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Ben Franklin's Facelift: The New $100 Bill

The US Federal Reserve is rolling out a new hundred dollar bill in an effort to combat the circulation of counterfeit bills that are virtually undetectable.

detailed look at the new hundred dollar billFighting Counterfeiting With a New Ben Franklin

If you’ve had the good fortune recently to use a $100 bill, you might have been holding a counterfeit in your hand. Don’t blame yourself, though, counterfeiters of our $100 bill have gotten quite clever. In fact, U.S. Treasury officials say that a new counterfeit version of the bill produced in North Korea is so cleverly done only the most sophisticated of currency experts can detect it as a fake.

These currency pros have dubbed the North Korean fake as the “supernote,” an homage to the skill behind the illegal counterfeit.

The “supernote” is far from the only counterfeit version of the $100 bill out there, too. The $100 bill, in fact, is recognized by currency experts as the most widely counterfeited of all U.S. denominations outside the country because of its wide circulation overseas.

To deal with this, the U.S. Treasury has since 2003 been working on a slightly redesigned $100 bill that will be more challenging to counterfeit. The bill will still feature the sage visage of Benjamin Franklin, of course, but there will be other changes that will make creating fake versions of the bill a more difficult task. The new version of the bill is expected to go into wide circulation by early 2011.

One of the new features of the redesigned bill is a blue three-dimensional security ribbon that will be woven directly into the fabric of the $100 dollar note, not just printed on it. This ribbon will feature alternating graphics of bells to further complicate counterfeiters’ efforts.

There is even a fancy image of a bell inside an inkwell that changes color when users tilt the $100 bill. The color will shift from copper to green depending on how users hold the bill. The bill will also feature a large number “100” that will do the same, further making life difficult for counterfeiters.

What will happen to the current $100 bills still in circulation? They will remain legal tender even after the new bills are put into circulation. However, they will be gradually destroyed and replaced as they pass through the Federal Reserve system.

Here’s another interesting fact: While the $100 bill may be the most counterfeited U.S. bill outside the country, it does not hold the same honor in the United States itself. That bill is the $20 bill, which is the most frequent target of counterfeiters within the United States.

Overseas counterfeiting, though, is a big problem. That’s because more than two-thirds of all Federal Reserve notes now in circulation are actually outside the United States. It’s one of the reasons why the federal government is so intent on making Benjamin Franklin and his $100 bill so difficult to counterfeit.