Posts Tagged ‘bureau of engraving and printing’

The Color of Money: Why is a Greenback Green?

Monday, February 9th, 2009

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greenbackIn 1929, when the United States Bureau of Engraving and Printing introduced the small-size note, that we currently use today, green pigment was readily available in large quantities.  The color was relatively resistant to physical and chemical changes, and the color was viewed to be psychologically identified with the security and strength of the United States Government.

More importantly, this newly developed ink had protective qualities that could not be easily “lifted” from the note itself, which had been a favorite technique of counterfeiters in the past.  Since the mid-1800’s, it had been customary to print bills in black, with different slight variants of color.  When photographed, the color variants would show only in black, since early cameras could only photograph in black.  Not to be outdone, the counterfeiter soon discovered that they could remove the colored elements from the Bill, photograph the remaining black ink elements, make copies, and then overprint an imitation of the colored parts on the newly made copies.

A new solution was needed, and was quickly developed. The development, as well as the patent purchase for this ink, was by Tracy R. Edson, who later Founded the American Banknote Company, one of the same firms that produced the first currency used by the United States.

The faces of these early notes that were produced under contract were printed with the newly patented green tinted protective ink.

When printing with oil-base type inks, like the new “patent green,” it is not unusual for the color to show through to the opposite side of the sheet.  Therefore, the backs of early notes were printed in a darker shade of green to make the “strike through” of the tint less obvious.

The transition to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing was gradual, so the backs of the notes produced there during the intervening period were continued to be printed in green for the sake of uniformity.

Once the Bureau was in full-scale production, there was no reason to change the traditional color, and it was only logical that the practice continue.

Thus, the “greenback” was born!

The Bureau currently uses a technique called “Intaglio Printing,” which involves a revolving plate, filled with the grooves containing the design and wording.  These grooves are filled with ink and then wiped clean on the surface.  The paper is forced with approximately 20 tons of pressure onto the plate, picking up the ink contained within the finely recessed lines and grooves, leaving the surface of the newly printed currency with a slightly “raised” feel, while the reverse has a slightly indented feel.

Thanks to new technology introduced in the last few years, the newly redesigned, recently introduced United States Currency features some new splashes of color on the various denominations, using an “Optically Variable Ink” (or OVI).  This ink allows a shift in color variation when held at different angles.

A copy machine, for example, scans a document at ONE FIXED ANGLE, relative to the bill’s angle when placed on the glass, thus not picking up the color shift.

This ink, produced by a Swiss company called SIPCA, is not readily available and thus aids in deferring counterfeiting.

So, the next time you reach in your wallet and pull out a Greenback, you’ll know why it’s green!

The United States Twenty Dollar Bill

Friday, December 5th, 2008

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twenty dollar billDid you know that the highest denomination of bank note most frequently used by Americans on an everyday basis is the the United States twenty dollar bill? It is indeed, and this is largely because the twenty dollar bill is arguably the only banknote dispensed by the Banking Auto Teller Machines, or ATM, in the United States. This is probably because it would cost the banks more money to modify these machines to become compatible in dispensing other type of bills. The United States twenty dollar bill is also the most used denomination for withdrawals and cashing in checks.

According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, the average life span of a twenty dollar bill in circulation is twenty-five months or two years, before it succumbs to wear and tear and needs to be disposed and replaced. It is also said that twenty dollar bills are just a little over one-fifth of all United States paper currency produced today. These bills are delivered in violet straps by the Federal Reserve Banks for dissemination into public circulation.

The portrait of the seventh United States President, Andrew Jackson, is depicted on the obverse side of the bill, although his actions towards the Native Americans during his tenure leaves a lot to be questioned on the suitability of his representation of the twenty dollar bill. This also fuelled one of the bill’s many alternate monikers,  the ‘Jackson’. The twenty dollar bill is also known as a ‘double sawbuck’, a ‘twenty banger’, and a ‘twomp’. Apart from President Jackson, other famous historical figures, from Presidents to Statesmen, and even American businessmen, that have graced the twenty dollar bills are Alexander Hamilton, Stephen Decatur, James Garfield, Daniel Manning, John Marshall, Hugh McCulloch, George Washington, and Grover Cleveland. President Andrew Jackson became the permanent fixture on the twenty dollar bill from the year 1928 onwards. The visual rendering of the White House is also featured on the reverse side of the bill.

First appearing as a demand note, the twenty made its debut in 1861, and it subsequently evolved with the many classifications and categorizations of the United States currency system, from United States note, national bank note , gold certificate, silver certificate, treasury coin note, and to the current Federal Reserve bank note it is today.

The current series of twenty dollar bills we see today was released on October 9, 2003, and it comes with a light background shading of green and yellow. The oval border previously surrounding Andrew Jackson’s portrait was not included in the new design, with background images of eagles and such added in. The oval border was also omitted out on the riverside side of the bill where the White House is now featured. Scattered all around the reverse side of the bill are also a lot of small and faded numerals of twenties, and this design is formed in the EURion constellation, a pattern of symbols found on new banknote designs since 1996. The pattern is said to be instrumental in preventing counterfeiters using color photocopiers to forge dollar bills. 

More On The United States $1 Bill

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

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Like the rest of the United States currencies, the one dollar bill is composed of 25 percent linen and 75 dollar billspercent cotton, with red and blue synthetic fibers distributed throughout the paper. The notes weigh one gram each and are 2.61 inches in width and 6.14 inches in length, with a thickness of .0043 inches. The United States one dollar bill is worth one hundred United States cents.

The United States government spends 4.2 cents to produce a single dollar bill and dollar bills are printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, also known as the BEP. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces well over than sixteen and a half million one dollar bills every day, and most of these notes are used to replace older and worn out dollar bills which are no longer deemed fit for circulation. The average dollar bill has a life span of about eighteen to twenty-two months, depending on frequency of usage, and wear and tear. The United States Treasury estimates that there are billions and billions of one dollar bills which are circulating the globe to date.

The first one dollar bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note back in the year 1862. These early one dollar bills featured the portrait of Salmon P. Chase, who was the Secretary of the Treasury under President Abraham Lincoln. Only until the year 1869, was the portrait of George Washington used on the one dollar bill, and this remains the case until today. A vignette of Christopher Columbus sighting land was also featured to the left of the note during this time.

In 1886, the picture of Martha Washington, who was also the original first lady and wife of George Washington, was featured on the one dollar silver certificate, making her the first women ever to appear on any United States currency. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S Grant are also amongst the few to have been featured on the United States one dollar bill, although this depictions dates to 1899. The designs on the one dollar united states note and silver certificates were more streamlined and standardized beginning 1923, with minor exceptions such as color and ink.

In the year 1929, all United States currency changed to the standard and current size we now see, although various designs and depictions continued to be featured throughout the years after. In the 1957, the one dollar bill became the first piece of United States currency to bear the legendary motto ‘In God We Trust’. The current design of the one dollar bill was finalized in 1969 and has remained the same ever since, and no plans to redesign the one dollar bill has been proposed to date, even though higher denominations from five dollars onward have been redesigned to curb counterfeiting.

The United States one dollar bill is also the most experimented and tested bill in the nation’s history. In 1933, a test was conducted to determine the different ratios of cotton and linen used in the paper of dollar bills. Another well-known test was done in 1942 during World War Two to test alternative types of paper that paper currency can be issued in. This was a precautionary measure in case the current type of paper supply ran out. In 1992, the one dollar bill was again put under the microscope when the Bureau of Engraving and Printing began testing a web-fed press, to facilitate the production and issuance of more dollar bills.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

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The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is currently the largest and only producer of all legal tender United bureau engraving printingStates currency today. It prints billions of Federal Reserve Notes every year and delivers them to the designated Federal Reserve Banks, to be issued and circulated accordingly. These Federal Reserve Notes are produced at two of its current facilities located in Washington D.C., and Fort Worth, Texas. Tours are offered to the public at these buildings and it showcases the various steps of United States currency production. The tour usually begins with the process of sorting out the large sheets of blank currency papers, closely followed by the intricate methods of getting the dyes ready, to the actual printing procedures itself, and ending with the ready to be spent dollar bills.

Apart from currency production, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing also plays an important role in advising other Federal managed agencies on document security matters. It also processes claims for the redemption of all United States currency that have been mutilated. It prides itself in its continuous effort in the research and development area which focuses on the continued use of state-of-the-art automation and counterfeit prevention technologies for use in the production of United States currency, further guaranteeing its integrity.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing began its operation in the United States Treasury building back in 1862, resulting from a legislation which was enacted to help fund the Civil War. This legislation authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to issue paper currency in lieu of coins, largely because of the slowly diminishing funds that was desperately needed to sponsor the war. Before long, in 1877, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing was entrusted with the sole responsibility of producing all United States paper currency.

Prior to this, a private firm produced Demand Notes in sheets of four, and these sheets were then sent to the Treasury Department where dozens of clerks signed the notes, with another multitude of workers cutting the sheets and trimming it down by hand. This process eventually became mechanized and was moved down to the building’s basement, giving birth to the Bureau, an important umbrella of the Treasury which proved to be efficient as well as practical.

Before it was officially recognized in congress and was given specific allocations of operating funds through various legislations, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, in prior to the year 1875, was more commonly known as First Division of National Currency Bureau. Other of its failed labels include, Printing Bureau, Small Notes Bureau, Currency Department, and Small Notes Room.

Apart from printing currency, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is also given the task to produce revenue stamps, treasury securities, military commissions, award certificates, invitations and admission cards, different types of identification cards, passports, forms, and other special security documents for a variety of Government agencies. This additional responsibilities which was taken on by the Bureau beginning 1894, established it as the nation’s pioneer security documents printer which responds in like to the United States Government, both in times of peace and war.

Portraits and Designs On The Dollar Bill

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

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banknote portraitsIt is generally known that the selection of designs and portraits on the dollar bill is decided by the Secretary of the Treasury, with the advice of authorized official from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, after a thorough review by the Commission on Fine Arts.

It is also acknowledged that all of the portraits on the dollar bill are of deceased individuals of significant historical importance. This is because the Unites States Code, Title 31, Section 5114(b), forbids the depiction of any living persons on the dollar bill. The designs and portraits on the dollar bill today were chosen back in 1928, and in 1996, security enhanced variations were introduced in response to growing threats of currency counterfeiters worldwide.

The dollar bills in circulation today features the portraits and designs of George Washington displaying the number “1” between obverse and reverse of the Great Seal on the $1 bill, Thomas Jefferson with the design of “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence” on the $2 bill, Abraham Lincoln with the design of the Lincoln Memorial on the $5 bill, Alexander Hamilton with the design of the US Treasury Building on the $10 bill, Andrew Jackson with the design of the White House on the $20 bill, Ulysses S. Grant with the design of the US Capitol on the $50 bill, and Benjamin Franklin with the design of the Independence Hall on the $100 bill.

There are also several other depicted portraits on other denominations of the dollar bill which ceased in circulation back in 1969. These are the $500 bill displaying the portrait of William McKinley, the $1000 bill bearing a portrait of Grover Cleveland, the $5000 bill bearing a portrait of James Madison, the $10000 bill bearing a portrait of Salmon P. Chase, and the $100000 bill displaying a portrait of Woodrow Wilson.

No records have been found to date, however, to suggest the reasoning behind the selection of certain Presidents and statesmen on these various denominations.

To help safeguard against counterfeiters, the US government is expected to redesign the dollar bill every decade or so. The dollar bill is less exposed to the threats of forgery through the significant improvements in its security features, the tighter laws governing counterfeiters, and the ongoing effort to educate the public on the subject matter. Basically the new designs are targeted to be safer which makes it harder to forge and easier to check, smarter to stay ahead of tech-savvy forgers, and more secure, which help protect the integrity of the currency.

The subtle background colors of this new enhance designs is probably the most noticeable difference on the new dollar bills. This frustrates forgers as it makes the dollar bill more intricate and harder to counterfeit. This significant change also helps distinguish the different denominations because of the obvious contrast in background colors.

Despite all these added features, the redesigned dollar bills continue to preserve its distinct size, look and feel of the original dollar bills of the yesteryears, making it the most recognizable and travelled paper money in the world.

This continuous effort to honor the previous portraits and designs of the dollar bill can be credited to The Department of the Treasury. The older designed dollar bills are also never recalled or exchanged upon the pumping-in of the newer more secure currency. This process is methodically carried out in a controlled and purposeful manner, usually in stages, being careful not to overwhelm the financial markets. As a result, and due to the billions of dollars circulating worldwide, which is deliberately unaffected by this change, the value of the dollar bill has in time continue to strengthen in value.

Fascinating Money Facts

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

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money factsWhile cruising around the Internet the other day I found these little tidbits of information about money. Thought I’d share them with all of you.

Did you know that money in the larger denominations such as the $50.00 and $100.00 dollar bills can last up to 8 years while the average life of a $1.00 bill is 18 months? Why is that I wonder? Any ideas?

Now this is interesting. 97% of all paper money has traces of cocaine in it. Hmmm wonder if the government wants us all high so we won’t pay attention to what they’re doing. And if our money has cocaine in it, where is the government getting their drugs from? I thought drugs were illegal? While I’m sure the cocaine is probably a natural ingredient in the materials used to make the money, it still makes you wonder. Am I the only one who thinks about this stuff?

Here’s some more fodder for conspiracy theorists. On the clock tower of Independence Hall that is printed on the $100.00 bill the time is set at 4:10. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, there are no records explaining why that particular time was chosen. Does anyone know the significance of 4:10? I don’t, but would very curious to hear your theories.

We American’s must really love our one dollar bills because almost half of all money printed in the United States is a one dollar bill.

Martha Washington is the only woman to ever appear on a U.S. currency note. Her face graced the one dollar Silver Certificate of 1886 and 1891, and was on the back of the one dollar Silver Certificate issued in 1896. Now that would be a very unique piece of history to have if you can find one.

Now I know very few people actually have $10 billion dollars, but if you did and you spent $1.00 every second of every day it would take you 317 years to spend it.

The name “Greenback” often associated with the one dollar bill comes from Demand Note dollars created by Abraham Lincoln in the late 1800’s. He created these special notes to finance the Civil War. This money was printed in black and green on the back side of the bill. Hence the name Greenback.

Talk about sturdy! Did you know that you’d have to fold a bill of any denomination over 8,000 times forward and backwards before it would tear?

And for all the women out there: Statistics have shown that in 75% of American homes it’s the women who manage the money and pay the bills.