September 23, 2007
The five-spot gets a makeover

More redesigned currency is coming our way.

Honest Abe will become Colorful Abe with splashes of purple and gray livening up the $5 bill. The government showed off the new bill Thursday in an Internet news conference -- a high-tech unveiling that officials say is entirely appropriate for a 21st century redesign of the bill featuring the Civil War president, Abraham Lincoln.

The changes are similar to those already made, starting in 2003, to the $10, $20 and $50 bills. In those redesigns, pastel colors were added as part of an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiters and their ever-more-sophisticated copying machines.

Originally, the five wasn't going to be redesigned. But that decision was reversed once counterfeiters began bleaching $5 notes and printing fake $100 bills with the bleached paper to take advantage of the fact that some of the security features were in the same locations on both notes.

To thwart this particular scam, the government is changing the $5 watermark from one of Lincoln to two separate watermarks featuring the numeral 5. The $100 bill has a watermark with the image of Benjamin Franklin.

The security thread embedded in the $5 bill also has been moved to a different location than the one embedded in the $100 bill.

"We wanted this redesigned bill to scream, 'I am a five. I am a five,'" Larry Felix, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We wanted to eliminate any similarity or confusion on the part of the public between the $5 bill and the $100 bill."

I read a thriller some years back that was based on the idea of stealing the old $1 bills that were supposed to be shredded, then bleaching them and reprinting them as $100 bills. The idea was to ensure a steady supply of the paper that American bills are printed on, which is tightly controlled and carries penalties for possession similar to those of counterfeiting. Obviously, that was before those new security features were added.

Circulation is planned for the spring so operators of millions of vending machines have plenty of time to make the changes necessary so their devices will accept the new $5 -- a denomination used heavily in the machines.

The bureau will start printing the new notes next week at its facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The goal is to have 1.5 billion $5 bills ready to be put into circulation, at a date still to be determined.


The next bill to get a makeover will be the $100. It will feature the most advanced safeguard yet, a new security thread composed of 650,000 tiny lenses that will magnify micro-printing on the bills to give the effect of having the images move in the opposite direction than the bill is being moved.

Now that sounds really cool. I can't wait to see what that effect looks like. But I wonder - will the lowly $1 bill and/or its neglected brother, the deuce, ever get an updated look? It feels like almost every other piece of currency out there has gotten a facelift lately. What about the dollar bill?

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 23, 2007 to National news

future historians will note that the production of a peach-colored $10 "greenback" marked the 1st visible evidence of the decline of the American Empire, since the issuing of pastel playmoney had previously been limited to 3rd world countries and played-out European nations.

Posted by: Jeff Hooton on September 23, 2007 6:42 PM