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How To Detect False Money
The public has a role in maintaining the integrity of U.S.
currency. You can help guard against the threat from
counterfeiters by becoming more familiar with United States
Look at the money you receive. Compare a suspect note with a
genuine note of the same denomination and series, paying
attention to the quality of printing and paper
characteristics. Look for differences, not similarities.
The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out
distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is
usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background
which is often too dark or mottled.
Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals
On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal
Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp.
The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken
The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear
and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer
margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are
evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same
ink color as the Treasury Seal. On a counterfeit, the serial
numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the
Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or
Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded
throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these
fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper.
Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit
note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in
the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper
used in the manufacturing of United States currency.
$10 Front (2004 Series)
$20 Front (2004 Series)
$20 Front (1996 Series)
$20 Back (1996 Series)
$20 Front (1990-1995 Series)
$20 Back (1990-1995 Series)
$50 Front (2004 Series)
$50 Front (1996 Series)
$50 Back (1996 Series)
$50 Front (1990-1995 Series)
$50 Back (1990-1995 Series)
$100 Front (1996 Series)
$100 Back (1996 Series)
$100 Front (1990-1995 Series)
$100 Back (1990-1995 Series)
Design Features Which Vary On Genuine Currency
Design features sometimes vary from one series year to
another. The most common variance comes with changes in the
identity and, therefore, the signature of the Secretary of
the Treasury or the Treasurer of the United States.
Another common variation occurs in the portrait of Andrew
Jackson on the $20 note. In the 1934 and 1950 series years,
he is depicted with one more finger showing than on notes of
other series years.
The 1966 series marked a change in note design. One hundred
dollar United States Notes of that series year featured a
re-designed Treasury seal with an English inscription
replacing the Latin one. The new seal, phased in over
succeeding years, appears on all Federal Reserve Notes of
the 1969 series year or later.
"In God We Trust" was first printed in 1955 on $1 Silver
Certificates, 1935G series year. It was gradually phased in
on other denominations and classes and is now printed on the
back of all U.S. paper currency of the series year 1963B or
Federal Reserve Seal
Prior to Series 1996, each Federal Reserve Note bears a
regional seal at the left of the portrait. This seal,
printed in black, bears the name of the issuing Federal
Reserve Bank and the letter designating the Federal Reserve
district in which that bank is located. On notes of the 1950
series and later, the black Federal Reserve regional seal is
smaller than earlier designs and is surrounded by sharp
points. Starting with the 1996 series Federal Reserve notes,
a new universal seal represents the entire Federal Reserve
system. A letter and number below the upper left serial
number identifies the issuing Federal Reserve Bank.
|New York City
|Kansas City, MO
Serial Numbers and "Star Notes"
Each note of the same denomination and series has its own
individual serial number. When a note which bears a serial
number is mutilated in the course of manufacture, it must be
replaced in the series to ensure a proper count of the notes
produced. To print another note with an identical serial
number would be costly and time-consuming. Consequently, a
"star note" is substituted. This note has a serial number
which is out of sequence with the others in the series. A
star is printed after the number to show that it was placed
in the series as a substitute.
Check Letter, Face Plate Number, Quadrant Number, Back Plate Number
These designations are printed in specific locations on the
note. In the manufacturing process, the Bureau of Engraving
and Printing uses these designations to identify the
specific placement of the note on the specific printing
Genuine paper currency is sometimes altered in an attempt to
increase its face value. One common method is to glue
numerals from higher denomination notes to the corners of
lower denomination notes.
These bills are also considered counterfeit, and those who
produce them are subject to the same penalties as other
counterfeiters. If you suspect you are in possession of a
- Compare the denomination numerals on each corner
with the denomination written out at the bottom of the
note (front and back) and through the Treasury seal.
- Compare the suspect note to a genuine note of the
same denomination and series year, paying particular
attention to the portrait, vignette and denomination
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