New $100 US Banknote

The US Federal Reserve just announced that its redesigned $100 bills will go into circulation on October 8. The rollout, originally planned for 2010, was delayed by production issues with the blue ribbon that’s threaded through the note.

As Matt Phillips has explained at length before, nearly 80% of all US currency is denominated in $100 bills. There were more than 8.2 billion Ben Franklins out in the world at the end of last year, making it the most popular bank note, by value, among the world’s major currencies. (Here are the circulation figures for the euro; the €50 note is the currency’s most popular by quantity and value.)

A large portion of hundreds are held outside the United States, often shipped abroad by the Fed in pallets worth $64 million each (pdf), though the exact percentage is a matter of debate. The bills are popular among traffickers of drugs and weapons and are also used in unstable economies as a reliable store of value.

The new $100 bills include security features designed to thwart counterfeiters,which you can read about here. They still feature Franklin, one of only two people on current US bank notes who was never president of the country, the other being Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. (Franklin was many other things, among them an author, scientist, diplomat, politician, composer, inventor, and newspaper editor; the only profession he chose to list on his epitaph was, fittingly enough, “printer.”) Franklin’s collar is now festooned with “The United States of America” in tiny lettering, and another, ghostly visage of him appears when the bill is held up to light.

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