Finally, the new $100 bill hits the streets

October 8, 2013

The government accomplished at least one thing Tuesday: It released a new $100 bill!

Okay, so maybe it has taken Uncle Sam more than three years to debut the new Benjamins. And maybe the printing got messed up twice, leaving some bills with blank spots and others with reportedly too much ink. (Those had to be destroyed.)

But the new $100 bill is here, with fancy new security features, such as an image of the Liberty Bell that appears in an inkwell and a 3D blue motion strip down the center.

Here are some more interesting facts about our favorite greenback:

■About $900 billion worth of $100 bills is in circulation, and about half to two-thirds of it is held overseas. The Federal Reserve is overseeing the introduction of the new bill and targeting much of its messaging to foreign countries. Judging from the list of languages that the Fed’s marketing materials are translated into, major holders of hundreds include Azerbaijan, Russia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Korea.

This bill has gone high-tech to fight fraud. Along with that color-changing bell in the inkwell, the paper cash depicts another optical illusion: a pattern of Liberty Bell icons that shifts into a pattern of “100” icons. There’s also a textured jacket for Mr. Franklin and a new view of Independence Hall.

■The Benjamin is the second banana to the Washington. There were 8.6 billion hundreds in circulation at the end of 2012. That makes them the second-most-circulated bill after the dollar. But the $100 bill is the fastest-growing: The number in circulation has quintupled over the past two decades.

■Currency is cyclical. The Fed has stockpiled 3.5 billion new $100 bills at its 28 Reserve Bank cash offices and is circulating them among the 9,000 banks the Fed does business with. The number of bills requested varies daily but tends to run in cycles. Demand spikes around Christmas and the Lunar New Year, for example, when consumers are looking for crisp bills to give as gifts.

■Hundred-dollar bills are built to last. The estimated “life span” of a $100 bill is 15 years, the longest of any denomination. The $10 bill has the shortest life span, clocking in at just 4.2 years. Still, money is made to endure: A regular piece of paper can be folded 400 times before it breaks, said Peter Hopkins, a consultant to Crane & Co., which makes the paper on which our currency is printed. A U.S. bill is designed to withstand 8,000 folds. Which brings us to . . .

■One company has provided the paper for the nation’s currency since 1879. That would be the aforementioned Crane & Co., based in Dalton, Mass. The company’s roots date back even further — to 1776, when Paul Revere was looking for a paper mill to help him issue notes to pay soldiers during the American Revolution. The name of paper mill owner Stephen Crane’s burgeoning business? The Liberty Paper Mill.

Brian Fung contributed to this report.

Ylan Q. Mui is a financial reporter at The Washington Post covering the Federal Reserve and the economy.
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