The old hundred dollar bill holds a special place in American history and culture. With its distinctive design featuring statesman Benjamin Franklin, this banknote was a prized possession for many years.

If you’re curious to learn more about this iconic piece of currency, read on to explore its origins, security features, and eventual retirement from circulation.

Here’s a quick answer before we dive into the details: The old $100 bill featuring Ben Franklin’s portrait was first issued in 1969. It included advanced security features for its time, like microprinting and color-shifting ink.

This version of the $100 bill was discontinued in 2013 with the introduction of a new high-tech design.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss the entire lifespan of the old $100 bill. You’ll learn about the political and economic factors leading to its introduction, examine the symbolic meaning behind its design elements, and understand why it was eventually replaced after four decades in circulation.

The Creation of the $100 Bill Featuring Ben Franklin

The Federal Reserve Bank was Running Low on High-Denomination Currency in the 1960s

During the 1960s, the Federal Reserve Bank found itself facing a shortage of high-denomination currency. With the rising demand for cash transactions and the need for larger denomination bills, it became evident that a new design for the $100 bill was necessary.

The old design, known as the “Series 1950,” featured a portrait of Benjamin Franklin on the front and an image of Independence Hall on the back.

The shortage of high-denomination currency caused inconvenience to banks, businesses, and individuals who relied on larger bills for various transactions. To address this issue, the Federal Reserve Bank decided to commission a new design for the $100 bill that would not only solve the problem of scarcity but also incorporate modern security features to prevent counterfeiting.

Officials Commissioned a New $100 Design Featuring Ben Franklin as Its Main Subject

When officials at the Federal Reserve Bank embarked on the process of designing the new $100 bill, they decided to keep Benjamin Franklin as the main subject. Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, was chosen for his significant contributions to science, literature, and politics.

The new design, known as the “Series 1969,” featured a larger portrait of Franklin on the front, with a watermark of his face visible when held up to the light. The back of the bill showcased an image of Independence Hall, just like the previous design.

However, the new design incorporated several security features, including a security thread, microprinting, and color-shifting ink, making it more difficult to counterfeit.

The introduction of the new $100 bill featuring Ben Franklin as its main subject was met with great enthusiasm. It not only addressed the shortage of high-denomination currency but also incorporated advanced security measures to ensure its authenticity.

To this day, the $100 bill remains one of the most iconic and widely recognized denominations of U.S. currency.

Security Features of the Old $100 Bill

It Contained Microprinting as a Counterfeit Deterrent

The old $100 bill was designed with several security features to deter counterfeiting. One of these features was microprinting, where tiny text was printed on various parts of the bill. This text was so small that it was difficult to replicate accurately, making it easier for authorities to distinguish between genuine and counterfeit bills.

The microprinting was used on different elements, such as the portrait of Benjamin Franklin and the numerical value of the bill.

Microprinting on the old $100 bill was just one of the many ways the U.S. government tried to stay ahead of counterfeiters. By incorporating this feature, they made it harder for counterfeiters to successfully replicate the bill and protect the integrity of the currency.

Color-Shifting Ink Was Introduced to Thwart Counterfeiters

Another security feature of the old $100 bill was the use of color-shifting ink. This ink, also known as optically variable ink, changed color when viewed from different angles. This made it extremely difficult for counterfeiters to replicate, as they would have to recreate the color-shifting effect accurately.

The color-shifting ink was used on various elements of the bill, such as the numeral “100” on the bottom right corner and the “USA” letters on the lower left corner. This feature added an extra layer of security to the bill and made it easier for individuals and businesses to verify the authenticity of a $100 bill.

To learn more about the security features of the old $100 bill, you can visit the official website of the United States Currency Education Program:

The Intricate Basketweave Design Made Reproduction Difficult

The old $100 bill featured an intricate basketweave design on the left side of the bill. This design was not only aesthetically pleasing but also served as a deterrent to counterfeiters. The complexity of the weave made it extremely challenging for counterfeiters to recreate accurately.

The basketweave design on the old $100 bill was an example of how the U.S. government used intricate patterns and designs to make it difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce currency. By incorporating such detailed elements, they ensured that each bill was unique and easily distinguishable from counterfeit versions.

The basketweave design was just one component of the overall security features of the old $100 bill. The combination of microprinting, color-shifting ink, and the intricate design made it one of the most secure bills of its time.

The Meaning and Symbolism Behind the $100 Design

Benjamin Franklin Epitomized Wisdom and Prosperity

When examining the design of the old hundred dollar bill, one cannot overlook the prominent figure of Benjamin Franklin. As one of the founding fathers of the United States, Franklin’s inclusion on the bill is highly significant.

Franklin was not only a statesman and diplomat, but also a renowned scientist and inventor. His image on the hundred dollar bill epitomizes wisdom, intellect, and prosperity.

Franklin’s presence on the bill serves as a reminder of the importance of education and knowledge in achieving success. His contributions to various fields, such as electricity and publishing, symbolize the power of innovation and intellectual pursuits.

The inclusion of Franklin on the hundred dollar bill is a tribute to his multifaceted achievements and his significant impact on American history.

Other Design Elements Hint at Themes of Innovation and Liberty

In addition to Benjamin Franklin, the design of the old hundred dollar bill incorporates several other elements that hint at themes of innovation and liberty. One such element is the depiction of Independence Hall on the back of the bill.

Independence Hall, located in Philadelphia, is where both the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were debated and signed. Its inclusion on the bill represents the ideals of freedom and democracy that are fundamental to the American identity.

Furthermore, the old hundred dollar bill features a quill pen and an inkwell, symbolizing the importance of knowledge and the written word. These elements highlight the significance of education, communication, and the exchange of ideas in the pursuit of progress and prosperity.

Gradual Retirement from Circulation in the 21st Century

The old hundred dollar bill, also known as the $100 bill, underwent a gradual retirement from circulation in the 21st century. This process began in 2003 and involved several changes to the design and security features of the bill.

The aim was to combat counterfeiting and ensure the integrity of the currency.

The Old $100 Was Phased Out Slowly Starting in 2003

In 2003, the United States Department of the Treasury announced plans to redesign the $100 bill to incorporate advanced security features. This decision was made in response to the increasing sophistication of counterfeiters.

The phased retirement of the old $100 bill involved a gradual introduction of the new design, allowing enough time for the public to become familiar with the changes. This approach ensured a smooth transition without causing confusion or disruption in the economy.

The redesign of the $100 bill included changes such as the addition of color-shifting ink, a watermark portrait, and a security thread embedded in the paper. These features made it more difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce the bill accurately.

The new design also incorporated elements of American history and culture, such as a portrait of Benjamin Franklin and an image of Independence Hall.

The Final Edition Featured New Anti-Counterfeiting Measures

The final edition of the old $100 bill, which was introduced in 2009, featured additional anti-counterfeiting measures. These included a 3D security ribbon and a bell in the inkwell, both of which were designed to be easily recognizable and difficult to reproduce.

The use of advanced technology and intricate designs helped to ensure the authenticity of the bill.

During this phase-out period, both the old and new $100 bills were in circulation, allowing for a smooth transition. Banks and businesses were encouraged to accept both versions of the bill, and individuals were not required to exchange their old bills for the new ones.

This approach minimized any potential disruption to the economy and ensured that the retirement process was gradual and convenient for the public.

The Last Old $100 Bills Were Withdrawn in 2013

The retirement of the old $100 bill was completed in 2013, with the last of the old bills being withdrawn from circulation. At this point, the new design had become the standard and only version of the $100 bill in use.

The retirement process was considered a success, with the new design proving to be highly effective in deterring counterfeiters and maintaining the integrity of the currency.

For more information on the history and design of the old hundred dollar bill, you can visit the U.S. Currency Education Program website.


In conclusion, the old $100 bill was in circulation for over 40 years before being replaced by a new, high-tech design. During its lifetime, this banknote served as an iconic representation of America’s financial prosperity.

Although the faces and features of our currency continue to evolve, the old $100 remains an enduring symbol of the nation’s economic heritage.

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