Friday, February 24, 2012

Money That is Too Good to Be True

An interesting Time Magazine story here about the North Koreans producing very high quality $100 bills – that’s United States' $100 bills mind you. Their country may seem third-worldish, but as counterfeiters the North Koreans are second to none. They have purchased some of the very same model printing presses that the U.S. government owns and they mimic our engraving techniques very well.

A number of years ago I performed some environmental management consulting assignments for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP).  Most people don’t realize that our paper currency is printed at just two locations – the original downtown Washington DC facility and the newer Ft. Worth, TX facility. They get the printing facilities confused with the (relatively) more common mints where our coins are designed and produced.

Even though I’ve never done much work for the Department of Defense or had a Top Secret clearance, I had been used to security checks and clearance procedures since I’ve worked for a number of the civilian agencies that manage sensitive facilities or operations – the laboratories at National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and on Native American school property for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. My neighbors were interviewed by U.S. agents asking about my character, gambling habits, and how often I beat my kids - all the usual stuff.  Funny, after that my neighbors stopped asking to borrow even my hedge trimmer and would avert their eyes whenever I would wave at them from across our fence.  But anyway, nothing quite prepared me for walking within arms’ reach of pallets of neatly stacked $100 bills at the BEP, all shrink wrapped.  It even smelled good.  The BEP employees have heard all the lame jokes about “free samples,” by the way.  They don’t laugh, or even crack a smile, so save your breath.

I cannot reveal exactly how the U.S. tells our legit $100 bills from those printed in North Korea without worrying about a visit from gray-suited, clean-cut stern men with ear pieces, but let’s just say the North Korean bills are a bit “too good.”

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