Fifty dollar bill, former President Grant gets a face lift
Treasury department unveils new design, preventing future
Charles Homans / Knight Ridder
President Ulysses S. Grant gets a multicolor makeover on the
new $50 bill, which the Treasury Department introduced
Tuesday in the nation's capital.
On the new bill bearing the 18th president's image, Grant
is freed from the oval frame to which he's been confined
since 1913, appearing instead before a stylized red, white
and blue American flag backdrop. There's a small,
metallic blue star near Grant's left shoulder, and on the
reverse side the image of the U.S. Capitol is flanked by
clouds of small yellow "50"s.
The more intricate design is intended to make
counterfeiters' jobs more difficult, said Dawn Haley, a
spokeswoman for the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and
"It's an ongoing effort to stay ahead of those
would-be counterfeiters," she said. "Every seven to
10 years, we're going to be introducing new
Although digital counterfeiting accounted for only 1 percent
of the counterfeit notes detected in the United States in
1995, improvements in printing technology have pushed that
figure to 40 percent in recent years, prompting officials to
ban the scanning of any paper money. Within the United
States, the $20 bill is the most frequently counterfeited
denomination. Overseas, the $100 bill is the favorite among
counterfeiters, followed by the $50.
Still, only 1 in every 25,000 $50 bills in circulation is
thought to be counterfeit, according to the Treasury
The new $50 bill includes the subtle security features that
appeared on its predecessor, which was introduced in 1997. A
watermark reproduces Grant's portrait when the bill is
held up to the light and a plastic security thread marked
with the bill's denomination is woven into the paper. The
number 50 in the lower right corner of the bill appears to
change color, from copper to green, when the bill is tilted,
another non-reproducible security feature of the new bill.
Many of the bills new bells and whistles are similar to those
of the new $20 bill, issued last October, which features a
blue-and-peach image of an eagle behind the portrait of
President Andrew Jackson.
A new $100 bill is forthcoming, and the Treasury is
considering redesigning the $10 bill. The $1, $2 and $5 bills
will remain the same, because they aren't counterfeited
often enough to justify the effort.
This is the sixth redesign of the $50 bill since Grant first
appeared on the $50 gold certificate in 1913. The redesigned
1997 version introduced a larger, off-center portrait of
Grant, an enlarged image of the Capitol on the reverse and a
boldface 50 in the lower right corner of the reverse, all of
which also appear on the new bill.
A plant in Fort Worth, Texas, began printing the new bills in
April. Treasury officials spent the first bills Tuesday
morning at a flag store in Washington's Union Station.