April 27, 2004 – The U.S. Treasury Department unveiled its new $50 bill on Monday, embarking on a public education campaign in advance of its entry into circulation in late September or early October.
The redesigned currency "has enhanced security features," said Alison Saunders-Franklyn, a Barbados publicist hired by the Treasury Department to get the word out about the new bill.
Working through Government House, Saunders-Franklyn contacted the local media to launch the federal government's public outreach effort.
The bill is the second to receive the new look in hopes of foiling counterfeiters. The $20 bill was unveiled last July and went into circulation in October. (See "Coming soon: more colorful 'greenbacks'.)
Plans are under way to put a redesigned $100 bill into circulation at a later date. The Treasury Department is in the midst of deciding whether to do the same for $5 and $10 bills, but does not plan to redesign the $1 and $2 bills.
The new bills are the same size as the old greenbacks, but different color combinations are being used for different denominations.
The new $50 note still carries a portrait of President Ulysses S. Grant, but the picture has been changed — and another, smaller image has been imbedded as a watermark visible from either side when the bill is held up to the light.
On the portrait side, there's a subtle red and blue background with images of a waving American flag and a small metallic silver-blue star. On the other side, small yellow 50s are printed in the background.
The numeral 50 in the lower right hand corner on the face of the note changes color when the paper is tilted.
A plastic security thread is embedded in the paper and spells out the denomination in tiny print.
All of which makes counterfeiting much more difficult.
Tom Ferguson, director of the Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said counterfeiters are now using digital technology to improve their reproduction capabilities. "We have to stay ahead of technology, which is developing and progressing at an ever-increasing rate," he said.
Over the last several years, the amount of digitally produced counterfeit money has risen about 40 percent annually. Still, according to a bureau release, current estimates put the rate of counterfeit $50 bills in circulation at less than one for every 25,000 genuine bills.
The new $50 bill was unveiled Monday at a ceremony at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's Western Currency Facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Massachusetts Bay Colony issued the first paper money in 1690 to cover the cost of military expeditions. The practice soon spread to the other colonies.
The bills that the redesigned currency is now replacing will remain legal tender. Indeed, all money issued by the U.S. government since 1861 is redeemable today at face value.
To learn a lot more about the new U.S. currency, visit the Money Factory Web site.
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