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No Copying US Currency Allowed

I was going to put out a Tweet about the new $100 bill. The desire to do that let me on a little educational quest that was quite interesting.

My journey of knowledge started off by me taking some money out of an ATM.

$100 BillI took out $300 and when the machine asked me if I wanted large or small bills, I picked “large”. Out popped 3 $100 bills. When I first saw them, I thought that someone had drawn on them with blue ink. Then I noticed that they were different from prior $100 bills I had seen. They looked like this:

Interesting enough. I went in the bank and asked if they had any of the “older” $100 bills that I could exchange for a couple of the newer ones. The bank teller gave me an odd look, but obliged.

I showed my kids and they were fascinated, so then I thought it would be interesting to scan the bills and create a little tweet about how the $100 bill has changed over the years.

$100 Jigsaw PuzzleSo I put the bill on the scanner and hit “scan.”

That’s strange. Only half of the bill scanned.

I tried it again. Same thing.

Maybe it’s something odd about the scanner. So I changed the orientation of the bill. Still only partial scans.

Now I’m determined to get a picture of this damn banknote.

I fold it up and scan different parts until I have a bunch of jigsaw puzzle pieces of the front of this thing.

Then I boot up Adobe Photoshop to piece them all together and I get another message.

No editing banknote images

I clicked on the “information” button and land on a page describing the different types of counterfeit deterrence in each of the different countries.

Then I clicked over to a site about US Currency and learned all about the new $100 note.

The first $100 note was issued in 1914 and featured a side-facing portrait of Ben Franklin (,pdf file). On the back, there was a vignette of figures representing Labor Plenty, America, Peace, and Commerce.
The $100 note was changed in 1929 to show a front portrait of Ben Franklin and a picture of Independence Hall on the back. There were no major changes in the design of the $100 bill between 1929 and 1990.

Since 1990, the $100 bill has changed three times. You can find pictures, security features, and even an interactive flash window showing you the details of the different styles of notes at this site.

Then I did a little more searching and found the code that is embedded into much of the world’s currency in order to prevent scanners from copying it – termed the EURion constellation.
Better mouse traps create better mice, and people have found ways to circumvent the copy protections, but the article mysteriously can no longer be found on the Wired web site.

After all of this, my son came up to me and asked “Why don’t you just take a picture of it? You have a high-resolution camera.” Of course, it worked. Little twit.

Oh, and on the outside chance that no one hears from me for several days, feel free to piece the pictures above together and send me a few copies to help with bail money.

One comment

  1. Imaging and repro technology has vastly outstripped our government’s ability to thwart it, as your foray discovered. And software “fixes” for the machinery are no more difficult to hack than any other software, to the daily consternation of the Treasury Dept. G-men.
    The software info you encountered was a mere velvet rope to stop the casual forgers. Mainly, their best defense has been to classify the intaglio presses that we use to make money (which we sold several of to Iran under the Shah) classified technology on the level of nuclear weapons design. Which mostly works, otherwise everyone would be running the stuff off in their basement 24/7.

    What I find fascinating is that they don’t have so much as a hiccup about spewing out bills three shifts a day with no financial backing for them whatsoever except the Fed’s “Fiat argentum!”, but that if anyone else does that, Mt. Everest is dropped on their head.

    Knowledge is power.
    All power corrupts.
    Study hard.
    Be evil.

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