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Meet the Benjamins: America’s new $100 bills

Despite the fact that the US government is currently shut down, the Federal Reserve, Department of the Treasury, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing have all managed to coordinate and print off some snazzy new C-notes. The bills started making their way into circulation yesterday, and although they might not appear to be all that radically different from our old bills, these new Benji’s have ton of sophisticated anti-counterfeiting technology going on under the hood.

To be fair, the 100 dollar notes we’ve been using for past seven years aren’t exactly a cakewalk to counterfeit. They’ve got all kinds of watermarks and microprinting going on, but they’ve also been in circulation since 2006, and in that time advanced printing technologies have become far more accessible, so skilled forgers have had plenty of time to learn the ins and outs of making passable fakes. By total value, the US hundred dollar bill is the most counterfeited single denomination on the globe, so it’s easy to see why the Fed opted for a redesign.

Here’s a quick rundown of the technology that makes these new bills so tough to forge:

The Watermarks

The old hundo’s had watermarks, and these new ones are no different. They feature a smaller, less-detailed version of Franklin’s face that’s only visible when held up to a light source. Watermarks like this are extremely difficult to replicate in a convincing fashion thanks to the composition of our currency. The linen/cotton combination makes watermarks appear slightly fuzzy, but in an all-cotton note they tend to look razor-sharp.  

The Microprinting

Much like the 2006 notes, the latest 100 dollar bills utilize microprinting – except they’ve got a lot more of it. Look closely (you might want to snag a magnifying glass if you’ve got bad eyes) and you should be able to spot the”The United States of America” on Franklin’s collar, “USA 100” on the watermark, and “One Hundred USA” along the golden quill.

The Color-Changing Ink

Take a closer look at the big ol’ copper-colored “100” that’s emblazoned on the lower right corner of the new bill. If tilted, it’ll appear to take on a greenish hue. This is one example of the color-changing ink that’s used on the new notes. It contains microscopic flakes of metallic material that reflects different wavelengths of light. This same technique is used to print the golden quill on the back, the tiny 100‘s and USA‘s speckled  on either side, and the golden bell hidden on the inkwell on the front.

The Ribbon

Whereas the previous 100 dollar note featured an internal security strip that was only visible if held up to a light source, the new note sports a big, blue strip sitting unhidden on the bill’s face. Arguably the most advanced and difficult-to-replicate feature, this strip is woven into the bill through a process the Fed wont disclose, and somehow can’t be seen from the rear side of the note. Visible within the strip are three-dimensional images of two icons. 

Looks like your days of printing off stacks with your HP Photosmart 7760 are over. Find out more on why you’ll never make it as a counterfeiter at

Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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