Timeless Ben Franklin gets makeover with revamped $100 bill

The folks who distribute America’s money chose a modest Las Vegas ballroom and used a generic slide presentation on Wednesday to introduce a redesigned $100 bill to the gaming industry.

The new high-tech makeover is part of an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiters as technology becomes more sophisticated and more dollars flow overseas.

The redesigned notes will be circulated on Oct. 8. Benjamin Franklin is still on the $100 bill, but to thwart counterfeiters, he has been joined by a disappearing Liberty Bell in an inkwell and a bright blue security ribbon down the center of the note.

The bright blue security ribbon is composed of thousands of tiny lenses that magnify tiny Liberty Bells and the numeral 100. Move the bill, and the objects move in a different direction, according to an assistant director with the Federal Reserve in Washington, D.C.

“There is $1.1 trillion of currency in circulation,” Lorelei Pagano, assistant director of Federal Reserve Bank operations and payment systems, told dozens of gaming industry executives during an hourlong presentation at Global Gaming Expo at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas.

“There is about $9 billion in $100 notes in circulation,” Pagano said. “That’s a lot of currency to replace in the next couple of years. We will not recall any of the currency out there. We don’t do that. ”

Pagano said the $100 bill, also known as the C-note, is the last bill to undergo an extensive redesign. It costs the Federal Reserve 12.6 cents for each redesigned $100 bill, she said.

The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing began the process in 2003, adding security features and splashes of color to the $20, then the $50, $10 and $5 bills. She said the $1 and $2 bills aren’t getting a makeover.

“It’s just too costly to redesign both the $1 and $2 notes,” Pagano said.

The redesigned $100 bill had been expected to go into circulation in late 2008, but its introduction was delayed while the federal government refined security features.

Some executives in the gaming business welcomed the new currency.

“We’ve been working with the Federal Reserve for several years,” said Tom Nieman, vice president of global marketing for Las Vegas-based JCM Global. “They’ve come to us to get an idea of where our technology is going.”

JCM Global is a manufacturer of bill validator systems for the gaming business.

“It is not our job to accept everything, but to validate it,” Nieman said. “Our iVIZON bill validator captures 100 percent of the image of the note and works off that to validate the bill. We’ve been very successful.”

The changes are aimed at foiling counterfeiters who use ever-more sophisticated equipment, including scanners and copiers. The $100 bills are the most frequent target of counterfeiters operating outside the United States, while the $20 bill seems to be the favorite in the United States, according to the Federal Reserve.

Pagano said about a half to two-thirds of all currency circulates outside of the United States.

Other security features of the new $100 bill include a more defined portrait watermark, raised printing and a larger gold 100 on the back of the note. The embedded security thread has been enlarged to 2.6 millimeters from 1.6 millimeters, while the 100 numeral on the lower right side of the bill can change from copper to green ink.

She said the bills are a blend of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen. Pagano said the feel of the new bill should help casino employees tell whether it’s counterfeit.

While the new $100 notes will be distributed in a couple of weeks, the Federal Reserve and U.S. Secret Service have been working with gaming manufacturers and casinos to prepare them for what they can expect from the new currency.

Pagano said discussions began in April and included providing new notes to make sure machines are compatible.

“We’ve been working with equipment manufacturers for a long time to make sure they’re ready for the new notes,” Pagano said. “The gaming community is a very important community for us because of how much currency is passed through.”

Pagano said the goal was that on the “day of the issue, you can go to a casino and use it.”

Contact reporter Chris Sieroty at csieroty@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @sierotyfeatures on Twitter.

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