It's too easy being green (to counterfeit) -- the government's adding color to $20s

WASHINGTON (AP) -- American greenbacks are getting a bit more colorful. A touch of peach, blue and yellow along with the traditional green and black are featured on the new $20 bill, the first to be colorized in a project to thwart counterfeiters.

The Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which makes the nation's paper currency, took the wrappers off the redesigned $20 Tuesday. The new bills won't appear in cash registers or ATM machines until late this year.

The $20 bill is the most-counterfeited note in the United States.

"The purpose of the new design is to stay ahead of anyone who would compromise the security and integrity of the dollar through counterfeiting," said Treasury Secretary John Snow.

On both the front and back of the new twenties, moving from left to right, there's a faint wash of green tint, then peach down the middle, then green again in what had been the neutral-colored background of the old notes.

The image of Jackson, the seventh president, appears slightly bigger because more of his neck and shoulders are in view and the border around his oval portrait has been removed. But his head is the same size on the new bill.

The new design also includes a faint blue eagle in the background on the front of the bill to the left of Jackson's image and a metallic green eagle and shield to the right of Jackson. Also on the front, hovering near the eagle and shield, are the words 'Twenty USA' printed in a faint blue.

On the back, the White House still dominates on the new $20, but a border once around the image is gone. Also, tiny number 20s are printed on the back in yellow, floating in the background.

"The White House, numbers and border have always been green and will continue to be green no matter what tint we put on there. It will always be a greenback," bureau Director Tom Ferguson said.

New designs for $50 and $100 bills -- the latter the most knocked-off note outside the country -- are expected in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Colors will vary by denomination, something that should make it easier for people to distinguish notes from one another, officials said.

The government is considering whether to change $5s and $10s. There are no plans to alter the $1 or the obscure $2 bill, which are not worth counterfeiting.

The new $20 also features more distinct color-shifting ink. The number "20" in the lower right corner on the front of the note changes from copper to green when the note is tilted.

Some anti-counterfeiting features included in the $20s' last redesign, in 1998, are retained. They include watermarks, visible when held up to light; and embedded plastic security threads that are visible when held up to light. The words "USA Twenty" and a small flag can be seen along the thread.

Over the years, counterfeiters have graduated from offset printing to increasingly sophisticated color copiers, computer scanners, color ink jet printers and publishing-grade software, all readily available.

Still, worldwide counterfeiting of U.S. bills is at low levels -- one or two bogus notes in every 10,000 genuine ones, said Secret Service Director W. Ralph Basham. Around $650 billion of U.S. currency circulates worldwide, he said.


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