The New Paper Money

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
Source: The U.S. Treasury Department, Bureau of Engraving and Printing

New version of $5 dollar bill

In 1996, the United States began issuing currency with a new design and additional security features. Pre-existing security features such as the security thread and microprinting (see below) are included in the new notes and have only changed slightly.

The new currency has the same historical figures and national symbols as the old series notes, in addition to having the same color, size, and texture of the older bills. However, there are several new features that are unique to the series 1996 notes:

  • A larger, slightly off-center portrait that incorporates more detail.
  • A watermark of the figure in the portrait.
  • New serial numbers that consist of two prefix letters, eight numbers, and a one-letter suffix. The first letter of the prefix designates the series (for example, series 1996 is designated by the letter A). The second letter of the prefix designates the Federal Reserve Bank where the note was issued.
  • A universal Federal Reserve seal rather than individual seals for each Reserve Bank.
  • The security thread indicating the bill's denomination is now located in a different position on each denomination. The inscribed security thread in the 1996 series $20 and $50 also includes a flag.
  • Optically variable ink (OVI) changes from green to black in the number in the lower right-hand corner of the bill when viewed from different angles.
  • Microprinting appears in different areas on each of the denominations.
  • On both sides of the Federal Reserve Note, the background of the portrait and back design incorporate fine-line printing that is difficult to resolve on digital imaging equipment.

Although all denominations of currency beginning with series 1996 have security features, the number of features will vary according to the note's denomination and series.

Other Security Features

Due to increases in color copier technology, two security features were added to Series 1990, 1993 and 1995 U.S. currency. These new features appeared in denominations $5 through $100.

  • The Security Thread A clear, inscribed polyester thread has been incorporated into the paper of genuine currency. The thread is embedded in the paper and runs vertically through the clear field to the left of the Federal Reserve Seal.

    Printed on the thread is a denomination identifier. On $100 and $50 denominations, the security thread has “USA 100” or “USA 50” repeated along the entire length of the thread. Lower denominations (i.e. $20, $10 and $5) have “USA” followed by the written denomination. For example, “USA TWENTY USA TWENTY” is repeated along the entire length of the thread.

    The inscriptions are printed so that they can be read from either the face or the back of the note. The thread and the printing can only be seen by holding the note up to a light source.
  • Microprinting Concurrent with the addition of the security thread, a line of microprinting appears on the rim of the portrait reading “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” and is repeated along the sides of the portrait.

    To the naked eye, the microprinting appears as little more than a solid line and can only be read by using magnification. Microprinting cannot be accurately reproduced by office machine copiers or printers.
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