You probably know the $100 bill is the largest note currently produced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. You’re also likely aware of which Founding Father is on the $100 bill — politician and inventor Benjamin Franklin. There’s a lot more history behind this bill, however.
The $100 bill is more than just a way to pay for bigger purchases — it contains a great deal of fascinating American history. Take a few minutes to discover these interesting facts about your money.
It Costs 15.5 Cents to Produce
That’s right, every $100 bill comes with a production cost of 15.5 cents. Although this might seem small, it’s actually 3 cents more than the cost to produce them in 2013. In that year, a new design was introduced that made it easier to validate, but more difficult to create counterfeit versions.
Among other design additions, two new security features were added — a 3-D security ribbon that changes from bells to 100s when moved, and a bell that seems to appear and disappear within the inkwell.
Despite these helpful clues, it’s not as easy as you might think to spot the fake bills in our midst.
The 2013 Version Was Two Years Late
The most recent release of the $100 bill was originally planned for 2011 but was delayed two years because of new security features that caused the notes to crease during printing. The end result was that some of the bills were filled with blank spaces.
It’s the Highest Bill in Circulation
The $1 bill was the most circulated form of U.S. currency up until 2017. As of Dec. 31, 2017, there are 12.5 billion Benjamins currently in circulation, according to the Federal Reserve Bank.
Most $100 Bills Aren’t in America
Our $100 bills are very popular internationally. In fact, 75 percent of $100 bills are held internationally, because the U.S. dollar is the top global international reserve currency, according to a 2016 article in the Wall Street Journal.
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The Ink in the New $100 Can Change Color
Your mind isn’t playing tricks on you — the newest redesign of the $100 does, in fact, change color.The lower right corner has the capability to shift between copper tones to traditional green when in the light. According to Esquire, this is thanks to the ink containing microscopic metallic flakes that reflect various wavelengths of light.
It Could Be Worth $20,000
It’s not one of the collectibles that will make you millions, but the first of the new bills that went into circulation on Oct. 8, 2013, with serial No. 1 could make you a small fortune.
In an interview with NBC News, independent dealer Scott Lindquist explained that the serial numbers reset when the new $100 bill was released — a fact that is exciting to collectors. Lindquist estimates the uncirculated bill containing serial No. 1 is worth between $10,000 and $20,000 on the collectors’ circuit.
The Time on the Clock Was Changed on the New Bill
If you have an eye for detail, you might have noticed that the time on Independence Hall’s bell tower clock on the back of the old $100 bill read 4:10. It was changed to 10:30, however, on the new ones.
No one seems to know why either of these times was chosen, but both images — the north and south views — were engraved by J.C. Benzing in the 1920s. It is assumed that he took pictures of the building at different times of day, which would explain the clock discrepancy.
Benjamin Franklin Has Been on It for Over 100 Years
Although many people think there is a $100 bill president, the truth is that Benjamin Franklin’s face graces this note — and has since 1914. Since then, the currency has gone through several re-issues, but it has remained the Benjamin Franklin $100 bill.
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The 1996 $100 Bill Was the First to Get a General Seal
Before the issue of the previous version of the $100 in 1996, each bill contained the seal of a specific Federal Reserve Bank. In 1996, individual seals were replaced with a general seal denoting the entire Federal Reserve System.
The $1 and $2 bills still contain District seals, but bills of a higher denomination now boast the general seal.
The Paper Is Unique
Though it might seem like it, our money isn’t printed on paper at all — at least not in the traditional sense. Whereas books and newspaper use wood pulp for their pages, Federal Reserve note paper is composed of 25 percent linen and 75 percent cotton, which gives it its trademark rich texture. It also has red and blue security fibers built in.
Some Have Called for Demonetization of the $100
Thanks to widespread global counterfeiting, some groups have rallied for a mass demonetization of the $100 denomination. According to Mental Floss, some economists have called for the elimination of the bill — giving citizens a few years to turn in their hundred dollar bills, otherwise facing the currency to become invalid and extinct.
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The International Popularity Benefits the Economy
Thanks to nearly 75 percent of the $100 bills being circulated residing overseas, they act almost like “an interest-free loan” for the economy, since most of that currency won’t return stateside.
It Has a Cue for the Visually Impaired
Chances are, you’ve noticed the large gold 100 on the back of the $100 bill, but it’s not a flashy design touch. The 100 was put in place to help people with visual impairments distinguish the bill from other denominations.
More Than a Billion New $100 Bills Will Enter Circulation in Fiscal Year 2018
On July 20, 2017, the Federal Reserve Board of Governors submitted an order for nearly 1.7 billion new $100 bills to be circulated in FY2018. The print order was made by denomination and based on destruction rates and historical payments to and receipts from circulation.
If you got your hands on all those $100 bills, you’d be able to buy whatever you wanted — including more than 283 billion Subway sandwiches.
Benjamin Franklin’s Shoulder Is Rough to the Touch
If you’ve ever run your finger over Benjamin Franklin’s shoulder on the $100 bill, you might have noticed it’s rough to the touch on the left side. This is not a flaw unique to your particular bill; it’s actually caused by the enhanced intaglio printing process used to produce the portrait.
The Franklin Association Is Uncertain
If you’re like many Americans, you might be wondering, “Why is Benjamin Franklin on the $100 bill?” After all, he was never president like Washington or Lincoln.
The truth is, there’s a lack of credible information for the reason his portrait graces the currency. It likely has something to do with Franklin being one of the Founding Fathers, alongside George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and James Monroe.
The First $100 Bill Was Printed in 1914
Even though the first $100 “Interest-Bearing Notes” were issued in 1861, the first $100 Federal Reserve Notes — aka money as it’s currently known — were printed with Benjamin Franklin gracing the front, just like it is today.
It Is the Most Widespread Currency in the International Black Market
As of late, the $100 bill has served as the de facto currency of all black market transactions globally, actually boosting the economy surreptitiously. This might not last much longer though — it’s rumored to soon be replaced by the new 100 Euro note.
“In God We Trust” Started Appearing in 1966
The phase “In God We Trust” was adopted as the official motto of the United States back in 1956 — beating out “E Pluribus Unum” — but it wasn’t always featured prominently on currency. The first record of the phrase appearing on paper currency (the one-dollar silver certificate to be exact) was in 1957, making its debut on the $100 bill only nine years later.
It Has a Longer Lifespan Than All Other American Bills
The $100 bill has an average lifespan of 15 years, according to the Federal Reserve. In comparison, the $1 bill lasts an average of 5.8 years, the $5 bill averages 5.5 years of use, the $10 bill gets 4.5 years, the $20 bill lasts 7.9 years and the $50 stays strong for about 8.5 years. According to the Fed, this is because the $100 bill isn’t used as much as smaller denominations, so it can last longer.
Crane & Co. Has Made the Paper Since 1879
Massachusetts-based paper company Crane & Co. has been producing the paper for the $100 bill and all other American notes since 1879. In 1844, the company became the first to embed silk threads in banknote paper, according to its website.
Crane & Co. has also created several anti-counterfeit measures, including advanced security threads, watermarks, planchettes, security fibers, special additives and fluorescent and phosphorescent elements. Spotting the fakes in distribution is a huge problem, but sometimes keeping your money away from criminals is just as hard.
It’s Been Redesigned Four Times
The $100 has always featured Ben Franklin since its inception over a century ago, but Ben Franklin’s had at least four different depictions since he first graced the note. In the inaugural bill, he was featured in full profile — but only remained in that pose for 14 years, when he was redesigned to the forward-facing format that stayed for 68 years.
The Portrait of Ben Franklin is Off-Center
After the latest redesign of the currency in 2013, Ben Franklin was removed from his portrait frame and placed off to the side for the first time in the bill’s history.
The Next Redesigned $100 is Rumored to Have Moving Pictures
According to Mental Floss, the next $100 bill is slated to feature moving pictures thanks to over 650,00 lenses microprinted on the surface of each bill.
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There’s Two Ben Franklins (If You Look Hard Enough)
The 2013 redesign of the bill featured a plethora of new security features — one of which was a second portrait of Ben Franklin when held up to the light. The watermark of Franklin looks fuzzy thanks to the linen content featured in American currency. If money was printed on cotton, there wouldn’t be a bleed.
Same Building, New View
The $100 bill has long featured a depiction of Independence Hall, which is a huge factor in Franklin’s lore. The newest 2013 redesign also features a new engraving that shows the back of Independence Hall instead of the iconic front.
It Has Lower Traces of Drugs Than Other Notes
It’s no secret that our money can get pretty grubby. Unlike its lower-denomination compatriots however, the $100 bill is rumored to be “relatively free of cocaine,” according to a report by CBS News.
It Features a Top-Secret Ribbon
In an effort to improve security, the US Department of Treasury rolled out new plastic ribbons to larger currency to help deter counterfeiting. Even though the new $100 bills look as though the plastic ribbon was interwoven into the very fabric of the bill, it wasn’t — according to Esquire, the bill is actually created around the ribbon itself in a top-secret process.
Be Sure to Check the Extremely Fine Print
If you check near Franklin’s collar, you’ll find a new engraving present on the latest edition of the bill — and it harkens back to an original portrait painted of the Founding Father by Joseph Siffred Duplessis in the 1780’s.
The New Design Uses a Feather to Draw It Together
The newest redesign also features another icon that is integral to Franklin’s tale — a feather quill. The quill, along with its companion the inkwell, were drawn by artist Brian Thompson.
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More on Money Facts:
- The Threat of Counterfeits to the American Dollar
- 30 Hidden Secrets of the $1 Bill
- The Economic Impacts of Daylight Saving Time
About the Author
Laura is a writer with nearly 10 years of experience in marketing and personal finance. She is a Los Angeles-based writer specializing in personal finance, higher education, legal matters and marketing. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from the University of Pittsburgh and an MBA from Robert Morris University.