Ben Gets a Makeover

Having lived long, the $100 bill has experienced many instances of change, and now, measures once thought to fool counterfeiters have since proved otherwise. Not wishing to squander time, the US Treasury is unveiling its new design.

For some crooks, the easiest way to make money is to print it. And as technology has taken the laborious job of copying currency out of the hands of expert counterfeiters and put it into the hands of anyone with a computer, a scanner, and a color printer, printing fake cash has become more widespread.

What? I'm not pretty anymore?

In an effort to put a crimp on “casual counterfeiting” and make it harder for the pros to duplicate bills, the US Treasury has redesigned almost all of the currency it prints. The latest to get a facelift is the $100 bill, which was last redesigned in 1996, when a watermark image of Ben Franklin and a security stripe were added to the bill. These devices have been kept in the redesign.

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The new bill, which will go into circulation in February of next year, will add new anti-counterfeiting measures, including a 3-D security ribbon and an inkwell that changes color when the bill is tilted. Moving the bill will also reveal an image of the Liberty Bell inside the inkwell. The 3-D ribbon will have images of bells that turn into the number 100 when the bill is moved. The portrait of Franklin and the image of Independence Hall on the reverse side of the bill have also been modified to help foil the fake money artists.

The patron saint of American counterfeiters

The $6.5 billion worth of $100 bills now in circulation will remain legal tender, according to Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, who also estimated that two-thirds of those Benjamins circulate outside the US. In fact, the $100 bill is the one most frequently counterfeited outside the US; domestic counterfeiters favor the $20 bill, according to Treasury officials.