Wednesday, April 21, 2010
As the U.S. government debuts a new $100 bill on Apr. 21 — this one will be redesigned to ward against digital copying and counterfeiting — TIME traces the history of banknotes from ancient China to modern cocaine dens. Here are 10 tidbits about money that may surprise you
Measuring in at roughly the size of a sheet of legal paper, the world's largest single banknote is the 100,000-peso note created by the government of the Philippines in 1998. Designed to celebrate a century of independence from Spanish rule, the note was offered only to collectors, who could purchase one of the limited-edition notes for 180,000 pesos, or about $3,700.
The largest banknote ever issued by the Bank of England was the £1,000,000 note, issued in 1948 as a temporary measure during the postwar reconstruction in the Marshall Plan. Designed for use by the U.S. government only, the notes were canceled after just a few months, allowing very few to escape into private hands. But just because the notes are out of service doesn't mean they're valueless — in 2008, one of two known surviving notes fetched almost $120,000 at auction.
It might just be the best idea to come to a man in the bathtub since Archimedes' time. While taking a soak, inventor John Shepherd-Barron devised what is hailed as the world's first automatic teller machine, although his claim to the title is a matter of dispute. He pitched the device to the British bank Barclays. It accepted immediately, and the first model was built and installed in London in 1967. Though the machine used PIN (personal identification number) codes, a concept Shepherd-Barron also claims to have invented, it was dependent on checks impregnated with the (slightly) radioactive isotope carbon 14 to initiate a withdrawal, as the magnetic coding for ATM cards had not yet been developed. One other difference from its ubiquitous modern counterpart: it didn't charge a fee.
No one knows the origin of the dollar sign, but the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing has a pretty good guess. The government agency responsible for designing and printing all those crisp dollar bills says the design, originally used to denote Spanish and Mexican pesos, "P S ," came to be written such that the S was on top of the the P. The symbol was widely used before the 1875 issue of the first U.S. paper dollar. And in case you never noticed, it doesn't actually appear on U.S. currency at all.
All bills eventually wear out. The smaller the value, the more often you use it — and the shorter its lifespan. A $1 bill lasts a measly 21 months, while a Ben Franklin can last more than seven years. Over that time, of course, owing to inflation, its value will decline — which is the perfect excuse to spend it quickly.
Following the Civil War, counterfeit currency became such a rampant problem in the U.S. — more than a third of all bills were believed to be fakes — that the government was forced to act. In 1865, a special division of the Treasury Department was created to crack down on counterfeiting before it completely undermined the nation's economic system. That agency still fights bogus money today, but it's better known for its dark-suited agents and intimidating SUVs — it's the United States Secret Service, which also protects the President and other top political leaders. President Abraham Lincoln authorized the Secret Service on April 14, 1865 (ironically, the day he was assassinated at Ford's Theater); its mission expanded to full-time presidential protection following the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. The 6,500-person agency was moved to the newly established Department of Homeland Security in 2002.
From Australia to Trinidad and Tobago, Queen Elizabeth II's portrait has graced the currencies of 33 different countries — more than that of any other individual. Canada was the first to use the British monarch's image, in 1935, when it printed the 9-year-old Princess on its $20 notes. Over the years, 26 different portraits of Elizabeth have been used in the U.K. and its current and former colonies, dominions and territories — most of which were commissioned with the direct purpose of putting them on banknotes. However, some countries, such as Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Malta and Fiji, used already existing portraits. The Queen is frequently shown in formal crown-and-scepter attire, although Canada and Australia prefer to depict her in a plain dress and pearls. And while many countries update their currencies to reflect the Queen's advancing age, others enjoy keeping her young. When Belize redesigned its currency in 1980, it selected a portrait that was already 20 years old.
All money, it turns out, could stand to be laundered: the stuff is filthy. Studies show that a solid majority of U.S. bills are contaminated by cocaine. Drug traffickers often use coke-sullied hands to move cash, and many users roll bills into sniffing straws; the brushes and rollers in ATMs may distribute the nose candy through the rest of the money supply.
(See the top 10 athlete drug busts.)
Also found on bills: fecal matter. A 2002 report in the Southern Medical Journal showed found pathogens — including staphylococcus — on 94% of dollar bills tested. Paper money can reportedly carry more germs than a household toilet. And bills are a hospitable environment for gross microbes: viruses and bacteria can live on most surfaces for about 48 hours, but paper money can reportedly transport a live flu virus for up to 17 days. It's enough to make you switch to credit.
To deal with hyperinflation that reached the ludicrous level of 231 million % and saw the price for a loaf of bread hit 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars, Zimbabwe's newly formed unity government — including bitter opponents President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai — issued a $100 trillion note in early January. (One hundred trillion, by the way, is a 1 with 14 zeroes — making the note the highest denomination in the world.)
Just weeks later, however, the leaders decided to back-burner the hugely devalued Zimbabwean dollar and began allowing people to do business in other currencies. The move managed to curb inflation for several months until a small uptick in July. One hopes some of those $100 trillion notes didn't get spent all in one place.
Paper bills were first used by the Chinese, who started carrying folding money during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) — mostly in the form of privately issued bills of credit or exchange notes — and used it for more than 500 years before the practice began to catch on in Europe in the 17th century. While it took another century or two for paper money to spread to the rest of the world, China was already going through a fairly advanced financial crisis: the production of paper notes had grown until their value plummeted, prompting inflation to soar. As a result, China eliminated paper money entirely in 1455 and wouldn't adopt it again for several hundred years. Another not-so-well-known fact: the word cash was originally used to describe the type of round bronze coins with square holes commonly used in the Tang Dynasty, called kai-yuans.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
“As with previous U.S. currency redesigns, this note incorporates the best technology available to ensure we’re staying ahead of counterfeiters,” said Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner.
“When the new design $100 note is issued in TBD, the approximately 6.5 billion old design $100s already in circulation will remain legal tender,” said Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board Ben S. Bernanke. “U.S. currency users should know they will not have to trade in their old design notes when the new notes begin circulating.”
The redesigned $100 note includes two new advanced counterfeit-deterrent security features, in addition to effective security features from the previous design. The features are easy for consumers and merchants to check when verifying authenticity.
The blue 3-D Security Ribbon on the front of the new $100 note contains images of bells and 100s that move and change from one to the other as you tilt the note. The Bell in the Inkwell on the front of the note is another new security feature. The bell changes color from copper to green when the note is tilted, an effect that makes it seem to appear and disappear within the copper inkwell.
“The new security features announced today come after more than a decade of research and development to protect our currency from counterfeiting. To ensure a seamless introduction of the new $100 note into the financial system, we will continue global public education of retailers, financial institutions and industry organizations to ensure that consumers and merchants are aware of the new security features,” said Treasurer of the United States Rosie Rios.
"For 145 years, the men and women of the United States Secret Service have worked diligently to protect the integrity of U.S. currency from counterfeiters," said Director Mark Sullivan. "During that time, our agency has evolved to keep pace with the advanced methodologies employed by the criminals we pursue. What has remained constant in combating counterfeiting, however, is the effectiveness of consumer education initiatives that urge merchants and customers to examine the security features on the notes they receive."
Although less than 1/100th of one percent of the value of all U.S. currency in circulation is reported counterfeit, the $100 note is the most widely circulated and most often counterfeited denomination outside the U.S.
“The $100 is the highest value denomination that we issue, and it circulates broadly around the world,” said Michael Lambert, Assistant Director for Cash at the Federal Reserve Board. “Therefore, we took the necessary time to develop advanced security features that are easy for the public to use in everyday transactions, but difficult for counterfeiters to replicate.”
“The advanced security features we’ve included in the new $100 note will thwart potential counterfeiters from producing high-quality fakes that can fool consumers and merchants,” said Larry R. Felix, Director of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. “Protect yourself - it only takes a few seconds to check the new $100 note and know it’s real.”
The new design for the $100 note retains three effective security features from the previous design: the portrait watermark of Benjamin Franklin, the security thread, and the color-shifting numeral 100.
The new $100 note also displays American symbols of freedom, including phrases from the Declaration of Independence and the quill the Founding Fathers used to sign this historic document. Both are located to the right of the portrait on the front of the note.
The back of the note has a new vignette of Independence Hall featuring the rear, rather than the front, of the building. Both the vignette on the back of the note and the portrait on the front have been enlarged, and the oval that previously appeared around both images has been removed.
For a more detailed description of the redesigned $100 note and its features, visit www.newmoney.gov where you can watch an animated video, click through an interactive note or browse through the multimedia center for images and B-roll.
Also, visit www.newmoney.gov for information on how to order free training materials for cash handlers, or you may download the materials directly from the Web site. The training materials for the $100 note are available in 25 languages.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
April 17, 2010
Fr. 217 $1 1886 Grade: PCGS VF 35 PPQ
This note was originally sold for $650 at Lyn Knight auction on
March 19, 2010
See the magical transformation!
The note appears to have been washed and pressed. The overall color, especially the serial number and the seal, is much lighter than the orginal.
Beware of unscrupulous sellers! This note apparently had been altered to pass for higher grade.
PS - The final bid price $990
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Wednesday April 14 2010
A PAINTING of the society beauty whose image appeared on Irish banknotes for more than 50 years is expected to fetch up to €665,000 at an auction next month.
'The Gold Turban' by John Lavery features his wife and most-frequent subject, Hazel, and it will go under the hammer at Sotheby's Irish Sale in London on May 6.
The sale will include Louis le Brocquy's seminal early masterpiece, 'Spanish Shawl', which was recently on loan to the National Gallery of Ireland and which has a guide price of up to €550,000.
Works by Jack B Yeats, Roderic O'Conor, Basil Blackshaw, Sean Scully, Edward Delaney and John Behan are also up for auction but it is Lavery's painting of his second wife that is likely to stir the public imagination.
Lady Lavery was born in Chicago, but came to prominence on this side of the Atlantic and has in the past been romantically linked with the legendary Michael Collins.
In 'Private History', a book that was written in 1960 by Derek Patmore -- a close friend of Lady Lavery -- the author maintained that Collins was "the great love" in Hazel Lavery's life.
But author Meda Ryan later refuted that in her 2006 book, 'Michael Collins and the Women who Spied for Ireland'.
"The IRA followed both Collins and Lady Lavery," she wrote.
"They did a thorough examination of them and they found nothing.
"If they had discovered they were having an affair, she would have been shot because they would have felt she was a double agent."
John Lavery's biographer has also dismissed the claims of an affair as "unsubstantiated speculation".
After the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, the Irish Free State government commissioned the Belfast-born artist to produce a female personification of Ireland for the new Irish banknotes and, not for the first or last time, he chose his glamorous wife as the subject.
Lady Lavery's image appeared on Irish banknotes from 1928 until the 1970s and then on the watermark of Irish banknotes until the introduction of the euro.
'The Gold Turban' is a different portrait but considered to be one of the finest portraits by Lavery of his wife.
If the oil painting does sell for €665,000 it will become Lavery's eighth most valuable work.
The current world record for a Lavery painting is almost €2m, the sum paid at Christie's in 1998 for 'The Bridge At Grez'.
- Dick Barton
Saturday, April 10, 2010
April 10, 2010
This 100,000 Dollar Gold Certificate is the highest U. S. denomination. Only 42,000 were printed. They were used only for transactions between the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department. These notes were never issued for public circulation. When the Government stopped using them in the early 1960s, most were destroyed.
It's illegal for a private person to own one of these notes, and none has ever been in private hands. All 42,000 were accounted for.
I've received many letters, mostly from indonesia and the Philippines, claiming they have found bundles of these notes. Some enclosed photos and even "Certificates of Authenticity". Upon close examination, the notes appear to be poor quality counterfeits. Careful reading of the wordings of these certificates turns up to be nothing more than official looking nonsense.
Serial No. A00036000A - A00036999A
However, if you are still convinced that what you have is real, then you must turn it over to the U. S. Department of Treasury. The note, never distributed to the public, remains the property of U. S. Government. Let's assume you have one, it's considered stolen property. It's illegal for you to keep or sell it.