In a nationwide promotion entitled “The New Color of Money: Safer, Smarter, More Secure,” the US government said the newly designed $20 note with subtle background shades of green, peach and blue would be more difficult to fake.
“It's colourful, it's different. ... I'd like to see them counterfeit this one, it's going to be a lot of work to do that,” Casildo Caballero, a vendor on the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue who took one of the new bills from US Federal Reserve official Marsha Reidhill, told reporters.
About 950 million individual bills have been printed in the first run and will slowly replace the old-design notes which are to be retained by banks as the new ones filter into cash registers and wallets.
Michael Stenger, special agent in charge of the US Secret Service's Washington field office, said: “criminals look to get as much bang for the buck as they can. As the costs (of counterfeiting) rise, and the exposure to arrest rise, they tend not to take that road down a criminal path.”
The new $20 bill, which has a portrait of Andrew Jackson, the seventh US president, was rolled out first because it is the most counterfeited note.
"We have added the colour to make it more distinctive, there is a colour shifting ink as the note is tilted, a water mark and a security strip and that traditional feel of strength and stability of US currency," Tom Ferguson, director of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, told AFP.
Ferguson added that the government plans to issue a new $50 bill in 2004 and a $100 bill in 2005. Each denomination will be differently coloured.