Currency

New $100 Bills May Be Easier To Counterfeit Than To Legally Print

Government expertise at its best

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But the new $100 is so high-tech that it has even stymied its progenitor. In December 2010, Bureau officials tersely confessed to a problem: a printing error, affecting as much as $110 billion worth of paper. Taxpayers only paid 12 cents apiece for the faulty notes, or $120 million. That's not that much money by sovereign-debt standards and provided you're willing to ignore downstream costs like storing and securing the bad bills, redistributing older-series notes to banks and cash-management firms, investigating and remedying the screwup, determining what to do with the mountain of almost money, and producing vanilla video clips to keep the public informed. …

Perhaps no one in the world can copy the nanotechnology underlying the great American 3-D security ribbon — not yet anyway. But that doesn't mean they can't mimic it closely enough. A counterfeiter, remember, does not aspire to duplicate. He only needs to imitate without detection. Which means the Bureau, Crane and the Federal Reserve are scrambling to deliver new banknotes that aren't even that secure to begin with.