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Design Features for Series 1996 Issued Currency

In 1996, the United States began issuing currency with a new design and additional security features. These elements were incorporated to make U.S. currency easier to recognize as genuine and more secure against advanced reproduction technology that could be used for counterfeiting. Pre-existing security features such as the security thread and microprinting are included in the new notes and have only changed slightly.

The New Design
The new currency has the same historical figures and national symbols as the old series notes, in addition to having the same color, size, and texture of the older bills. However, there are several new features that are unique to the series 1996 notes:
  • A larger, slightly off-center portrait that incorporates more detail.
  • A watermark of the figure in the portrait.
  • New serial numbers that consist of two prefix letters, eight numbers, and a one-letter suffix. The first letter of the prefix designates the series (for example, series 1996 is designated by the letter A). The second letter of the prefix designates the Federal Reserve Bank where the note was issued.
  • A universal Federal Reserve seal rather than individual seals for each Reserve Bank.
  • The security thread indicating the bill's denomination is now located in a different position on each denomination. The inscribed security thread in the 1996 series $20 and $50 also includes a flag.
  • Optically variable ink (OVI) changes from green to black in the number in the lower right-hand corner of the bill when viewed from different angles.
  • Microprinting appears in different areas on each of the denominations.
  • On both sides of the Federal Reserve note, the background of the portrait and back design incorporate fine-line printing that is difficult to resolve on digital imaging equipment.
Although all denominations of currency beginning with series 1996 have security features, the number of features will vary according to the note's denomination and series. However, the basic appearance of all denominations will not vary.

New Currency Design

Paper (Series 1996)
Beginning with Series 1996, each denomination bears a watermark depicting the same historical figure as the portrait, positioned to the right of the portrait.

As with prior Series currency, the distinctive red and blue fibers are present.

If you doubt that a bill is genuine, ask the United States Secret Service, your bank or your local police department.

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