It's All About The (New, More Secure) Benjamins, Baby

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A government shutdown isn't stopping the release of a new 100-dollar bill. We'll take a look at the new Ben's high-tech makeover.


The government is in Day 8 of a shutdown, but that is not stopping the release of the revamped $100 bill. As Zack Seward reports from member station WHYY, the new C-notes are on their way to banks starting today.

ZACK SEWARD, BYLINE: This is a story about what the new hundred-dollar bill looks like.

MICHELLE SCIPIONE: I would say the biggest difference between the old and the new is the 3-D security ribbon that is on the face of the note.

SEWARD: That's Michelle Scipione of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia. And she's talking about a first-of-its-kind streak of blue woven just to the right of Ben Franklin's wavy locks.

SCIPIONE: Highly sophisticated, very hard to counterfeit. And you have a movement in this three-dimensional security ribbon so that if you shift it front to back or side to side, features within the ribbon will move in the opposite direction.

SEWARD: The new Benjamins also feature a more colorful look. There's an orange feather quill on the front, and added texture in the ink. You can even feel the ribbing on Franklin's jacket. Scipione says fighting fakes, especially overseas, is the goal of all the detail work, though the Fed has been pretty successful so far.

SCIPIONE: The statistic that we state - it is one-one-hundredth of 1 percent of currency in circulation is counterfeit. So that is extremely low, and it's low because we've been successful in staying ahead of the counterfeiters.

SEWARD: It's the first major upgrade to the hundred since 1996 - and a couple of years overdue, thanks to printing problems. Since the Federal Reserve is a quasi-governmental agency that's self-funded, officials say the government shutdown will have no impact. Tourists passing by the C-note unveiling at the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, here in Philadelphia, mostly seem to like the new look.

GINIA FINCH: It's pretty. (Laughter) I like the feather and stuff on it.

SEWARD: Ginia Finch was in Philly from outside Portland, Ore.

FINCH: When you go to Europe and stuff, and you see their money; and it's so pretty and ours is always just so, you know, green and yucky. (Laughter) It's nice to get some color into our money.

SEWARD: You may start seeing the new bills in the next few days, but the old ones will still work just fine.

For NPR News, I'm Zack Seward in Philadelphia.

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