Tactile Currency Helps Prevent Counterfeiting

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Judge James Robertson’s opinion in the tactile currency case states: “The government offers no reason to think that the addition of a tactile feature would render U.S. currency more vulnerable to counterfeiting, and indeed the use of foil and raised print on the euro is considered a security feature, as is the micro perforated number on a Swiss banknote.”

On December 23, 2006, the Berks County (Pennsylvania) Reading Eagle published an editorial in support of this decision, saying that tactile features could only help us fight the battle against counterfeiting:

“The government’s main argument seemed to be one of security. These changes would make U.S. currency easier to counterfeit, government attorneys argued. That seems ridiculous on its face, and Robertson dismissed that during the hearing as utterly unpersuasive. Indeed common sense indicates that changing size or adding special features in fact could make U.S. currency harder to copy.”

On February 27, 2007, NPR presented an interview with a counterfeiting prevention expert who believes that textural and other cues musst be added to our paper currency to prevent counterfeiting in the coming years:

“[Robert] Schafrik, who led this year’s National Research Council study on currency, said that counterfeiting is likely to explode if the U.S. doesn’t make some radical changes to our paper bills.

“Within five to 10 years, he says, ‘the software will be so easy to use that anyone will be able to use it, even the casual counterfeiter.’

“Forget global crime syndicates or foreign pariah states. In a few years, with even the cheapest printer, you’ll be able to counterfeit money. The pizza delivery comes, you’re short $10. No problem. Scan the $10 bill you do have into a computer, hit print, and you’ve got a perfect fidelity bill. In short, the United States will not be able to stop counterfeiting by making paper currency more and more intricate. Printers will reproduce any image.

“‘The future is not going to be in more color, or more finely printed images,’ says Alan Goldstein, a molecular engineering professor at Alfred University. ‘The future is going to be in the materials from which the bill, itself, is made.'”

Even if the government decided simply to vary the size of the different denominations (with lowest-value bills being smallest, of course), this would at least prevent criminals from bleaching the ink off low-value bills and using them to counterfeit higher-value bills (this scam is one of the reasons why the Bureau of Egraving and Printing is redesigning the $5 right now).

Although most media are portraying the accessible currency lawsuit merely as a “blind” issue, in fact accessible paper money would benefit everyone by making our currency more secure–and that’s an important part of our economic and national security.

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