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Fifty dollar bill, former President Grant gets a face lift

Treasury department unveils new design, preventing future counterfeits

Charles Homans / Knight Ridder Newspapers

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 Printing.

"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 currency."

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 Department.

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.

 

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Safer,Smarter,More Secure $50 Bill Issued