Identifying Counterfeit US Currency
The are numerous methods used for identifying
counterfeit US currency bills, including the use of black light.
Note that this section is only a brief and general introduction.
Currency is regularly changed and updated by the US Government,
and it's likely that there will be new changes within a few years
or less of the publication of this guide. Newly issued currency
doesn't make old currency totally disappear. Old currency is
floating around for many years. If you find a 1930 $1 bill it's
Counterfeits vary in quality, from easily
identifiable to sophisticated. The following techniques will
help identify most counterfeits.
The following looks at specific techniques of counterfeit detection.
An important thing to realize is that a single correct quality
does not prove a bill authentic. For example, some counterfeiters
bleach genuine $1 bills and make them into fake $20 bills. That
the paper itself is genuine doesn't prove these fakes authentic.
Pay attention to your currency
Observe your bills before you get counterfeits. Look at the printing,
the Presidential portrait, examine the details, get a feel for
the paper. A common way a counterfeit bill is found suspect is
that it looks and feels off, different from other bills. The
image may look funny and unclear, the color may be off, the paper
may feel different.
Real bills have high quality, detailed printing.
Check the details and lines in the portrait and in the background
lines. The detail in reprints is often lacking and muddled.
Compare a suspect bill to known genuine
bill of same denomination and year.
Again compare the feel and general look. Compare specific, close
up details, like the President's eye or the points on a seal.
Compare all the designs and text. Again, remember that the design
and text changed over the years on genuine bills, so you want
to compare bills from the same year.
Take into consideration that there can be
natural differences between genuine bills. One genuine bill can
be crisp and unused, while another genuine bill can be worn,
wrinkled and dirty. This is why comparing to numerous bills is
a good idea.
Black light test #1:
fluorescent vertical bands.
Some recent currency above the $1 denomination has vertical bands
that fluoresce under black light. Under normal visible light,
the bands can be seen when the bill is held up to a light. The
presence of these is strong evidence of authenticity.
Florescence of bands:
Black light test #2:
Authentic currency does not have optical brighteners in the paper.
Many, but not all, counterfeits are made with normal paper and
will fluoresce brightly.
Modern higher currency bills have a watermark to the side of
the bill. The authentic watermark is not seen until it is held
up to a light. It will be a smaller portrait of the president
on the bill and can be seen when viewing from both sides.
2006 US$ bill with watermark. The left is the normal,
everyday view. On the right, the bill was held up to sunlight
revealing a watermark. If $5 bills are bleached and printed over
to make higher denomination ($20, $50, other), the '5' watermark
will identify them as fakes. Many bills, including this one,
have watermarks of the President on the bill. Again this will
help identify bleached counterfeits. An Abe Lincoln watermark
shouldn't appear on a Andrew Jackson biil.
Fibers in paper.
Some modern currencies have thread-like fibers of different colors
in the paper. Some counterfeits will look like they have the
threads, but close examination under a microscope or high magnification
shows the fibers real on a real currency.
colored fibers can be seen in the paper
Microprinting is very, very small text that appears in some parts
of some but not all currency. It is readable under magnification
and very hard to reproduce in a counterfeit. In most counterfeits,
the microprinting will be all blurred under magnification.
Color shifting ink on higher than $5 currency: On modern higher currency, there is a distinct color
shifting ink used on the front right. It has a metalicy finish
and is used on two right simbols. It changes color, from green
to black, when you change the angle of the bill. This is hard
to duplicate in counterfeits.
Minute multi-color dot pattern as identifier
of counterfeits. When you examine
a genuine bill under good magnification, you will see the images,
writing and design are comprised of solid monotone lines and
marks. Some, but not all, counterfeits are identified by a minute
mult-color dot pattern in the printing. Many digital computer
prints will have this pattern.
Some genuine notes are altered to give them a high denomination.
For example, a forger may take a $1 bill and past '$10' on the
corners. This is identifying by knowing which presidents appear
on which bills. George Washington appears only on a $1. Also,
the correct denomination is spelled out just below the President's
Paper testing pen. There
are inexpensive commercially available pens that test the paper.
Genuine currency is fiber based, while some counterfeits are
on wood based paper. Common computer paper is wood-based. The
pen contains iodine that makes a black stain on wood-based paper,
but not on fiber-based. The black stain shows that the bill is
counterfeit. Realize that some counterfeits are made on fiber-based
paper, including bleached genuine currency, so the pen won't
identify all counterfeits. Many foreign currencies are on fiber
based paper, so the pen will work with the European Euro. Mexican
Peso, Brazilian Cruzeiro, Argentine Peso, Indian Rupee, Greek
Drachma, German Mark, French Franc, British Pound, Italian Lire,
Russian Ruble, Japanese Yen and numerous other paper currency.
alterations to art, collectibles
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