nisiprius wrote:I do think they must have cheapened something about paper currency a couple of decades ago, though. They always used to tell you to look for portraits that looked "flat instead of three-dimensional" and "points on the Treasury seal that look broken or rounded instead of sharp." Well, the portraits all look flat and greyish to me these days, and I don't think I've seen sharp points on the Treasury seal in a long time, either.
More likely it was something to make it harder to forge-- the Treasury is in a never ending arms race with the forgers. There are types of paper which are *only* available to licensed currency printers, I believe.
When USD were 2 tone, and good photocopiers came in, then someone made a passable imitation with a colour photocopier.
The really weird one is the 20 million or so perfect fakes
that turned up-- they admitted they could not detect them. This was in the early 2000s.
However the estimate of the cost of an operation to create that money was on the order of $200m. So therefore whoever did this had big backing. Best guesses:
- a government agency (CIA or equivalent in another country) that had a great need for 'off the books' spending money, and so authorized such an audacious counterfeit operation. You could see someone wanting to do something without audit supervision...
- the North Koreans, who finance their government by smuggling stuff in the diplomatic bags-- guns, drugs, counterfeit etc.
The Germans, (using a group of Jewish forgers imprisoned in a concentration camp), successfully duplicated the old white £5 note (like a £100 note now, except max denomination is £50). A mathematician cracked the serial number algorithm the Royal Mint used. The plan was to smuggle them into Britain and create hyperinflation. When a couple of paradropped German agents with suitcases of brand new £5 notes showed up in wartime British pubs, speaking with a German accent, they didn't get too far!
The government had to hastily recall all £5 notes (a real gem, white bordered and all). When the German operation was cancelled (there was a TV show about it 'Private Schulz' and also a German movie 'The Counterfeiters'-- I assume the forgers went to the gas chamber when the operation failed) and after the war the notes were all dumped in Lake Geneva-- periodically a packet of them washed onshore.
It's funny to imagine WIlliam Petersen (from CSI) in his middle aged bulk now chasing Willem Defoe through the LA airport terminal, but that takes one 'To Live and Die in LA' a classic movie about a counterfeiter.