Now Grant, $50 bill getting a colorful new makeover

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

WASHINGTON --The $50 bill is getting splashes of red and blue, the second of the nation's paper currencies to sport new hues beyond the traditional black-ink fronts and green-ink backs.

The makeover, unveiled Monday, is part of an effort to make U.S. bills harder to counterfeit.

The extra color is subtle, similar to the look of the new $20 bill, which went into circulation last fall with a color treatment featuring touches of peach, blue and yellow.

"The new design is more secure than ever before. We believe it will be extremely effective in discouraging counterfeiters," said Treasury Secretary John Snow. "It's also a lovely piece of currency, maintaining the historic look and feel of a greenback while incorporating the elements of other colors that are very important to us in this country: red, white and blue."

The redesigned $50 is the same size and still features Ulysses S. Grant on the front and the U.S. Capitol on the back. But the borders around both Grant and the Capitol have been removed.

The new $50 features subtle background colors of red and blue. The stars and stripes of the U.S. flag are printed in blue and red behind the portrait of Grant on the front. A field of blue stars is located to the left of the portrait, while three red stripes are located to the right of Grant. A small metallic silver-blue star is located on the lower right side of Grant.

The redesigned $50 includes tiny yellow number 50s scattered in the background on the back of the note. That's similar to the new $20, which has little yellow 20s on the back.

Security features include embedded thread that glows when exposed to an ultraviolet light; color-shifting ink that changes from copper to green when tilted; and watermarks visible when held up to light. Some of those features included in the last redesign, in 1997, were enhanced.

Events to take the wrappers off the new $50 notes took place in Washington and in Fort Worth, Texas, where the Bureau of Engraving and Printing expanded its existing production facility and built a tour and visitors center. The new center will allow people to view the production of U.S. greenbacks west of the Mississippi River for the first time, the agency said.

"Adding color is a good idea. It kicks it up a notch and makes it more difficult to counterfeit and adds interest to the bill," said Len Glazer, director of Heritage Currency Auctions in Dallas. "Other countries have been doing it for a very long time."

The bureau expects to print 76.8 million new $50s this year. New bills, however, aren't likely to go into circulation and start showing up in cash registers until fall. Old $50s will continue to be accepted and recirculated until they wear out; they average five years in use.

The bureau also plans to add color to the $100 bill, the most knocked-off note outside the United States. It has not been determined when the new $100 will be unveiled. Officials are still considering whether to redesign $5s and $10s. But $1s and $2s will stay the same because they aren't of much interest to counterfeiters.

Over the years, counterfeiters have graduated from offset printing to increasingly sophisticated color copiers, computer scanners, color ink jet printers and publishing-grade software. Trying to stay a step ahead of the counterfeiters is a challenge, experts said.

"Sophisticated counterfeiting is always going to exist. Whenever there is a way to make money illegally some people will grab for it," Glazer said.


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