The Color of Money

September 20, 2007

No – I’m not talking about the Tom Cruise/Paul Newman movie.  I’m talking about the new $5 bill that will be in circulation soon.

The government showed off the new bill Thursday in an Internet news conference — a high-tech unveiling that officials say is entirely appropriate for a 21st century redesign of the bill featuring the Civil War president, Abraham Lincoln.

The changes are similar to those already made to the $10, $20 and $50 bills.  In those redesigns, pastel colors were added as part of an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiters and their ever-more-sophisticated copying machines.

Originally, the five wasn’t going to be redesigned.  But that decision was reversed once counterfeiters began bleaching $5 notes and printing fake $100 bills with the bleached paper to take advantage of the fact that some of the security features were in the same locations on both notes.

To thwart this particular scam, the government is changing the $5 watermark from one of Lincoln to two separate watermarks featuring the numeral 5.  The $100 bill has a watermark with the image of Benjamin Franklin.  The security thread embedded in the $5 bill also has been moved to a different location than the one embedded in the $100 bill.

“We wanted this redesigned bill to scream, ‘I am a five. I am a five,'” Larry Felix, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said in an interview with The Associated Press.  “We wanted to eliminate any similarity or confusion on the part of the public between the $5 bill and the $100 bill.”

Circulation is planned for the spring so operators of millions of vending machines have plenty of time to make the changes necessary so their devices will accept the new $5 — a denomination used heavily in the machines.

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