The U.S. Treasury Department and Secret Service have battled constantly to stay one step ahead of professional counterfeiters. Recently with high-resolution color copiers and desktop publishing tools there is a new group of amateur counterfeiters out there trying their hand at making fake currency. The Treasury Department is fighting back with the most radical re-designs to the U.S. currency seen in over 60 years.
The 1996 $100 bill was just the first in the new series of bills that the Treasury Department has recently introduced to combat conterfeiting.
The paper used to make U.S. Currency has a unique feel and is extemely durable. It is not really paper in a traditional sense. There are no wood fibers are starch in currency paper. Instead it is composed of a special blend of cotton and linen fibers. The strength comes from raw materials continuously refined until the special feel of the currency is achieved. Therefore people can easily tell if a bill is real by the distinctive feel of the currency paper. Also the distinctive yellowish-green tint of the ink on this special paper are extremely difficult for color photocopiers and printers to match using other types of paper.
Red and Blue Fibers
Small red and blue fibers found within currency paper make copying currency even more difficult. Some counterfeiters try to mimic these fibers, however closer inspection often reveals that these fibers are drawn on the bills rather than actual physical fibers that are part of the currency paper.
Security threads have been in U.S. currency for quite some time. In the most recent bills they run the entire width of the currency. In earlier bank notes these security threads were added to the actual paper itself and the number of threads would represent the denomination of the bill.
These security threads prevent conterfeiters from bleaching out one dollar bills and attempting to print hundred dollar bills on the original currency paper.
In these new bills the security thread will appear in a different location depending on the denomination of the bill. The thread for the new $100 bill carries the words “USA 100″ and can only be seen with transmitted light, which makes photocopying impossible. In addition, the new security threads glow red when held over ultraviolet light.
A new watermark was added to the 1996 series one hundred dollar bill. This is not a new concept. Watermarks have been used on foreign currency for hundreds of years. The watermark is created during the paper making process and is caused by variations in the density of the paper. As light passes through these tiny variations in thickness, it creates different tones. When held up to transmitted light these varying tones form a clear image — and in the case of the new $100, a second image of Ben Franklin.
Intaglio printing is what gives the U.S. currency its distinctive look. The process begins with an engraving, both of the portrait and of the fine line detail surrounding the bill. The process begins with the engraving of the steel printing plates. A high-viscosity ink is then applied to the plates, the plates are then wiped clean, leaving only ink in the grooves, then pressed with enormous pressure (15,000 psi) which transfers the ink to the paper. This enormous pressure causes the paper to be embossed with the ink, closeup of pouring ink thus giving the ink a distinctive raised feel which other printing techniques cannot duplicate. The very fine engravings appear muddy when reproduced in counterfeit notes. While most of the front and back part of the bill is produced in this way, the Treasury seal, Federal Reserve seal and serial numbers are not printed with the Intaglio process.
The portrait on currenct may not seem to be a security feature, but the U.S. Treasury Department maintains that the portrait face is the most recognizable part of money. People will tend to remember faces, and if the bill is counterfeit, they will see that the face is not exactly right. Everyone already associates Ben Franklin with the $100 bill, the U.S. Treasury Department did not want to change the face on the bill. While the faces on some foreign currency change as the countries political climate changes, the U.S. Treasury Department wants to present an image of stability with their currency. Instead, they decided to enlarge the portrait on the new $100. The portrait was painstakingly engraved by Thomas Hipschen, and the U.S. Treasury Department hopes the new enlarged details will make counterfeit bills stand out more clearly from the real thing. By moving the portrait to the left, the face will suffer less wear from folding. The move also makes extra room for the watermark on the right side of the bill.
Color Shifting Ink
Color-shifting ink is perhaps the most “high-tech” of the new security features. The black to green color-shifting is a new and important element of the redesigned $100 bill. Similar types of ink have already been used on foreign currency and even on the latest U.S. passports. The change in color is the result of multi-layered metallic flakes added to the ink. When the bill is tilted, light reflects off these flakes at different wavelengths and changes the color of the ink. This trick is called color diffraction, which is also responsible for the color variations found on the wings of some butterflies. The U.S. Treasury Department has made sure that the special combination of materials and ink is only available to the United States government to make this one feature that will be extremely difficult to counterfeit.
Microprinting appears as just a thin line to the naked eye, but can be easily read upon magnification. The introduction of microprinting on U.S. currency begain in 1990 with the addition of the words “The United States of America” printed around the edge of the portraits. The new bills still use microprinting, but in a different location around Ben Franklin’s lapel. In addition, the words “USA 100″ are printed within the lower left “100.” Microprinting is very difficult to reproduce accurately on photocopiers because most copiers do not have the ability to work at such a high resolution. This situation may not last long, because improved scanning devices are now able to print at finer detailed level. The Treasury hopes the combination of the many anti-replication features will continue to deter potential counterfeiters in the future.
Fine Line Engraving
Fine circular lines appear around the portrait of the bill. The clarity and detail of these lines are difficult for scanners and photocopiers to reproduce. These lines often cause a blur during the scanning process.
The serial number is especially important for banks which handle large amounts of cash. No two serial numbers are the same. On the new bills, these serial numbers have been increased to 11 digits.
In addition, the new bills contain a redesigned image of Treasury sealFederal Reserve seal and code which indicate the bill’s issuing bank. While the old bills contain this information, on the new bills the numbers are clearer and easier to identify. The old green Treasury seal hidden behind the “100″ has long been part of U.S currency and will remain an important security feature. This detailed combination of green and black is difficult to reproduce. Like all overt features, however, the new bills will require continuous upgrades and additions as new technology arises that makes the features more vulnerable.
Fake Hundred Dollar Bill
Using the information from the article above can you find all the features which show that the hundred dollar bill below is a fake?
There are five things wrong with the hundred dollar bill above.
FRONT OF BILL
1) The Federal Reserve Bank seal should designate the entire system not one particular bank. It would be fine on an older version of the bill, which features the individual seal of the bank to which the note was issued. But with the new bills a universal seal representing the entire Federal Reserve System should be in its place.
2) The Serial Number does not contain enough letters. The serial number should include 11 letters and numbers. The new sequence will include two letters in the front (instead of one), eight numbers, and one letter at the end.
3) Two numerals are found on the old bills are on the right side of the bill, but should not be on new currency. Instead, a watermark of Benjamin Franklin, which can be seen when the bill is held up to a light should be there. A watermark is hard to counterfeit because it does not photocopy.
4) The misspelled word “DOLLER” (should be DOLLAR) on the lower right hand corner of the bill.
BACK OF BILL
5) The clock is missing from the tower. Details are important to foil counterfeiters. Among the new features added, many include fine detail, such as microprinting and concentric lines.