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The New $100 Bill Will Have Thousands of Tiny Lenses Built In

The $100 is the note most frequently targeted by counterfeiters

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Photo: The US Treasury

As of October 8, a new $100 bill will be in circulation in the U.S. In an attempt to cut down on counterfeits, the Federal Reserve will add features such as a blue 3D security ribbon composed of thousands of tiny lenses and a disappearing Liberty Bell in an inkwell, USA Today reports.

The new bill is a bit late to arrive in Americans wallets. Originally, it was scheduled to be released in February 2011. But the Feds discovered an issue with unwanted wrinkles appearing in many of the notes, so they postponed its release indefinitely.

As for that blue security ribbon and its tiny lenses, the technology works by magnifying the objects underneath. When the bill is moved one way, whatever is underneath seems to move the opposite way. Though the $100 is the note most frequently targeted by counterfeiters, USA Today points out, it’s the last bill to undergo an upgrade to try and deter those fakes.

But as the Wall Street Journal points out, even with fancy new technology, the counterfeiters will likely find a way around the security measures. They always do. Ben Franklin himself lost sleep over this issue. He designed the country’s first bills, which immediately triggered a wealth of counterfeits despite his adding a “mysterious anticounterfeiting device.”

This was the so-called nature print, which consisted of an image of a leaf or leaves. It was extraordinarily lifelike, and with good reason. Franklin had devised a way of taking a plaster cast of the surface of a leaf. That in turn could be used to cast a lead plate that would be used to print the notes. Because every leaf was unique—with a complex web of veins of varying thickness—the notes were very difficult to counterfeit.

No surprise, though, the strategy didn’t work for very long. The British actually used counterfeits of Franklin’s bills as a means of undermining the impending war. While we’ve moved beyond Red Coat plots to crash the U.S. economy, as the Wall Street Journal writes, however many fancy security tactics are crammed onto a small slip of green paper, counterfeiters will eventually and inevitably crack that code.

More from Smithsonian.com:

The Art of Money 
To Save Money, Ask for Pretty New Dollar Bills

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