This morning I received a call from Bureau of Engraving and Printing spokeswoman Darlene Anderson, following up on my story for The New Yorker. In hastily repackaged versions of the piece, a number of media outlets have incorrectly stated that the new $100 bill will not be launched into the ocean of circulation by the October 8 deadline. I never wrote or reported such a thing. When Anderson asked that I help try and correct the record in whatever small way I could, I said absolutely. Here's a follow-up statement she sent via email:

The next generation $100 note will be issued this fall.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is investigating this issue to determine the root cause of the issue.  The notes will be re-inspected to remove the unacceptable notes and the fit notes will be returned to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System for circulation.  NXG $100 notes returned to the Bureau of Engraving had a small proportion of notes affected by mashing, which were included with many, good, quality notes.  It’s expected only a marginal fraction of the notes will be unacceptable.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing will meet the NXG $100 note annual currency production order.  The Western Currency Facility is ahead of its production schedule and can produce the Washington, DC facility’s share of the note, until the DC facility returns to production.  The Bureau of Engraving and Printing is committed to producing the highest quality currency, and reassessing its Washington, DC currency operations and support functions to ensure that the quality system and its components are functioning effectively.  This issue affects the NXG $100 note at the DC facility exclusively, other denominations are not affected.

I believe this to be true. If they miss it, though... yikes. The bigger question, of course, is why make $100 bills in the first place. Oh right, I forgot: So we can protect drug traffickers' favorite medium of exchange, safeguard the value of tax evaders' stashes, buy concert tickets from scalpers and deliver bags full of Bennies to shady Afghan government leaders. (Here's a an illuminating op-ed about ditching high-value notes, or at least calling them in.)

As for yesterday's story, a few people have asked me about the cost of the refund to the Federal Reserve. At $0.126 cents per Benjamin, the Bureau has to cough up $3.8 million. Not much of a hit, really, particularly if you own the presses. There are further downstream costs, but we can discuss those some other day. Or you can read my book.

There is also a line in the article about how central banks are a lot like other businesses, at least as far as dealing with inventories of cash. It's accurate, but the quote still makes me laugh because the Fed is completely unlike any business in the galaxy. It conjures dollars out of nothingness, for Pete’s sake!

One last thing, for now. If your confidence in the dollar--the tactile or the electronic one--has been rattled a little by my reporting or BEP blunders generally: Keep the faith! (If you don't, we're all screwed.) At the very least, take solace in the fact that we’re not using euros. Did I mention that the second series euro banknotes have also been plagued by production problems? True story.

AuthorDavid Wolman