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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 October, 2003, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
US issues new colour $20 bill

By David Bamford
BBC correspondent in Washington

The eagle has blended. For the first time, colours have been added to US dollar bills which go into distribution on Thursday.

The world famous greenbacks will no longer be entirely green.

New $20 bill
The new bill includes a plastic security strip
The new $20 note issued by the Treasury Department includes peach and blue colours and the greenback even has a copper tinge when tilted in the light.

A muted blue eagle has been added to the design and the national bird also appears in its guise as the emblem of the Federal Reserve System.

The image of the seventh US president, Andrew Jackson, still adorns the front, albeit in an amended form. And the back of the bill - said to be harder to fake and easier to check - still has a picture of the White House together with the words "In God We Trust".

But there is a new plastic security strip embedded in the note and an added faint watermark.

Smaller changes

Treasury Department officials say they have plans to issue a new $50 note next year and then a $100 bill in 2005.

Then they say they will be taking a look at the smaller denominations; $5 and $10 bills are under consideration for a revamp, though there are no plans for now to redesign either the $1 or $2 dollar notes.

The reason why the US Treasury is anxious to use new technological methods to update the bigger denominations first is, of course, because it is these notes that are of greatest interest to the forgers, and counterfeit dollar bill notes have been a major problem in the past.

That is why new slightly different versions of most notes are issued every four to five years.

The easy availability to potential forgers of modern digital technology has made the task even more difficult for the Treasury experts.

Eastern dollars

The dollar is important not just in the United States - it has been the main international currency since the end of the gold standard system.

Because of organised crime, an unknown percentage of dollars being passed around the world is in fact the product of sophisticated counterfeit printers operating in eastern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

It is not enough to destabilise the world economy, because most dollar transactions do not involve paper money.

But it is a serious enough problem to keep authorities around the world very busy keeping at least one step ahead of the criminals.

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