Ben Franklin’s Face-Lift

After a three-year delay, the new high-tech $100 bill enters circulation this fall. Here’s how it’s designed to confound the counterfeiters.

By Keenan Mayo


Trickier Watermark

When held to light, a faint-duplicate image of Ben Franklin emerges. “The portrait is an upgraded design,” says Doug Crane, vice president of Crane & Co., which has provided the paper for U.S. currency since 1879.

Creepier Portrait

Franklin rises ever so slightly off the paper, and his eyes seem more life-like than before. “Portraits are important to bank notes, because people are good at facial recognition,” Crane says. Meaning it’s easy for cashiers to spot a counterfeit bill if the face looks off.

3D Security Ribbon

A blue ribbon woven into the paper uses 650,000 microlenses to produce dancing 3D Liberty Bells and $100 numerals. According to Jason Kersten, author of The Art of Making Money, “You can’t use any of the traditional counterfeiting techniques to replicate it.”

More Ink

The inkwell has a green Liberty Bell on its face that appears and disappears. “It’s color-shifting ink, which isn’t new,” Kersten says. “But they’re using way more of it. The giant inkwell is about being obtrusive.” Existing bills feature the technology in green and black; the new bill uses green and copper, which is intended to pop more.

Timothy Geithner’s signature — Jacob Lew hadn’t taken office yet when the plates were engraved

“United States of America” is micro-printed on his collar

Independence Hall Switch-Up

For the first time since paper currency shrank to its current size, in 1929, the bill will no longer feature the front of the building, the south facade. It now shows the hall’s backside. This change forces counterfeiters to revise their tools, according to an employee at the Federal Reserve.

Time Change

The new time on the bell tower clock is 10:30, not the traditional 4:10. Darlene Anderson, manager of external affairs at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, says there’s no significance to the times. Both images were engraved in the 1920s from photographs. “We just think the photographer took the images at different times,” she says.

Big Numeral

A larger “100” makes the notes more accessible to the visually impaired. But it’s also “a pain in the ass for counterfeiters,” Kersten says. “This adds color gradation to it, which makes it harder and more costly to counterfeit.”

The paper is a blend of cotton and linen

The 2004 film National Treasure said the time was 2:22. It was wrong


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