Counterfeit Detection: 2003A $1 US Federal Reserve Note

Posted on 5/21/2019

Collectors should be cautious and look closely at any error before purchasing.

PMG recently received a 2003A $1 US Federal Reserve Note (Friedberg# 1930-C) with a supposed printing error. The alteration could be mimicking an offset printing error, which occurs when a sheet of notes fails to enter the press and the inked printing plate comes into contact with the impression cylinder that would normally force the paper into the depressions of the plate.

The ink is transferred to the cylinder and will appear on subsequent sheets until the ink is used up. The result is a mirror-image print of the opposite side of the note. The front design can appear on the back of the note and vice versa. The design may appear whole or only in part. See the image below for a genuine example of this error.

US, $5 FRN, 1974 (Friedberg# 1973-F) with genuine offset printing error.
Click image to enlarge.

The following image shows a note with a fabricated error. There are two aspects of this note that should raise immediate red flags. First, the offset printing is of the back design on the back of the note; for this type of error, the back design will only appear on the front of the note. Second, the image is not reversed; the printing process would always cause this error to be a mirror image.

US, $1 FRN, 2003A (Friedberg# 1930-C) with fabricated error.
Click image to enlarge.

It is possible that the culprit was trying to create a multiple impression error, but that would still not appear like the note in question and is a much rarer error than offset printing errors. Whatever the intentions of the counterfeiter, collectors should be immediately wary of this note.

Taking a closer look at the note reveals further evidence that the error is not genuine. The following images compare the altered note with the genuine under higher magnification. The fake error appears grainy and is comprised of multi-colored dots, indicating that it was produced on an ink jet printer, while the genuine error has clear, even inking.

Close-up of fabricated error (left). Close-up of genuine error (right).
Click images to enlarge.

The fake and genuine errors appear differently under specialized light sources, as well. The ink that came from an inkjet printer on the altered note fluoresces a bright white compared to the green ink on the back of the note. On the genuine example, the offset printing and the front design appear about the same, which is normal for this type of note.

Close-up of fabricated error (left). Close-up of genuine error under specialized lighting (right)
Click images to enlarge.

An offset printing error on a $1 Federal Reserve Note in a PMG holder typically doesn’t sell for more than a couple hundred dollars at auction. Despite the relatively low value of this error type, collectors should still be cautious and look closely at any error before purchasing. Collectors can also be confident that any note encapsulated by PMG is backed by the PMG Guarantee of grade and authenticity.


  • Bart, Dr. Frederick J. United States Paper Money Errors. 4th Edition, 2015.

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