Jan 142008

The Kansas City Star has an intriguing story about ‘supernote’ counterfeit bills found around the world. These are fakes that are next to perfect, using the same paper, inks, and high quality printing, optically variable ink, and UV strips. But the strange thing is that there aren’t that many of them in circulation, and many sport noticeable flaws. They explore a number of theories, from North Korea counterfeiting (unlikely, they can’t do a decent job on their own currency), to the US and/or CIA producing the bills to track transactions and money flow from regimes or groups.

The supernotes incorporate at least 19 running changes that the United States has made to its engraving plates since 1989, from the names of Treasury secretaries and treasurers to blowing up the image of Ben Franklin on the $100 — something that most counterfeiters can’t or don’t bother to do.

In 1996, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing redesigned the $100 bill, adding security features and an off-center, larger Franklin portrait. In less than a year, new supernotes appeared.

“It goes way beyond what normal counterfeiters are able to do,” said Bender, whose book first spotlighted the improbability of North Korean supernotes. “And it is so elaborate it doesn’t pay for the counterfeiting anymore.”

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