The latest “Benjamins” exude anti-counterfeiting measures, but not all
It is a new day, and more than likely, there is a press release in some part of the world announcing the latest banknote design. The plethora of similar announcements would seem to suggest that printing new banknotes and putting them into circulation is not a costly affair, but keeping one step ahead of counterfeiters has become a true scientific art form in recent years.
The critical goal for every new issuance these days is, according to Federal Reserve Board Governor Jerome Powell, to incorporate “security features that make it easier to authenticate, but harder to replicate.” With today’s color copying technology and a host of terrorist bands seeking illicit funding across the planet, the ability of and the cost to prevent counterfeiting on a global scale has escalated. Career enforcement officials, however, are the first to admit that counterfeiting cannot be eliminated, but only contained at acceptable levels.
The most heavily counterfeited banknote within the U.S. borders is the $20 note, but outside our national borders, the $100 note, frequently referred to as a “Benjamin” reigns supreme. More than two-thirds of the Benjamins circulate outside of our country, and of the US$1.15 trillion in general currency in public use, roughly one percent of that figure is believed to be counterfeit. Ever since the Federal government stopped issuing $500, $1,000 and $10,000 notes in 1969, the $100 note ascended to the top of heap as our largest denominated banknote in circulation.
How have Americans adjusted to the new $100 notes that were released 8 October 2013? With the economy as tight as it is, there is doubt that it has become a collector’s item, but the look and feel seems destined to resemble so-called monopoly money, without the color plumage witnessed on most other countries’ official legal tender. Per the press release, the most noticeable new additions are “a ribbon with images that move when the bill is tilted [Crane’s Motion thread] and a drawing that changes colors depending on its angle.” These two items join half a dozen other anti-counterfeiting measures employed in the latest design.
Is the U.S. government in the lead when it comes to these anti-fraud techniques?
The prevailing anti-counterfeiting features include threads, ribbons, holograms, UV inks or fibers, or color-changing inks to thwart copiers and printing devices. The U.S. has avoided holograms or UV light features, but the UK and the Eurozone have chosen both of these options. A few countries have actually gone a different route and chosen polymer, as opposed to paper, for their notes’ substrates. They last longer and are more difficult to replicate. Australia, Canada, and Mexico, have embarked upon this path, and many other countries are exploring polymer, including India and the United Kingdom.
What is new on the fraud prevention horizon?
As with the pharmaceutical industry, banknote scientists are looking to Mother Nature for clues for unique new innovations. From the field known as “biomimicry,” nano-optics are being used to create iridescent colors in much the same fashion as South American butterflies or male peacocks. Their shimmering hues are produced by a series of nano-sized holes and the effects they impart on light. The trick is to make artificial “nano-hole arrays,” which has been accomplished. One scientist noted, “We can tune the colors by changing the geometry of those hole arrays.”
This particular nano-technology can be used in a variety of arenas to ensure that brand names or drug containers are not compromised. In fact, it works best when applied to a plastic surface. Canada and others may have been wise to head in a plastic-based direction.
Will the Canadian Loonie soon sprout shimmering wings? Only time will tell.
For additional reading on this subject, there is a discussion of anti-counterfeiting and currency information on Forextraders.com.