US Currency Security Features

Posted on 1/5/2010

US Currency has a number of security features to deter counterfeiters.

To stay ahead of counterfeiters, currency is periodically redesigned to include advanced security features. These features are difficult to duplicate and make it easier for cash handlers and consumers to make sure it’s genuine.

The $5, $10, $20 and $50 notes were redesigned and entered circulation on March 13, 2008, March 2, 2006, October 9, 2003, and September 28, 2004, respectively. Some of the advanced security features are:

  • Watermark that is part of the paper itself and visible from both sides when the note is held up to a light. On the $10, $20 and $50 notes it is a faint image of the larger portrait. The $5 note features two watermarks.
  • Security thread embedded in the paper that runs vertically (in a unique position on each denomination) and glows when exposed to ultraviolet light in a dark environment. Some examples are:
      1. $5 note – Located to the left of the portrait and glows blue. The words “USA FIVE” and a flag are printed on the threads.
      2. $10 note – Located to the right of the portrait and glows orange. The words “USA TEN” and a flag are printed on the threads.
  • Color-shifting ink in the numeral on the lower right corner of the note front. The color changes from copper to green when the note is tilted.
  • Intaglio “raised” printing gives the surface of the note a slightly raised feel, while the reverse feels slightly indented. This is typically used on the portrait, numerals and engravings.
  • Microprinting is very small text that is hard to duplicate due to its size. For example, the $5 note features microprinting on the face of the note in three areas:
      1. The words “FIVE DOLLARS” can be found repeated inside the left and right borders of the note.
      2. The words “E PLURIBUS UNUM” (meaning “out of many, one”) appear at the top of the shield within the Great Seal.
      3. The word “USA” is repeated in between the columns of the shield.
  • Concentric fine-line printing is found on most notes in the background of the portrait and on the back of the note.

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