Printing error on new US $100 bill: a billion-dollar mistake?

Benjamin-lg2In April of this year, the US Treasury Department and Federal Reserve revealed a re-designed $100 bill, complete with high-tech anti-counterfeiting security measures. The bills were supposed to hit mass circulation starting this February, however, plans have been put on hold after a massive printing defect was discovered.

The US Government spent more than a decade designing the new “Benjamins” to include scientific measures for thwarting counterfeiters. With a disappearing liberty bell, watermarks, colour-shifting inks and a blue security strip, the bills would be nearly impossible to reproduce.

Now, it is speculated, production complications of these special security features could be the very cause of the printing error. It was discovered that possibly as many as 30 percent of the 1.1 billion already-printed bills were folded slightly during production, reports CNBC. When they are pulled flat, a blank un-printed section of the bill is revealed.

At this point, the Federal Reserve is reportedly unsure of exactly how many bills contain this flaw. Sorting them by hand could take decades. They are now being securely stored in vaults in Fort Worth, TX and Washington DC. Defective bills will have to be destroyed, costing millions of dollars. Printed on expensive cotton and linen fibre paper, each bill costs 12.5 cents to produce (twice the cost of conventional bills).

The total face value of the potentially unusable bills is $110 billion dollars. In the meantime, while the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve begin resolving the issue, production of the old-style bills has been resumed. The release date for the new bills has been suspended indefinitely.

Earlier this year, after the new design was announced, GAM reported on its high-tech new features. Let’s take a look back at some of the bill’s fascinating security techniques, close-up:


A – Security threads will be embedded in the bill that are only visible when it is held up to a light. In ultraviolet light, these threads will glow pink.

B – Special intaglio printing will be used all over the bill. This raised printing effect will make Benjamin Franklin’s shoulder feel rough.

C – In a technique called microprinting, extremely small words will appear on several areas of the bill, including Franklin’s jacket collar and along the quill. They are almost invisible to the naked eye.

D – A blue, three-dimensional security ribbon will actually be woven into the fibres of the paper, rather than printed directly on it. When the bank note is tilted, underlying images of bells will transform into images of the number “100.”

E – Using special inks, an image of a bell inside this pictured inkwell will change from copper to green.

F – A faint image of Benjamin Franklin will be visible in this watermark when the bill is held up to light.

G – Similar to the inkwell, the numeral 100 in the corner will colour-shift from copper to green when tilted.