Three Subtle Changes to the Flashy New $100 Bill

Courtesy National Treasury

After a three-year delay following “unexpected production” issues, the Federal Reserve Board has announced that the new $100 bill, a piece of legal tender in development for more than a decade, will enter circulation this fall. Among the new features: a blue security ribbon, which runs vertically like a giant Sharpie swipe next to Benjamin Franklin’s head, and a gold inkwell with what appears to be a tattoo of a green Liberty Bell. For both of these colorful additions, different words and graphics will emerge when the holder twists and tilts the paper.

But there are other, more subtle changes to the note—all made in the name of security and throwing off counterfeiters—that are sure to rile up conspiracy theorists and fans of historically inaccurate Nicolas Cage films. Here are three:

Independence Hall
For the first time since paper currency shrank to its current size, in 1929, the image of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall on the flip side will be completely different. You may not notice it at first, but you’re no longer looking at the front of the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence, the south facade, where a statue of George Washington stands proudly. It’s now a view of the rear of the building. This change was used to target the most sophisticated counterfeiters, forcing them to revise their tools, according to a Federal Reserve employee.

The Time on the Clock
The time on Independence Hall’s bell tower clock on the current $100 bill reads 4:10, a fact confirmed by the Fed and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. (Yes, this is contrary to the fictitious “2:22,” which served as a plot point in National Treasure.) The time has always been something of a mystery, though, and there aren’t any records available explaining why 4:10 exactly. (One belief online is that the date April 10 represents the 100th day of the year, which, presumably, wouldn’t include leap years.) On the new $100 bill, the time will be changed to 10:30, which seems to be a time of no historical significance. According to Darlene Anderson, manager of external affairs at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, both images on the backs of the two bills—the south and north views—were engraved by the same man, J.C. Benzing. “He did both views before 1928, and he worked from photographs,” she says. “We think that the photographer took the images at different times of the day.”

Benjamin Franklin’s Portrait
Unlike the hunky dueler and original Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, Franklin hasn’t gone under the knife for a sexed-up face-lift more than two centuries later. It’s the same portrait, but the printing methods have changed to raise his coat ever-so-slightly off the paper, make his eyes feel more lifelike, and give the bill a more tactile feel. Apparently, if you zoom in very close, you’ll find that “United States of America” is now printed on his collar.

We couldn’t see it, though. Which leads us to wonder: What else is there?

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