Every year the U.S. Treasury handles approximately 30,000 claims and redeems
mutilated currency valued at over $30 million
The Bureau of Engraving and Printing employs 13 of the country's most talented
artists as engravers
U.S. government officials today
unveiled a new $20 note design with enhanced security features
and subtle background colors. The new design is part of an
ongoing effort to stay ahead of the counterfeiting of U.S.
“The soundness of a nation’s currency is essential to the
soundness of its economy. And to uphold our currency’s
soundness, it must be recognized and honored as legal tender,
and counterfeiting must be effectively thwarted,” said Alan
Greenspan, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors.
Snow and Greenspan were joined today in unveiling the new $20
note by U.S. Treasurer Rosario Marin; Tom Ferguson, director of
the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces
U.S. currency; and W. Ralph Basham, director of the United
States Secret Service, the law enforcement agency responsible
for combating counterfeiting.
The new $20 note will be issued in the fall, with new designs
for the $50 and $100 following in 2004 and 2005. Redesign of the
$5 and $10 notes is under consideration, but the $1 and $2 notes
will not be redesigned. Even after the new money is issued,
older-design notes will remain legal tender.
“U.S. currency is a worldwide symbol of security and integrity.
This new design will help us keep it that way, by protecting
against counterfeiting and making it easier for people to
confirm the authenticity of their hard-earned money,” U.S.
Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said. “In addition to keeping
our currency safe from counterfeiters, we are working to ensure
that more of those dollars stay in the pockets of American
families. The swift enactment of the President’s Jobs and Growth
package should do just that.”
“This is The New Color of Money; it is safer because it is
harder to fake and easier to check, smarter to stay ahead of
tech-savvy counterfeiters, and more secure than ever,“ said the
Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Ferguson. “The security
features are easier than ever to use, and we want the public to
learn how to use them, to protect their hard-earned money.”
The New Color of Money
The most noticeable difference in the notes is the subtle green,
peach and blue colors featured in the background. Different
colors will be used for different denominations, which will help
everyone--particularly those who are visually impaired--to tell
While consumers should not use color to check the authenticity
of their currency (relying instead on user-friendly security
features--see below), color does add complexity to the note,
making counterfeiting more difficult.
The new bills will remain the same size and use the same, but
enhanced portraits and historical images of Andrew Jackson on
the face of the note and the White House on the back. The
redesign also features symbols of freedom--a blue eagle in the
background, and a metallic green eagle and shield to the right
of the portrait in the case of the $20 note.
The new $20 design retains three important security features
that were first introduced in the late 1990s and are easy for
consumers and merchants alike to check:
- The watermark
The faint image similar to the large portrait, which is part
of the paper itself and is visible from both sides when held
up to the light.
- The security thread
Also visible from both sides when held up to the light, this
vertical strip of plastic is embedded in the paper. “USA
TWENTY” and a small flag are visible along the thread.
- The color-shifting ink
The numeral “20” in the lower-right corner on the face of the
note changes from copper to green when the note is tilted. The
color shift is more dramatic and easier to see on the
Because these features are difficult for counterfeiters to
reproduce well, they often do not try. Counterfeiters are hoping
that cash-handlers and the public will not check their money
Counterfeiting: Increasingly Digital
Counterfeiters are increasingly turning to digital methods, as
advances in technology make digital counterfeiting of currency
easier and cheaper. In 1995, for example, less than 1 percent of
counterfeit notes detected in the U.S. was digitally produced.
By 2002, that number had grown to nearly 40 percent, according
to the U.S. Secret Service.
Yet despite the efforts of counterfeiters, U.S. currency
counterfeiting has been kept at low levels, with current
estimates putting the level of counterfeit notes in circulation
worldwide at between 0.01 and 0.02 percent, or about 1-2 notes
in every 10,000 genuine notes.
Secret Service Director Basham credits a combination of factors
in keeping counterfeiting low: “Improved worldwide cooperation
in law enforcement; improvements in currency design, like those
in the new $20 notes unveiled today; and a better-informed
public all contribute to our success in the fight against
“From Wall Street to Fleet Street, from St. Petersburg, Florida,
to St. Petersburg, Russia, our goal is the seamless, smooth
introduction of The New Color of Money,” Treasurer Marin said.
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