How to check if a 50-dollar bill is real? Counterfeit money is an unfortunate reality that many people have to contend with. If you’ve come into possession of a $50 bill and want to verify that it’s real, this comprehensive guide will walk you through several tests you can conduct.

If you need a quick answer, here are a few key things you can check: examine the bill’s security features like the security thread, watermark, color-shifting ink, and more; feel the texture of the paper; use tools like a counterfeit detector pen, UV light, or magnifying glass.

By the end, you’ll have confidence whether or not that $50 is genuine legal tender.

In this article, we’ll cover all the visual security features to inspect, detail the feel and texture of real vs. fake $50s, demonstrate counterfeit detection pens and machines, and more. With the right knowledge and tools, you can avoid being fooled by fake fifty-dollar bills.

Examine the Visual Security Features

There are numerous security features integrated into the new $50 bills that can help determine if a bill is genuine. Carefully checking these hard-to-replicate details is an important step when assessing the authenticity of a $50 banknote.

The New Color $50 Bill Design

The most recently issued $50 bills feature splashes of red, blue, and yellow alongside the traditional monochromatic depictions of historic figures. This is the first redesign of the $50 banknote since 2004.

The vibrant colors are difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce and help distinguish real bills from fakes.

The Security Threat

Genuine $50 bills contain blue and red security threads woven into the paper. When held up to the light, the threads become visible and display “USA 50” along with a small flag. The color of the thread also shifts from blue to red when tilted.

The Watermark

There is a ghost-like watermark image visible when real $50 bills are held up to the light. New $50 banknotes feature a watermark of Ulysses S. Grant’s portrait that can be seen from both sides of the note. The watermark is hard to duplicate and confirms authenticity.

Color-Shifting Ink

If you tilt a real $50 bill back and forth, the number “50” on the bottom right corner should shift from copper to green. This hard-to-replicate color-changing ink provides another safeguard against counterfeiting on current $50 banknotes.

Fine Line Printing Patterns

Genuine $50 bills have extremely fine lines in complex patterns surrounding the portrait that are hard for counterfeiters to copy. This “background printing” creates a distinct textured look under magnification if authentic.

The Federal Reserve Indicators

Each $50 banknote contains a small letter and number designation that identifies which Federal Reserve Bank issued the currency. On real $50 bills, the markings are clear, perfectly printed, and green in color if viewed at a glance.

The Serial Numbers

The serial numbers on legitimate $50 bills are uniformly spaced, printed in sharp focus, and aligned properly. Additionally, the 10-digit serial numbers match on both sides of genuine bills. Mismatched or misaligned numbers can indicate counterfeiting.

Pay Attention to Paper Texture and Feel

Real Bills Have Crisp Raised Print

Genuine $50 bills have sharply detailed engraving with raised print that you can feel when running your fingers over the note. Counterfeits often lack this crisp, elevated sensation in the text and images.

Carefully examine the historic portraits, building images, and denomination numbers on both the front and back of a potential $50 bill. The elevated print should be obvious and easy to discern from the rest of the flat paper.

According to the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP), advanced security features and engraving methods are used to create intricate elevated patterns. These include micro printing, color-shifting ink, security threads, watermarks, and more.

Becoming familiar with what authentic bills look and feel like will help you identify fakes.

Look Out for Bleeding Ink

Real Federal Reserve notes use extremely high-quality, durable inks that do not run or bleed over time. However, many counterfeit $50 bills use cheaper inks that can smear or rub off. Carefully inspect the edges and surfaces of a bill, especially in detailed areas with colors and denominations.

If you notice any ink spreading beyond the engraved lines or mottled textures where pigment has rubbed away, the note is likely a fake.

The BEP states that all inks used on U.S. currency go through rigorous testing to ensure longevity and resilience. Additionally, the specialized cotton-linen paper blend helps prevent bleeding. So be wary of any $50 bills where the vivid greens, blacks, and grays of the ink show signs of running.

Genuine Paper Feels Unique

Authentic federal reserve notes are printed on a distinctive cotton-linen paper blend that gives them a crisp, smooth texture. Many counterfeits instead use regular wood-pulp paper that feels rougher and more porous in texture.

Closely evaluate the paper a potential $50 bill is printed on both the front and back. There should not be any bumps, rents, or inconsistent textures.

The distinct 75% cotton / 25% linen content mixture has been used in U.S. banknote paper since World War II to give bills better durability and a unique feel. The fabric content is why older, worn $50 bills often start to feel more cloth-like over decades of circulation while still staying fully intact.

Use a Counterfeit Detector Pen on the Bill

One of the easiest ways to check if a $50 bill is real is to use a counterfeit detector pen. These handy pens contain a special ink that reacts to the paper used in legitimate US currency. Here’s how to use one:

Obtain a Counterfeit Detector Pen

Counterfeit detector pens can be purchased inexpensively (usually $5-10) from office supply stores, banks, or online retailers. Popular and reliable brands include Dri Mark, Boki, and Fraud Fighter.

Mark an Inconspicuous Area of the Bill

Choose an out-of-the-way spot on the bill to test, like in the upper left corner. Try not to make a mark that will be visible at a glance. This will allow you to still spend the bill if it passes the test.

Check for Discoloration

If the ink leaves a yellow/clear mark, the paper does not contain starch and maybe a legitimate bill. But if the mark left is black, dark brown, or gray, that indicates starch in the paper – a sign of counterfeit.

Here’s a breakdown of what the mark colors indicate:

Mark Color Meaning
Clear/Yellowish Genuine paper, likely real black
k/Dark Gray Starch-based paper, likely counterfeit

Conduct Further Tests for Certainty

The pen test alone doesn’t guarantee a bill’s authenticity. For greater certainty, the Secret Service recommends conducting other checks as well, like examining security features and comparing them to a known real bill.

But as an initial test, the counterfeit detector pen provides a quick, easy way to spot common fake bills printed on poor-quality paper. Along with other measures, it can help avoid being stuck with counterfeit cash.

Examine the Bill Under UV Light

One of the best ways to check if a $50 bill is real is to examine it under ultraviolet (UV) light. Here’s why UV light can help detect counterfeits:

UV Reactive Ink

Genuine US currency contains UV reactive ink in certain areas like the security thread and watermark. This special ink glows brightly when placed under a UV light. Counterfeiters have a hard time replicating this ink, so if those areas don’t glow, it’s a red flag.

Security Thread

The security thread in real $50 bills glows green under UV light. Counterfeits may not have a thread at all, or they may not glow green. Carefully examine the thread under UV light to check.


When you shine a UV light over a real $50 bill, the watermark of Ulysses S. Grant’s portrait will glow. Fakes sometimes have a watermark, but it won’t react under UV light.

Other Reactive Areas

On genuine currency, parts of the Federal Reserve and Treasury seals also glow red and green under UV exposure. Additionally, the serial numbers and Federal Reserve letters should fluoresce as well. If not, it’s likely a fake.

So by using a simple UV light, counterfeit $50 bills can easily be spotted thanks to their lack of UV reactive ink in the right places. When in doubt, apply this technique along with other verification methods to determine if your $50 is real.

Verify with a Currency Scanner or Counterfeit Bill Detector

Using a currency scanner or counterfeit bill detector is one of the best ways to check if a $50 bill is real. These handy devices use advanced technology like magnetic ink detection, ultraviolet light analysis, and image sensors to instantly verify the authenticity of bills.

How Currency Scanners Work

Currency scanners check for key security features printed on real US currency. When you insert a bill into the scanner, it will analyze:

  • Magnetic ink – Special ink with iron particles is used on real bills.
  • Watermarks – Genuine watermarks are embedded in the paper.
  • Security threads – Microprinted threads are woven into real bills.
  • Ultraviolet images – Real bills display unique images under UV light.

Within seconds, the scanner compares the tested bill against stored images of genuine currency. If all the security points match up, the bill is deemed authentic. If any features are missing or incorrect, the scanner will reject the bill and indicate it’s counterfeit.

Accuracy of Scanners

The best currency scanners and detectors like the DriMark D-TECT 100 have an accuracy rate of over 99%. This means for every 100 bills tested, 99 fake bills will be caught. The technology is so advanced that it’s nearly impossible for counterfeits to bypass detection.

These gadgets are a popular and trusted tool used by banks, businesses, and government agencies worldwide. Retail cash handlers like grocery stores, restaurants, and retail shops often use them too.

Ease of Use

Using a counterfeit bill scanner is very straightforward. You simply insert the bill to be tested and in 2-3 seconds the results come back on an LED screen or audio alert. There’s no guesswork involved – it’s a clear pass-or-fail readout.

Most models don’t require any calibration or maintenance either.

If you handle cash frequently, having your portable currency scanner can give you great peace of mind. They range from small pen-sized units to larger countertop devices for businesses. Prices typically run from $10 for a basic single-bill UV checker up to $200 for an industrial-grade multi-bill scanner.

How To Check If A 50-Dollar Bill Is Real – Conclusion

With counterfeiters getting more sophisticated every year, it pays to thoroughly check any larger denomination bills that come your way. By making use of visual security features, paper tests, counterfeit detector pens, UV lights, and professional currency scanners, you can have full confidence in determining if a $50 bill is real.

If at any point you suspect the note is fake, the safest option is to turn it in to your local police department or the U.S. Secret Service and report it. With the help of this guide, may all the $50 bills that cross your path be verified as authentic!

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