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By Jacquie Foote We have been concentrating on the worth…
September 19, 2013 | No Comments

By Jacquie Foote We have been concentrating on the worth of U.S. currency. Now, lets consider its appearance. The currency of the United States had…

By Jacquie Foote

We have been concentrating on the worth of U.S. currency. Now, lets consider its appearance.

The currency of the United States had been a target for counterfeiters from the beginning. It is obvious why such thieves would produce fake U.S. currency. Back in the day, it consisted of Demand Notes that could be turned in for gold or sliver. But, removing U.S. currency from its tie to precious metals did little to reduce the attraction of the dollar to counterfeiters. U.S. currency, after all, was the standard by which the values of the other currencies were measured and was accepted without questions in most other countries. So, naturally, from the beginning, just about all changes in currency appearance had to do with foiling counterfeiters.

By 1862, the design of U.S. currency incorporated fine-line engraving, intricate geometric lathe work patterns, a Treasury seal and engraved signatures to aid in counterfeit deterrence. Since that time, the U.S. Treasury has continued to add features to thwart counterfeiting.

How well the anti-counterfeiting measures were working can be measured by the fact that in 1865, the United States Secret Service was established as a bureau of the Treasury for the purpose of controlling the counterfeiters whose activities, by that time, were believed to be destroying the public’s confidence in the nation’s currency. In 1877, a further effort was made in controlling the situation by giving the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing the job of printing all United States currency.

After 1900, measures to make successful counterfeiting more difficult came more quickly. In 1905, the last United States paper money printed with background color was issued. It was the $20 Gold Certificate, Series 1905, which had a golden tint and a red seal and serial number.

In 1914, the first $10 Federal Reserve notes were issued. These bills were larger than today’s bills and featured a portrait of President Andrew Jackson on the face. (The old $10 bills had a portrait of President Abraham Lincoln on the face of the bills.)

The most sweeping change of that time came in 1929. Cited as an effort to lower manufacturing costs, all currency was reduced in size by about 30 percent. In addition, standardized designs were instituted for each denomination across all classes of currency, decreasing the number of different designs in circu-lation. This standardization deterred counterfeiting as it made it easier for the public to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit bills.

The use of the national motto In God We Trust on all currency has been required by law since 1955. It first appeared on paper money with the issuance of the $1 Silver Certificates, Series 1957, and began appearing on Federal Reserve Notes with the 1963 series. The reason for the delay in implementing the appearance of the motto was that the government was changing its method of printing the currency, another effort to thwart counterfeiters.

By 1990, advanced copiers and printers were easily available and were being successfully used by counterfeiters, so further measures were needed to keep the U.S. currency safe. A security thread and micro printing were introduced. These features first appeared in Series 1990 $100 bills. By Series 1993, the features appeared on all denominations except $1 and $2 bills.

But, technology available to all, including counterfeiters, was still advancing and the changes made were not enough. Enter redesigned currency.

For information on the events at the Geauga County Historical Society’s Burton Century Village Museum, call 440-834-1492 or visit www.geauga

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