How Has Paper Money Changed Since 1990?

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Ever since 1690, when the first paper money was issued by the Massachusetts Bay Colony, paper money has been constantly changing. Throughout the history of the United States paper money, the United States has gone through different types of currency. The different types of currency ranged from State Bank Notes to Gold Certificates to National Bank Notes to Silver Certificates to Federal Reserve Bank Notes, and now ending with Federal Reserve Notes. However, in the mean time counterfeit money had been gaining circulation and “thirty-six percent of the dollar value of known counterfeit currency passed in the U.S. was produced overseas, particularly in Colombia, Italy, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Bangkok” (Fun Facts About Money). In result, over a hundred domestic and eighteen foreign counterfeit operations were terminated in 1990. With much trouble flowing around with counterfeit money, the United States tried enhancing the physical features of the American paper currency, making it harder to duplicate. In 1990, security threads and microprinting were introduced and put into production for the Series 1990 $100, $50 Federal Reserve notes, and by the end of the 1993 series all of denominations were changed except $1 and $2 notes. A security threads is a “clear, inscribed polyester thread” (Anatomy of a Bill: The Currency Paper) that run on the width of the paper currency printed with its own denomination; for example, a $50 note would say “USA 50” repeatedly throughout the thread. Depending on the denomination, the locations in which the security threads run vary on the paper currency. In order to see the security thread, the paper currency should be transmitted through light and when exposed to ultraviolet light, glows red. What cannot be recreated easily by advanced copiers and printers, microprinting can only be seen through magnification. In 1990, the words “The United States of America” were micropinted around the edges of the portraits on the notes.

In 1996, the $100 notes were the first to receive additional security features onto the paper currency; “the $50 in 1997, the $20 in 1998 and the $10 and $5 notes in 2000” (U.S. Currency Milestones). Apart from Series 1990-1995, the new Series 1996 had a larger portrait of their historical figures and was placed off center. Watermarks were also added to the new Series 1996. “The watermark is created during the paper making process and is caused by variations in the density of the paper” (Anatomy of a Bill: The Currency Paper). These watermarks are images of the historical figures located on the far right of the notes, which can also only be seen through light. Along with the previous microprinting and security threads, more microprinting has been added. For example, on the bottom left hand corner of the $100 notes, the block shaped “100” has the words “USA 100” filled inside of them. Another innovative way the United States thought of to deflect counterfeit was color shifting ink, which is sold exclusively to the United States. Once again on the $100 note, the “100” on the lower right hand, one can see how the metallic green shade changes to black once the bill is tilted. “The change in color is the result of multi-layered metallic flakes added to the ink” (Anatomy of a Bill: The Printed Elements). Fine line engraving made up of “fine circular lines appear around the portrait of the bill. The clarity and detail of these lines are difficult for scanners and photocopiers to reproduce. These lines often cause a blur, or moiré, during the scanning process” (Anatomy of a Bill: The Printed Elements). From the side, the "Bicentennial" $2 bill, “introduced in 1976 featured a different back side showing the signing of the Declaration of Independence, from the traditional picture of Jefferson's home, Monticello” (Ross).

Apart from the new additions, a few changes have also been made since the Series 1996. Ever since the Series 1950, there was a black Federal Reserve...
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