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New, colorful $50 bill hits streets Sept. 28

The new $50 bill is seen through a magnifying glass at the printing facilities in Forth Worth, Texas.Lm Otero / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A colorful new $50 bill with touches of red, blue and yellow will start showing up in banks, cash registers and wallets this fall.

Tom Ferguson, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, said the new bill, the second denomination of greenback to become no longer exclusively green, will go into circulation Sept. 28. An announcement was to be made Wednesday

Ferguson said in an interview that 140 million new 50s will be produced by then. He estimates that at least half of them, or 70 million notes, will be at banks at the time.

The bureau, which makes the nation’s paper currency, displayed the new $50 bill in April, explaining that the colorizing project is to make the nation’s currency harder for counterfeiters to knock off.

The subtle colors, which appear in parts of what was once the cream-colored background on the note, are the most noticeable changes on the new $50, which still uses the traditional black ink on the front and green ink on the back.

The new bills also will still feature Ulysses S. Grant, the Civil War general and 18th president, on the front and the U.S. Capitol on the back.

The $20 bill, the most counterfeited note in the United States, was the first to get the color treatment. Featuring splashes of peach, blue and yellow, the new $20 went into circulation last fall.

The government has reached out to industry, with the hope of achieving a smooth transition for the new $50 notes.

“We’ve been working for a considerable amount of time with the machine manufacturers so that they can be making the appropriate changes to gaming machines, vending machines, fare-card machines and self-checkout type equipment,” Ferguson said. “We provided them with notes that they can use to test and evaluate approximately three months ago.”

The government also has waged an extensive campaign to help people, especially those who handle cash frequently in their jobs such as merchants and bank tellers, to be able to spot genuine or bogus bills. Ferguson and representatives of the Secret Service and Federal Reserve banks go to Atlantic City, N.J., on July 13 for a teaching session for employees of casinos and banks.

The bureau also plans to add color to the $100 bill, the most counterfeited note outside the United States, and is considering adding new security features as well. A new $100 bill probably won’t be revealed before 2006, Ferguson said.

Officials are considering whether to redesign $5 and $10 notes. Asked whether he supports efforts to remove Alexander Hamilton, the nation’s first treasury secretary, from the $10 to be replaced by former President Reagan, Ferguson said he’s neutral on the matter.

“In the end we try to be apolitical on these things, and whose picture on there doesn’t matter to us as much as the security features and maintaining the confidence in the American currency,” Ferguson said.