WASHINGTON – Honest Abe will become Colorful Abe with splashes of purple and gray livening up the $5 bill.
The government showed off the new bill Thursday in an Internet news conference — a high-tech unveiling that officials say is entirely appropriate for a 21st century redesign of the bill featuring the Civil War president, Abraham Lincoln.
The changes are similar to those already made, starting in 2003, to the $10, $20 and $50 bills. In those redesigns, pastel colors were added as part of an effort to stay ahead of counterfeiters and their ever-more-sophisticated copying machines.
Originally, the five wasn't going to be redesigned. But that decision was reversed once counterfeiters began bleaching $5 notes and printing fake $100 bills with the bleached paper to take advantage of the fact that some of the security features were in the same locations on both notes.
To thwart this particular scam, the government is changing the $5 watermark from one of Lincoln to two separate watermarks featuring the numeral 5. The $100 bill has a watermark with the image of Benjamin Franklin.
The security thread embedded in the $5 bill also has been moved to a different location than the one embedded in the $100 bill.
"We wanted this redesigned bill to scream, 'I am a five. I am a five,'" Larry Felix, director of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing said in an interview with The Associated Press. "We wanted to eliminate any similarity or confusion on the part of the public between the $5 bill and the $100 bill."
Circulation is planned for the spring so operators of millions of vending machines have plenty of time to make the changes necessary so their devices will accept the new $5 — a denomination used heavily in the machines.
The bureau will start printing the new notes next week at its facility in Fort Worth, Texas. The goal is to have 1.5 billion $5 bills ready to be put into circulation, at a date still to be determined.
The new $5 design also incorporates a number of other state-of-the-art security features.
Perhaps the most striking change is a new large-size 5 printed in the lower right-hand corner of the backside of the bill in high-contrast purple ink. That feature was added to help the visually impaired.
Lincoln remains on the front of the bill and the Lincoln Memorial is still on the back, but both images have been enhanced and the oval borders around them have been removed. In place of a border around Lincoln's portrait, the new bill will feature an arc of purple stars. Small yellow "05" numerals will be printed on both the front and the back.
The center of the bill features light purple which blends into gray near the edges.
Officials hope all the changes will make it harder for counterfeiters to pass fake bills. In the United States last year, there were 3,945 arrests related to counterfeit bills, equaling a loss of $62 million, according to the Secret Service.
The next bill to get a makeover will be the $100. It will feature the most advanced safeguard yet, a new security thread composed of 650,000 tiny lenses that will magnify micro-printing on the bills to give the effect of having the images move in the opposite direction than the bill is being moved.
The government is only about one-third of the way through the redesign of the $100 and hopes to have that process completed by this time next year. Extra effort is going into the $100 makeover since this bill represents more than 70 percent of the $776 billion of currency in circulation, two-thirds of which is held overseas.