standards of permanence for the colour seen on paper when held against light, for resistance to chemical solutions, and for the writing quality of the refill. Refills which are marked with a DIN symbol or the ISO standard number have high writing quality and the writing is waterproof and forgery-proof.)

If you use a fountain pen, then use Registrar’s Ink that is water proof on paper. I suggest the Lamy or Mont Blanc blue-black or Diamine Registrar’s Ink as reliable choices. These are modern variations of iron gall ink that are safe in a fountain pens. This ink is not proof against solvents like ammonia but it is waterproof. Don’t be concerned with tales about the corrosive nature of iron gall ink destroying everything and anything it touches. This is a modern, mildly acidic ink, used to create official documents normally intended to last over 100 years. (Certain other brands of so-called eternal inks often clog fountain pens and make it useless.)

The other waterproof inks for fountain pens seem to be the Pilot Security Ink and the Sailor Nano Super Black ink. I have yet to try these inks.

3 thoughts on “Cheque Washing and Pens

  1. I have been using fountain pen since 1984. I rarely ever use any other type of pen. I use Iron Gall ink and never had any problems what so ever. The ink I use is Diamine Registrar’s Ink.

  2. This is an interesting article. I’m a scientist that specialises in ink analysis by using TLC as means of analysing the different colored components within the ink. There is great variation between inks that appear the same, where the variation is dependant on manufacturer, age, chemical composition etc.

    It’s very easy to detect a forged mixed ink sample by using this technique and running it through a chemical database.


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