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U.S. Giving Ben Franklin A Face Lift New $100 Bills Available Today, Will Help Thwart Counterfeiters

A new $100 bill with a bigger, off-center picture of Benjamin Franklin and several innovations to thwart counterfeiters goes into circulation around the world today.

So far, $80 billion worth of the bills have been printed, equal to about a third of all old $100 bills in use.

“They won’t be everywhere right away - it will be only a trickle at first,” said Bob Moore, a Federal Reserve spokesman. But some of the new bills should start showing up in financial capitals by this afternoon.

The bills, expected to be widely available next month, represent the first significant change in the appearance of U.S. currency since 1929. Redesign of other denominations is to follow.

All orders from commercial banks for $100 bills will be filled by the new bills starting Monday, but old notes “will not be recalled or devalued,” according to the U.S. Treasury.

The new notes are being issued only to branches of the Federal Reserve System, the government’s central bank. The branches pass them on to commercial banks, including three that distribute abroad: Union Bank of Switzerland, Bank of America and Republic New York Corp.

The new bills have the same green and black color as the old ones, but one of the new safety features is a large figure “100” in the lower righthand corner. Color-shifting ink makes it appear green when viewed straight-on but black when seen from an angle. The paper also includes a watermark.

The words “United States of America” are printed in microscopic letters on Franklin’s coat.

Fine lines, hard to reproduce even with the computerized technology used in state-of-the art counterfeiting, appear behind Franklin’s head and above the picture of Independence Hall in Philadelphia that covers most of the reverse side.

The Treasury says there are other security devices it does not want to talk about to avoid giving tips to counterfeiters.

“The technology is expected to continue to improve into the next century,” the Treasury said in explaining the need for new bills.