Federal Reserve set to unveil a newly designed $100 bill

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WASHINGTON -- The Federal Reserve will begin circulating a new $100 bill Tuesday with some modern and colorful anti-counterfeiting features, after overcoming problems that postponed its debut for more than 21/2 years.

In addition to traditional safeguards such as a paper blend that would be difficult to duplicate, the redesigned note will have two new features: a 3-D blue strip with images that appear to move when the note is tilted, and an image of a copper inkwell containing a holographic bell whose color changes when tilted.

The note is the final U.S. currency denomination to undergo the "New Color of Money" face-lift that started with the $20 note in 2003, introducing subtle hues and other security features to paper currency as part of efforts to stay ahead of counterfeiters.

"It only takes a few seconds for people -- if they know what they're looking for -- to know what they're looking at is genuine," said Michael Lambert, associate director of the Federal Reserve.

The $100 bill is an especially hot item on the global stage: The Federal Reserve estimates that one-half to two-thirds of $100 notes in circulation are abroad at any given time, making them one of the nation's largest exports.

As a result, the $100 bill is the most commonly counterfeited note outside the United States. Mr. Lambert said officials at the Federal Reserve, the Treasury and the Secret Service had devoted extra time to redesigning it and spreading the word -- including on newmoney.gov, which is available in 23 languages -- with that in mind.

The note took more than a decade to develop. It was originally scheduled for release in February 2011, but about four months before its debut, the Federal Reserve said that an unanticipated printing problem had caused some notes to be creased and thus unfit for circulation. Investigating and resolving the issue meant there would not have been enough bills ready by February. Another printing problem caused ink to smear.

The inspector general's office at the Treasury Department released a report in 2012 attributing the delay to "a production failure that potentially could have been avoided and has already resulted in increased costs."

Experts say the efforts appear to have paid off.

"I would say it's absolutely worthwhile to do whatever it takes to make sure that we have the best currency that we can," said Benjamin Mazzotta of Tufts University, an expert on the cost of currency.

"That's something that's not going to be able to be reproduced on a photocopy machine, that's for sure, or even on the computer," said Dennis Forgue, a currency expert in Chicago.

But the transition may not be seamless everywhere. When the United States issued a new $100 note in 1996, for instance, Russians -- accustomed to a system in which old currency becomes worthless -- worried that there would not be enough bills to meet demand. While older U.S. currency retains its value, Mr. Forgue said, overseas, especially in Eastern European countries, people may demand the newest bills as the only acceptable form of payment.

"They're afraid of getting stuck with something that's not good because they've gone through so many changes like that," he said.

Mr. Lambert said the Federal Reserve was prepared.

"We stand ready to get them the notes that they need, and obviously our goal and our objective is to meet the demand," he said. "Whether that's international or domestic, it doesn't matter."

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