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10 secrets hidden on the $100 bill

…and more little-known facts about the Benjamins.

By Rich_Maloof Jan 17, 2013 8:39PM

Of the many ways that Benjamin Franklin has improved our lives , we appreciate him most when his face is on a $100 bill stuffed into a pocket. In celebration of big Ben’s birthday today, here are 10 secrets hidden on a C-note, plus other facts of value. With any luck, you have a $100 bill handy to verify the following.

Photo: Creative Crop/Getty Images • The current $100 note is a “Series 2009” redesign, but it wasn’t unveiled until April 2010 — and due to manufacturing flaw on the first production line, wasn’t put into circulation until February 2011.

• The $100 bill is one of only two U.S. bills printed today that does not feature a portrait of a U.S. president (anybody know the other one?).

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• Three security features of the Series 2009 are designed so that anyone can identify a counterfeit note. First is the watermark portrait of Ben embedded in the bill; when the note is backlit, the portrait is visible near the right edge (and a large red 100 is revealed near the left edge). Second is the 3-D Security Ribbon — the vertical blue strip that grazes Ben’s long hair. When the note is tilted side to side, tiny bells along the strip appear to change to tiny 100s. When the note is tilted back and forth, the bells and 100s move side to side. Also, just off Ben’s left shoulder is an inkwell. When the bill is shifted, the inkwell changes color from copper to green, and the image of a bell appears within the inkwell. The number 100 in the lower right corner also shifts from copper to green.

• When the note is under UV light, a second vertical strip glows, grazing Ben’s hair on the other side. The security thread is imprinted with the letters USA and the number 100 in an alternating pattern.

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• Despite some whisperings that the polyester security thread is embedded with an RFID code that enables the government to scan it — from a distant satellite beam, as one theory goes, to locate cash being transported across a boarder — it’s not. The strip is a somewhat simpler counter-counterfeiting measure.

• On the back of the bill, the clock on the Independence Hall steeple shows an approximate time of 4:10. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says there are no records explaining why that particular time was chosen. But the clock on the bill shows a “IV” while the real clock face has a “IIII.”

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• The large gold 100 on the back of the note is a tactile feature, designed to help the visually impaired identify the denomination (mandated by a section of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973). The Treasury has also developed the EyeNote® app to read bills of all denominations minted after 1996.

• Some serial numbers are followed by a five-point star. When a note is mangled in the process of manufacturing currency, it has to be replaced to ensure a proper count of the bills produced. Since replacing a mutilated note by printing another with an identical serial number would be costly and time-consuming, a “star note” is substituted instead. Notes with a star are out of sequence with others in the series.

• Though composed of 75 percent cotton and 25 percent linen, our currency is durable (at least, physically). It would take about 4,000 forward-backward folds for a worn note to tear. U.S. legal tender is also machine-washable.

• In part because large bills aren’t passed as frequently as lower denominations, the $100 bill has the longest average life span of any bank note, at 17.9 years.

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Sources: Department of the Treasury, Bureau of Engraving and Printing; United States Secret Service; Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

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Photo: Creative Crop/Getty Images

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