We had a $10 dollar bill the other day show up at home that felt kind of weird to us, so I went looking for some information on how to tell a counterfeit bill from a real one.
It’s pretty amazing, really, the differences between “money” paper and “regular” paper. It turns out that paper used to make money is from linen and cotton fibers and is called rag paper. Regular old paper is made from cellulose, which degrades over time unlike rag paper. Also, the paper they use for money is compressed beyond belief, thus why it is so thin and strong.
Also, there are tiny fibers in real money paper that are not picked up when duplicated in a printer, making it easier for a professional to tell the difference. And even if they can’t, there are those pens that banks and stores use to find counterfeits, which contain iodine which changes color when it comes in contact to cellulose material, i.e. a counterfeit bill.
Here are a few more tips on telling the difference, courtesy of The Secret Service:
The genuine portrait appears lifelike and stands out distinctly from the background. The counterfeit portrait is usually lifeless and flat. Details merge into the background which is often too dark or mottled.
Federal Reserve and Treasury Seals
On a genuine bill, the saw-tooth points of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are clear, distinct, and sharp. The counterfeit seals may have uneven, blunt, or broken saw-tooth points.
The fine lines in the border of a genuine bill are clear and unbroken. On the counterfeit, the lines in the outer margin and scrollwork may be blurred and indistinct.
Genuine serial numbers have a distinctive style and are evenly spaced. The serial numbers are printed in the same ink color as the Treasury Seal. On a counterfeit, the serial numbers may differ in color or shade of ink from the Treasury seal. The numbers may not be uniformly spaced or aligned.
Genuine currency paper has tiny red and blue fibers embedded throughout. Often counterfeiters try to simulate these fibers by printing tiny red and blue lines on their paper. Close inspection reveals, however, that on the counterfeit note the lines are printed on the surface, not embedded in the paper. It is illegal to reproduce the distinctive paper used in the manufacturing of United States currency.
As it turns out, the bill was indeed real after checking with the bank…but still, it felt very strange and very “un-bill like”. Either way, be on the look out for the counterfeits, especially on the big bills, as you do not want to get ripped off, or worse yet, get busted for having them. The bank suggested we come to them if we ever think a bill is fake, as trying to pass it off at a store could get you in a lot of trouble.