Benjamin Franklin gets a Face Lift

By: Annie Burnham

Despite the partial shutdown of the federal government, the Federal Reserve still released its new $100 bills Tuesday, Oct. 8. Armored trucks delivered the bills to banks, and customers began seeing the bills by that afternoon. The Federal Reserve printed 3.5 billion new notes.

According to the Federal Reserve, these bills have been 10 years in the making. The complexity of the bills has created many setbacks, which is why it has taken so long to produce them. In 2010, a billion of the first printed bills had unwanted creases. Later, in preparation for releasing the bills in 2011, they had to halt the release due to smearing ink on the bills. They are now confident the problems have been solved.

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1996 $100 bill redesign
Wiki Commons

This is the first redesign of the $100 bill since March 1996. According to Slate.com, in 1996, the bills new features included “an oversized, off-center portrait of Benjamin Franklin, a ghostly watermark of that same portrait, hard-to-duplicate fine-line printing in the background, and optically variable ink in the bottom-right corner that shifted color from green to black.”

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2013 Redesign of $100 bill
Wiki Commons

This is the final part of a large plan, called “The New Color of Money”, by the Federal Reserve to redesign all the bills in order to better protect from counterfeiters. The first bill redesigned was the $20 in 2003. Benjamin Franklin will still be the face of $100, Independence Hall will still be on the back of the bill, and there’s a new feature that makes the Liberty Bell disappear when tilted. There is also a bright blue security ribbon interwoven with the paper of the bill.

“The 3-D security ribbon is magic. It is made up of hundreds of thousands of micro-lenses in each note,” said Larry Felix, the director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in an article on CBS news. “This is the most complex note the United States has ever produced.”

The complexity of the security ribbon has been added in an effort to prevent counterfeit production of the bill. The $100 bill is currently the most counterfeited bill outside of the U.S. due to the bill’s large circulation overseas. North Korea has the highest number of counterfeiting cases due to the highly impoverished population. Because of the large number of sanctions on North Korea, there is a high demand for solid currency.

“North Korean forging prowess is so advanced that U.S. law enforcement officials have dubbed the fake, “nearly perfect” $100 bills “supernotes.” According to a 2009 Congressional Research Service report, at least $45 million in supernotes of North Korean origin have been detected in circulation, and Pyongyang may earn between $15 million and $25 million a year from counterfeiting,” said one article in the Christian Science Monitor. “According to the Korean newspaper The Chosun Ilbo, one North Korean embassy in Eastern Europe generated US$30 million by exchanging counterfeit notes a year.”

In light of the new security features, the new bills will still retain the signature of former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. Once the current supply has been put into circulation, current Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew’s signature will appear on the bills.

Sonja Danburg, program manager for U.S. currency education at the Federal Reserve said that half to two-thirds of the existing $100 bills are in circulation outside the U.S. One U.S. News article said that “Federal Reserve economist Ruth Judson estimated that up to 70.7 percent of all $100 bills are abroad.”

There are currently $900 billion worth of $100 bills in circulation that will slowly be phased out over the next couple years as they grow worn and torn. To learn more about the new features of the bill and hear a message from the Federal Reserve about the bill’s new design, visit www.newmoney.gov. Colorado should expect to see the bills by the end of this week – keep an eye out for them and post your pictures below!

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