Simanaitis Says

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THERE’S A new $100 bill entering circulation—not that it matters much to me directly, as even Grants ($50s) make me nervous. Nevertheless, these new Benjamins are accompanied by lots of neat trivia which prompts me to do more investigation, even to digging out my own (relatively) rare examples of U.S. currency.

The new $100 bill, aka C-Note, was introduced on October 8, 2013, the point being increased security against counterfeiting. Woven into its center—i.e., not printed–the bill has a blue 3D Security Ribbon. Liberty bells and numerals 100 alternate in the ribbon as the bill is tilted back and forth; these images move up and down as it’s tilted from side to side.


Don’t print this at home, kids. The U.S. Federal Reserve are professionals. Obverse above; reverse, below.


There’s an inkwell on Franklin’s left, which has a Liberty Bell that “ages” from copper to green as the bill is tilted. A quill pen and phrases from the Declaration of Independence are imprinted to his left as well.

Over Franklin’s right shoulder (and rad hairdo), there’s a Security Thread that, when held to the light, is seen to be imprinted with the letters USA and the numeral 100. (It doesn’t appear in the image here.)

These and other subtleties are designed to confound—or at least slow down—counterfeiters around the world, especially in North Korea.


Do not accept Benjamins from this man. Image from the Korea Central News Agency.

Kim Jong-un and his pals allegedly have a regular business of printing their own Benjamins, then distributing them throughout the world via their embassies. A South Korean newspaper, The Chosun Ilbo, reports that one North Korean embassy in Eastern Europe generates $30 million U.S. each year by passing counterfeit notes.

According to the Federal Reserve, perhaps $900 billion worth of real Benjamins are in circulation, more than two-thirds of them outside the U.S. No pun intended, but major users include Azerbaijan, Indonesia, North Korea, Russia and Vietnam.

There are only two U.S. currencies being printed with a non-presidential visage; the $10 with Alexander Hamilton is the other. Salmon P. Chase was on the $10,000 bill, but none of these has been printed since 1945. “Ten Large” and other high-denomination bills ($500, $1000, $5000 and $100,000) were officially discontinued on July 14, 1969.

The Benjamin is the second most common (you’ll excuse the word) U.S. bill. Only Washinton’s $1 is more circulated. The estimated life span of a C-Note is 15 years. The Ten-Spot has the shortest life span of just 4.2 years.

All the paper for U.S. currency comes from one source, Crane & Company of Dalton, Massachusetts. Crane has been providing the paper since 1879; the company roots date back to 1776. According to a Crane spokesman, a typical piece of paper will break down after 400 folds. By contrast, a U.S. bill is design to withstand 8000 folds.

My (relatively) rare U.S. currency? A Jefferson, a $2 bill. Indeed, I have a pair of them, both crisp and like-new, though I do not recall whence I came upon them.


A Jefferson, obverse above, reverse below.


The Jefferson was discontinued in 1966, then reintroduced 10 years later as a potential cost-saving measure. It constitutes fewer than one percent of notes currently produced and is rarely seen today. Indeed, try using one at a takeout window.

I recall they were not uncommon during my undergraduate years in Worcester, Massachusetts. One rationale for them was the $2 window in horse race betting.

Do you suppose I had a hot tip at 1-1? ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2013

2 comments on “THE NEW BENJAMINS

  1. sabresoftwareAndrew Johnson
    October 26, 2013

    In Canada we have transitioned from paper to polymer notes (see The first to change were the $100 in 2011, and the $50 in early 2012 as these were the most counterfeited. The $20 was next later in 2012, and later this fall the $10 and $5 will come out. The $1 and $2 were replaced years ago with coins.

    The positives of the new bills is that they will probably last much longer than the paper bills, and with all the embedded features will (at least for a while) prevent counterfeiting. The negatives are that they don’t fold very easily, and at the same time are both rather slippery to the touch due to the smooth surface, but also have a tendency to stick together due to that same smooth surface. More than once I have almost given two bills away, not realizing that they were stuck to each other.

    Still, being able to use $50 and $100 bills is a bonus (although I don’t use them often – in fact usually only if somebody else gives one to me), whereas the older paper bills were not welcome in many businesses due to the high prevalence of fakes.

    • sabresoftware
      October 26, 2013

      I spoke too soon. Apparently earlier this year 2 counterfeit $100 polymer bills turned up. Still, the technology required to make/fake these new bills will limit the number of counterfeiters, so the volume of fakes should remain fairly low. Two generations ago the $50 could be faked literally by high end colour photocopiers, although I believe that proper alignment of back and front was still a challenge, and the necessary bank note paper was not easy to come by, so that these fakes were fairly easy to detect.

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This entry was posted on October 26, 2013 by in And Furthermore..., Sci-Tech and tagged , , .
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