Security Features in US Currency - Bill Counters Detect Counterfeits – Carnation Enterprises

Security Features in US Currency - Bill Counters Detect Counterfeits

security features of US dollar banknotes

Electronic commerce notwithstanding, 40% of consumer transactions are still made with cash [4].The problem of counterfeit bills ending up in your till is as real as ever. 88 million counterfeit USA bills were seized in 2013 [4]. The US Mint has made great efforts in recent years to introduce security features in the circulating currency to help reduce the extent of the problem. By combining this with modern microprocessor-driven bill-counters and sophisticated software, we can provide a reasonable level of protection at a reasonable price to the discerning businessman. This article gives an overview of the anti-fraud innovations built into today’s USA dollar bills that make it possible to check automatically for counterfeits.

The $100 bill redesign in 2013 was a long time coming, due to a 2010 manufacturing flaw with creasing of the bill, but the end result was the most complex note ever made. It has the most advanced protection features of the US Dollar bills. Here is how you check the $100 manually. (Most of the advanced bill counting machines will do this for you automatically.)

                                    THE 2013 EDITION OF THE $100 BILL

There are seven security features, and seven bills they affect  (memory kicker:  “7 by 7”)

  • Standardised physical size and weight
    • All seven US bills are 2.61 inches wide by 6.14 inches in length and 0.0042 inches thick, and each weighs 1 gram [2].
  • 3D security ribbon (complicated)
    • The 3D ribbon is magic. It is made up of hundreds of thousands of “micro-lenses” [1]. Move the bill while focusing on the broken blue strip in the center. You will see the “bells” printed on the ribbon change to100”s and they and the 100’s should move in an unusual way. When you rotate the note around the vertical blue ribbon (called “yaw” in aircraft), the bells and the 100’s move up and down. When you tip the bill around its (horizontal) wider edge (called “roll” in aircraft), they move side-to-side. The trick is, the bells and “100”s should move in the opposite direction from the way the bill is being rotated. Also, check that the ribbon is woven through the paper from front to back, and not just printed on top.
  • Color-shifting ink
    • Tilt the note and look at the bellin the "Inkwell" and the large numeral "100" in the lower right corner of the front of the note - they should shift color from copper to green as the note moves.
  • Portrait watermark
    • Hold the note to the light and look for another (faint outline) image of Benjamin Franklin in the blank space between the upper (small) and lower large “100” on the right-hand side of the bill, partly overlapped by the Treasury seal. It should be visible from both sides of the note.
      • Security thread
        • Hold the bill to the light; there should be an embedded thread running vertically to the left of Ben Franklin. The thread is imprinted with the small letters “USA”alternating with the number “100” . The thread should be visible from both sides of the note. This thread glows pink when illuminated by ultraviolet light (UV) – and that’s how the cheaper bill counters check for forgeries – they use only UV light.
      • Raised printing
        • Move your finger up and down Ben Franklin’s right shoulder (left side of the bill). It should feel rough to the touch, as a result of recessed intaglio[5] printing. Older-tech raised printing can be felt throughout the rest of the $100 note; this gives all genuine notes a distinctive texture that you can compare with the feel of a bill you know to be ok.
      • Micro-printing
        • Look carefully (magnification will be necessary) to see the micro-printed text THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”on the collar of Ben Franklin’s jacket, just below his neck-scarf. Then there should be “USA 100” around the blank space containing the watermark of Ben Franklin, and “ONE HUNDRED USA” along the Founding Father’s golden quill, and also small ”100”s in the note borders, Not easy to see….


        You can check out the full descriptions of these features on the US Federal Reserve website The site also shows some very useful pictures of how you twist and turn the bills to make the security features possible to see. It is best to start with the hundred dollar note, as it is the more advanced, and the other bills have the same types of features, just fewer. I highly recommend taking a look at the website – it could save you being caught with a dud!


        As you can see, bill counters and bill sorters that check for counterfeit printing errors have to be pretty sophisticated!


        The Other Bills:

        The $50 bill is not as advanced as the hundred, as it was last updated in 2004 and has not been changed since. The main difference in the $50 bill security features, is the lack of a 3D Security Ribbon.


        The $20 bill was last redesigned in 2003, and has the same anti-counterfeit precautions as the $50. The $10 was updated in 2006 (same feature set as $50), the $5 in 2008 (no color-shifting ink), the $1 in 1963 (has only the raised printing), and the less-common $2 in 1976 (raised printing only).


        If you want to be as protected as possible for the cost you have to lay out for the counter, you should look at a high-end Mixed-Bill Counter – and you can see why! - like our model CR-3 (approximately $1,450). If you are willing to do your own checking, you can go for a much cheaper option, say the portable battery-powered CR-30 Mini Bill Counter for only $99.


        Take a look at the “Products” tab on our website for a range of bill counters and bill sorters lying in between these two high- and low-end machines. Of course, as the protection and features increase, so do the prices…..


        Remember the name - Carnation Enterprises - We support you with counters, and we count on your support!


            “If everyone in America painted their car red, America would be a red carnation”



        • Larry Felix, the director of the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing, as reported in the, “New $100 bill heads to the banks Tuesday”, of Oct 7, 2013.
        • which quotes the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing  from  14 May 2014
        • Some very good articles on the history of the Dollar and its many revisions
        • Statistics on counterfeiting in the USA in 2013 (accessed May 20, 2017)
        • Explains how the recessed printing, called “intaglio”, is done.

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