New $5 And $10 Bills

Abraham Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton are getting high-tech makeovers, an effort to foil computer-savvy counterfeiters trying to pass off phony $5 and $10 bills.

Both bills will have several new features, but it's the super-size portraits that most folks will notice first.

The bigger and slightly off-center portraits of President Lincoln on the $5 bill and Hamilton, the nation's first Treasury secretary, on the $10 bill are similar to what was done to President Andrew Jackson on last year's new $20 bill.

The redesigned $5 and $10 bills were unveiled Tuesday by Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers but won't go into circulation until the middle of next year. An exact date hasn't been set. This will give vendors time to retool their machines to accept the new bills.

"The public is our first line of defense against counterfeiting," Summers said. "If everyone checks the money that passes through their hands, it will put counterfeiters out of business. And, that is the goal of redesigning our currency."

Old $5 and $10 bills will continue to be recirculated until they wear out, which on average takes two years.

The new currency is designed to make it harder for people to make bogus bills. Over the years, counterfeiters have graduated from offset printing to sophisticated color copiers, computer scanners, color ink jet printers and publishing-grade software - technologies readily available.

The bigger portraits are easier to recognize and their added detail harder to duplicate, officials said. Moving them off center, makes room for a watermark and reduces wear on the portraits, they said.

Other features on the new bills include:

  • Watermarks based on the same artwork as the portraits are visible from both sides when held up to a light.
  • An embedded polymer security thread. On the new $5 bill, a thread to the left of Lincoln's portrait glows blue when exposed to an ultraviolet light. The words "USA Five" and a flag with the number 5 where the stars would normally be are printed on the thread and can be seen from boh sides of the notes when held up to a bright light.

    On the new $10 bill, a thread to the right of Hamilton's portrait glows white when exposed to ultraviolet light. The words "USA Ten" and a flag with the number 10 where the stars would be are printed on the thread and can be seen from both sides when held up to a bright light.

  • A numeral on the lower right corner of the front - printed in color-shifting ink that looks green when viewed straight on and black when view from an angle - is part of the new $10 bill. This feature isn't on the new $5. It's currently included on new $20, $50 and $100 bills.
  • The words "Five Dollars" in microprinting, visible with a magnifying glass, are continually repeated on both side borders. The words "United States of America" are microprinted on the lower right and left edge ornamentation of the portrait's oval frame.

    On the new $10 bill, the microprinted word "Ten" is continually repeated in the numeral in the lower left-hand corner and the microprinted words "United States of America" are repeated just above Hamilton's name. Microprinting appears as a thin line to the naked eye and blurred when copied.

  • Very fine lines behind both Lincoln's portrait and the Lincoln Memorial on the new $5 and behind Hamilton's portrait and the U.S. Treasury Building on the $10. When duplicated, the lines come out in a wavy pattern.

The new bills will continue to be printed on the same cotton-linen paper as the old money so they won't feel different and the colors of the ink will stay the same.

The $100 got a high-tech makeover in 1996, the $50 in 1997 and the $20, the second-most common U.S. bill in circulation, the following year. No decision has been made on whether to redesign the $1, the most common bill, and the $2 bill.

There may not be a revision of those denominations: One coin and currency expert believes the success of the new $1 Sacagawea coin, which goes into production Wednesday, may require the end of the $1 bill.

"We don't advocate the elimination of any current denomination, but, frankly, the Treasury Department may have to look at stopping production of $1 bills to make the new $1 coin successful," Fred Weinberg of Encino, Calif., president of the Professional Numismatists [coin collectors] Guild, said in a statement. "The United States used to have half-cent 2-, 3- and even 20-cent denomination coins in circulation."

"Canada, Australia and England learned from the earlier mistakes of the Susan B. Anthony dollar," Weinberg said. "Those countries simultaneously eliminated production of one-dollar and one-pound denomination paper money when they introduced into circulation coins of the same denomination."

In fiscal year 1999, $180 million in counterfeit money was reported - a tiny amount compared with the $480 billion of genuine U.S. currency in circulation worldwide. Fives and tens comprise 13 percent of that currency.

For more on the new designs, visit the Bureau of Engraving & Printing Web site at

©1999 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

  • David Hancock

    David Hancock is a home page editor for