Are holograms and windows to be part of future Federal Reserve note technology?

Bureau of Engraving and Printing seeks research and development of new ‘security features’
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 07/25/16
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A glimpse at the Treasury Department’s plans for the future of American paper money was offered July 8 at FedBizOpps.gov, the federal business opportunities website for vendors interested in doing business with the government. 

An announcement there says that the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will issue a solicitation on or about July 28 “for the research and development of new conspicuous and device-assisted security features” for use in protecting the next generation of Federal Reserve notes from counterfeiting threats.

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It added that the BEP also wants to provide “the general public with a user friendly feature to quickly and confidently validate notes passed in common, everyday transactions.”

Based on the response to its request for proposals, the government may award a single contract or multiple ones. It expects that the resulting contract(s) will be at a fixed price for a base year and three option years.

What might these new 'features' be?

The BEP says it would like to develop new devices and features based on raised intaglio printing, and what it calls “optical waveguide technology.” Perhaps this is a clue that finally the United States will see the windows, holograms, plastic films, and coded fiber optics becoming the standard elsewhere in the world but so far absent here.

One can look Down Under for what might be in store. 

The Reserve Bank of Australia is issuing a new $5 note in September that will be the first release of the bank's "Next Generation Banknote Program."

That $5 note will include a tactile feature aimed at helping the visually impaired, as well as security enhancements that include two clear windows — a large one that runs up the middle of the note and another smaller one in the lower right corner — and Omron rings, which is a pattern of small circles, usually yellow in color. (The most recent versions of Federal Reserve notes above the $2 denomination already have the Omron rings feature.)

Other currency issuing entities, including the Bank of England recently, have also moved to polymer as the material they print their notes on. 

The Bank of England's new £5 note, scheduled for issue on Sept. 13, includes a wealth of new security features that the BEP will likely take a hard look at, though the current generations of Federal Reserve notes in denominations of $5 and higher already feature some the features also appearing on the Bank of England notes. 

Among the English note's security features are a see-through window with the queen’s portrait (and the window's border changes from purple to green); a separate view of Big Ben in gold foil on the face of the note and in silver on the back; a hologram with the word ‘Five’ changing to ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted; a hologram of the coronation crown appearing in 3D and multi-colored when the note is tilted; a green foil hologram on the back, of the maze at Blenheim Palace; micro-lettering, found beneath the queen’s portrait, with tiny letters and numbers visible under a microscope; and the words BANK OF ENGLAND printed in intaglio (raised ink) along the top of the note. It will also have features to aid the visually impaired.

Canada is also using polymer for thier new notes, to the detriment of counterfeiters. 

A report by the Canadian Broadcasting Company in January credited the use of polymer in Canada’s new bank notes, which began four years ago, with a 74 percent drop in the number of fakes passed to retailers in 2015. 

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