Last spring, and with much fanfare the U.S. treasury proudly unveiled its newly redesigned $100 dollar bill. Hailed as the best defense yet for counterfeit prevention, it featured a host of new security features. Some features remain: for instance Ben Franklin's portrait at the center is still printed in intaglio – raised print – that has been the hallmark of Treasury's counterfeit security efforts for decades. Likewise, the microprinting and fine lines remain on the new $100, although in a new location, as does the “optically-variable” color-shifting number 100 on the lower right corner that goes from copper to green as you tilt the bill.
In addition to these, there are two new prominent security features. A copper-colored inkwell at the bottom reveals a bell inside as you tilt the bill. The inkwell itself is solid copper color, while the bell shifts from copper to green, creating the illusion of appearing and disappearing with movement. To the left of the inkwell, near the center of the bill is the other new addition: a colored “3-D Security Ribbon” woven into the paper and imprinted with tiny bells that move and turn into the numbers 100 as the bill moves.
Washington made much of the release, widely touting the new security features in press releases and on their newmoney.gov website, and generally cultivating the impression that it augured a new era of money immune to counterfeiting. That is, until several months ago when they quietly announced a glitch in the process would delay the release of the new bills into circulation. First reported by CNBC, the problem crops up during printing. CNBC cites anonymous Treasury officials that as much as 30% – although that number is disputed by Bureau of Engraving & Printing spokeswoman Darlene Anderson – of the printed bills have come out of the printer creased and unusable.
The new bills were set for release into circulation in February 2011. It is not clear now when the new date will be. CNBC reports that separating out the creased bills from the 1.1 billion already printed will take a year if sorted mechanically – or a decade if done by hand (!) Meanwhile, the government has resumed printing the “old” $100 dollar bills to keep up with the worn out ones coming out of circulation.
The delay is actually good news for retailers and casinos in particular, where the new $100s will surely make their presence felt. A longer rollout of updated bills gives both industries a chance to create policies ensuring smooth processing. This means establishing a close familiarity with all the changed features, to avoid mistakenly rejecting real bills and antagonizing customers, and – most importantly – updating the counterfeit detection machines to ones that will read the new 100 dollar bill.