WASHINGTON -- In an effort to curb counterfeiting, the Treasury Department on Wednesday unveiled features of a new currency design aimed at keeping up with the evolving technology of the criminal world.
Although changes in the size, color or portrait subjects are not being considered, the face of the new currency may incorporate a larger, off-center central portrait as well as a watermark on the right-hand edge of the bill.
Ink that "color-shifts" when looked at from different angles as well as tiny disks incorporated directly into the paper are also possible features that will make the new bills difficult to counterfeit, according to Thomas A. Ferguson, a researcher from the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.
Mr. Ferguson was one of several Treasury Department officials who briefed the House Banking Committee Wednesday on anti-counterfeiting security features under consideration for new bills. which are due to begin circulating in 1996.
Banks, thrifts, and other financial institutions are concerned that without a public education campaign, the new bills could go the way of the now-defunct Susan B. Anthony dollar.
"They have to get the currency out there fast enough, in large enough amounts, and with enough education so that people will accept it," said Kawika Daguio, federal representative at the American Bankers Association.
No Impact on ATMs
Since the new currency is the same size and made of the same material as current bills, automated teller machines will not be affected by the changes, Mr. Daguio said.
Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow and Under Secretary of the Treasury Frank N. Newman both said that old currency would not be recalled, or "demonetized." Rather, old currency will be retired as it passes through the Federal Reserve.
Some members of the committee voiced the concern that the currency would be changed so drastically that it will give rise to questions of the U.S. dollar's stability.
"Given some of the difficulties that the dollar is facing on the international market, a wholesale redesign may send out a message that the federal government doesn't want to send out," said Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy 2d, D-Mass. "We should keep the dollar as close as possible to the design we have today."
The planned changes will be the first major alterations to the visual design of U.S. currency in over 60 years, but one official said the overhaul could herald an era of regular change in currency design.