$110 billion in new hundred-dollar bills are no good

Section:

... How did Zimbabwe manage to avoid this problem?

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The Fed Has a $110 Billion Problem with New Benjamins

By Eamon Javers
CNBC
Monday, December 6, 2010

http://www.cnbc.com/id/40521684

WASHINGTON -- A significant production problem with new high-tech $100 bills has caused government printers to shut down production of the new notes and to quarantine more than one billion of the bills in huge vaults in Fort Worth, Texas, and Washington, D.C., CNBC has learned.

Initially scheduled for release in February 2011, the new bills were announced with great fanfare by officials at the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve in April.

At the time, officials announced the new bills would incorporate sophisticated high-tech security features, including a 3-D security strip and a color-shifting image of a bell designed to foil counterfeiters.

... Dispatch continues below ...



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Prophecy Receives Permit To Mine at Ulaan Ovoo in Mongolia

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Prophecy Resource Corp. (TSX-V:PCY, OTCQX: PRPCF, Frankfurt: 1P2) announces that on November 9, 2010, it received the final permit to commence mining operations at its Ulaan Ovoo coal project in Mongolia. Prophecy is one of few international mining companies to achieve such a milestone. The mine is production-ready, with a mine opening ceremony scheduled for November 20.

Prophecy CEO John Lee said: "I thank the government of Mongolia for the expeditious way this permit was issued. The opening of Ulaan Ovoo is a testament to the industrious and skilled workforce in Mongolia. Prophecy directly and indirectly (through Leighton Asia) employs more than 65 competent Mongolian nationals and four expatriots. The company also reaffirms its commitment to deliver coal to the local Edernet and Darkhan power plants in Mongolia."

The Ulaan Ovoo open pit mine is 10 kilometers from the Russian border and within 120km of the Nauski TransSiberian railway station, enabling transportation of coal to Russia and its eastern seaports. Thermal coal prices are trading at two-year highs at Russian seaports due to strong demand from Asian economies.

For the complete press release, please visit:

http://prophecyresource.com/news_2010_nov11.php



But the production process is so complex, it has instead foiled the government printers tasked with producing billions of the new notes.

An official familiar with the situation told CNBC that 1.1 billion of the new bills have been printed, but they are unusable because of a creasing problem in which paper folds over during production, revealing a blank unlinked portion of the bill face.

A second person familiar with the situation said that at the height of the problem, as many as 30 percent of the bills rolling off the printing press included the flaw, leading to the production shutdown.

The total face value of the unusable bills, $110 billion, represents more than 10 percent of the entire supply of U.S. currency on the planet, which a government source said is $930 billion in banknotes. For now, the unusable bills are stored in the vaults in "cash packs" of four bundles of 4,000 each, with each pack containing 16,000 bills.

Officials don't know exactly what caused the problem. "There is something drastically wrong here," a person familiar with the situation said. "The frustration level is off the charts."

Because officials don't know how many of the 1.1 billion bills include the flaw, they have to hold them in the massive vaults until they are able to develop a mechanized system that can sort out the usable bills from the defects.

Sorting such a huge quantity of bills by hand, the officials estimate, could take between 20 and 30 years. Using a mechanized system, they think they could sort the massive pile of bills, each of which features the familiar image of Benjamin Franklin on the face, in about one year.

The defective bills -- which could number into the tens of millions, potentially representing billions of dollars in face value -- will have to be burned, they say. American taxpayers have already spent an enormous amount of money to print the bills.

According to a person familiar with the matter, the bills are the most costly ever produced, with a per-note cost of about 12 cents -- twice the cost of a conventional bill. That means the government spent about $120 million to produce bills it can't use. On top of that, it is not yet clear how much more it will cost to sort the existing horde of hundred dollar bills.

Officials say they remain optimistic that the majority of the 1.1 billion bills will eventually be cleared for circulation.

The problem with the new hundred-dollar bills has remained largely hidden from public view, despite a press release issued by the Federal Reserve on Oct. 1 that announced "a delay in the issue date" of the new bills and cited "a problem with sporadic creasing of the paper."

The redesigned bills are the first $100 bills to feature Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's signature. But to stave off a cash crunch as existing $100 bills deteriorate and can't be replaced, the Federal Reserve has ordered renewed production of the current-design $100 bills, which feature Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson's signature and do not have the new security features.

Officials say that is an important step, because there are 6.6 billion $100 notes in circulation at any given time, and they wear out quickly. Reprinting the current design bills will prevent any disruption in the global circulation of US currency.

The production of American banknotes is a convoluted process. The paper is manufactured by Crane & Co., which has continually supplied the government since 1879. Design and production of the bills is handled by the Department of Treasury and its Bureau of Engraving and Printing. But the currency is actually issued by the Federal Reserve, which is why the bills are emblazoned with the phrase "Federal Reserve Note."

The new $100 note is the latest denomination of U.S. currency to be redesigned with special anti-counterfeiting features. Treasury first introduced the redesigned $20 note in 2003 and has also redesigned the $50, $10, and $5 notes.

The government says that more than a decade of research and development went into the new security features on the redesigned $100.

The bill features a blue three-dimensional security strip that pictures bells that change to 100s as the strip is tilted. The ribbon is woven into the paper, not printed on it, which is why it is the focus of speculation as a potential cause of the paper creasing problem on the printing presses. The note also features another color-shifting image, of a bell inside an inkwell. The bell shifts color from copper to green as the bill is tilted.

As part of the rollout effort for the new $100 bills, the government set up a website explaining the changes, which can be seen at this website.

After they were printed, officials discovered that some of the new bills have a vertical crease that, when the sides of the bill are pulled, unfolds and reveals a blank space on the face of the bill. At first glance, the bills appear completely printed but they are not.

Officials have mixed views on what caused the problem, and who is responsible for it. "This is not about assigning blame," said one. But another person familiar with the matter said finger-pointing has already begun. "The Fed’s very unhappy, and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is taking a beating unnecessarily," the person said. "Somebody has to pay for this."

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Sona Drills 85.4g Gold/Ton Over 4 Metres at Elizabeth Gold Deposit,
Extending the Mineralization of the Southwest Vein on the Property

Company Press Release, October 27, 2010

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Sona Resources Corp. reports on five drillling holes in the third round of assay results from the recently completed drill program at its 100 percent-owned Elizabeth Gold Deposit Property in the Lillooet Mining District of southern British Columbia. Highlights from the diamond drilling include:

-- Hole E10-66 intersected 17.4g gold/ton over 1.54 metres.

-- Hole E10-67 intersected 96.4g gold/ton over 2.5 metres, including one assay interval of 383g of gold/ton over 0.5 metres.

-- Hole E10-69 intersected 85.4g gold/ton over 4.03 metres, including one assay interval of 230g gold/ton over 1 metre.

Four drill holes, E10-66 to E10-69, targeted the southwestern end of the Southwest Vein, and three of the holes have expanded the mineralized zone in that direction. The Southwest Vein gold mineralization has now been intersected over a strike length of 325 metres, with the deepest hole drilled less than 200 metres from surface. "The assay results from the Southwest Zone quartz vein continue to be extremely positive," says John P. Thompson, Sona's president and CEO. "We are expanding the Southwest Vein, and this high-grade gold mineralization remains wide open down dip and along strike to the southwest."

For the company's full press release, please visit:

http://sonaresources.com/_resources/news/SONA_NR19_2010.pdf