Counterfit detection in US currency

You may have been in a situation where you were offered a large bill at a garage sale or other situation and for some reason your radar went off. You might not have known it but your fingers are very sensitive and if you have handled a lot of money in your life you might be able to tell that the paper for the money is wrong just by touch.

For those of us without that bionic sense of touch, a counterfeit detecting felt tip pen is the way to go. If you are dealing with large amounts of cash often, it would be wise to invest the $5.- and get yourself one of these handy dandy tools. They can determine with a high degree of accuracy if a bill is US Government issued paper or not.  Of course, no one detection tool is ever foolproof.

The pen works because its ink contains iodine that reacts with the starch in wood paper, it leaves a black stain where the pen was applied. US Government issued paper is a rag paper, much finer and much more difficult to fake. The pen will let you know if the bill you are holding in your hand is printed on cheap wood paper form a copy machine, or proper government issued currency paper.

This paper detection pen gives us a good baseline and will usually solve the issue but there are more sophisticated counterfeiters and their paper often passes as the real deal. The scoundrels will take a generic one dollar bill and bleach all marks from it, then reuse that bleached paper.  They will print a new bill with say, $100 in the corner onto the old, good quality paper.  It is these instances that prompted the US government to issue new currency with more sophisticated security features to foil the counterfeiters.

In these new bills, to the left of the picture of the patriot on the bill in question, there should be a plastic strip the words “USA TWENTY” (or “USA FIFTY”) and a small flag repeated along that plastic strip.

The second  feature installed on the new bills is that the denomination on the lower right hand corner of the bills face should have the number printed in color-shifting ink. If you tilt the bill back and forth this ink on that number should change from copper to green.

The final feature in the new bill is a watermark of the face  that is inked on the bill. That same portrait will show up if you hold the bill up to the light. It will be the same portrait that is printed on the bill, just a bit smaller. This feature, since it is a watermark in the paper itself, should be visible from both sides of the bill.

All this change in the name of security is good but it leaves us wondering, how much longer will our  dollar will be known as, “the greenback?”