• seperator

October 10, 1995


It has always been a constant race by those who make the money to keep one step ahead of counterfeiters. The United States took large step forward in the mid 1990s when it introduced new designs for its paper money, starting with the $100 bill.

Wow! New $100

By Burnett Anderson

Washington Bureau

The U.S. Treasury pulled out all stops and put forward its top executives on Sept. 27, along with an impersonator of Benjamin Franklin, to get maximum media play for its new $100 bill.

For the first time, it revealed all non-secret features of the new design, including replacement of the 12 individual Federal Reserve Bank seals with a universal Fed seal.

However, the issuing Federal Reserve bank will still be identified by its alphabetical letter, placed under the newly located serial number in the upper left area of the face.

The principle speakers at what Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin called “a truly historic event,” were Rubin, Fed Board Chairman Alan Greenspan, and U.S. Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow.

All three seemed to be teetering between the horns of a dilemma, of which one to emphasize continuity and stability in U.S. paper money, the other to emphasize the many changes aimed at deterring counterfeiting.

There was also a chorus of assurances that, as in the past, now and forever there would be no demonetization, recall, or any tampering with the legal tender status of existing U.S. paper money.

Secretary Rubin put it this way: “While the security improvements are more visible than others added in recent years, the 1996 Series bills retain the basic American look and feel of the bills we’re used to carrying.

“The size is the same. The faces are the same. The monuments are the same. It still says ‘In God We Trust.’ And the color is still the same. The greenback will still be green.”

Rubin then listed “some of the more obvious security features,” starting with a special ink that will shift color between red and black, depending on the angle.

The Franklin portrait has been enlarged and shifted slightly to the left, he said, adding that “the portrait has several security features within it to trip up counterfeiters.”

Further, there is a watermark to the right, duplicating the portrait and a special security thread “running vertically at different locations depending on the denomination.”

Some other features disclosed to the press are microprinting in the numeral at the lower left corner and on Franklin’s coat, and concentric fine-line printing in the background of the portrait and on the back of the note.

What Rubin and others called a security thread is actually a security strip like the one introduced in U.S. paper notes in 1991, but with an added major feature: it will glow red when exposed to ultraviolet light in a dark environment.

Some of the other changes emerged in a “technical backgrounder” for the media which followed the formal session.

Among these are new locations for the legal tender clause and the plate number.

There have also been shifts and changes in size for the corner numericals and of the spelled out denomination.

Most counterfeits are detected by people, tellers and others who handle much cash, particularly by the feel of the paper and the “look” of the portrait.

The successive lower denomination versions of the new design will not have all the same anti-counterfeit features of the more valuable $100s, but will be similar in appearance.

The new serial numbers will consist of two letters (instead of one), followed by eight numbers and an additional letter.

The vertical security strip in the $100 bill will be located to the left of the portrait.

The design of the back of the note is very similar to the current $100, but white space was widened at either side of Independence Hall to provide room to see the watermark and the security strip.

The watermark at the right of the note will be visible against light from either the face or the back.