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Visualized: The Security Features of American Money



infographic showing the security features of American money

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Visualized: The Security Features of American Money

In 1739, Benjamin Franklin sought to tackle the issue of counterfeit money in America, using a printing press and leaves to create unique raised patterns on the colonial notes.

Almost 300 years later, Benjamin Franklin is the face of the U.S. $100 bill, and it is protected by a myriad of security features including secret images, special ink, hidden watermarks, and magnetic signatures, among others.

In this visual, we’ve broken down the $100 bill to showcase the anatomy of American currency.

The Makeup of American Money

There are 6 key features that identify real bills and protect the falsification of American money.

① Serial Numbers & EURion Constellation

The most basic form of security on an $100 bill is the serial number. Every bill has a unique number to record data on its production and keep track of how many individual bills are in circulation.

The EURion constellation is star-like grouping of yellow rings near the serial number. It is only detectable by imaging software.

② Color Changing Ink

This ink changes color at different angles thanks to small metallic flakes within the ink itself. The $100 bill, like all other paper bills in the U.S., has its value denoted in color changing ink on the bottom right-hand corner; unlike other bills, it also features a liberty bell image using the ink.

③ Microprinting

Microprinting allows for verifiable images that cannot be scanned by photocopiers or seen by the naked eye. The $100 bill has phrases like “USA 100” written invisibly in multiple places.

④ Intaglio Printing

Rather than regular ink pressed onto the paper, intaglio printing uses magnetic ink and every different bill value has a unique magnetic signature.

⑤ Security Threads & 3D Ribbons

The security thread is a clear, embedded, vertical thread running through the bill. It can only be seen under UV light, contains microprinted text specifying the bill’s value, and on each different bill value it glows a unique color.

Additionally, 3D ribbons are placed in the center of $100 bills with a pattern that slightly changes as it moves.

⑥ Paper, Fibers, & Watermarks

Because American money is made of cotton and linen, blue and red cloth fibers are woven into the material as another identifying feature. Finally, watermarks are found on most bills and can only be detected by light passing through the bill.

The Relevance of Cash

Here’s a look at the total number of each paper bill that is physically in circulation in the U.S.:

Physical Bill Billions of notes (2021)

Interestingly, a number of $500-$10,000 dollar bills are in someone’s pockets. And while they are not issued anymore, the Fed still recognizes the originals of these bills that were legally put into circulation in the past.

$10,000 U.S. note (1934 series)

Additionally, there is fake money passing hands in the U.S. economy. Being the most widely-accepted currency in the world, it’s no wonder many try to falsely replicate American money. According to the U.S. Department of Treasury, there are approximately $70 million in counterfeit bills currently circulating in the country.

Finally, a natural question arises: how many people still use cash anyways?

Well, a study from Pew Research Center found that it while it is a dwindling share of the population, around 58% of people still use cash for some to all of their weekly purchases, down from 70% in 2018 and 75% in 2015.

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Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry in 2023

Services-producing industries account for the majority of U.S. GDP in 2023, followed by other private industries and the government.



u.s. gdp by industry

Visualizing U.S. GDP by Industry

The U.S. economy is like a giant machine driven by many different industries, each one akin to an essential cog that moves the whole.

Understanding the breakdown of national gross domestic product (GDP) by industry shows where commercial activity is bustling and how diverse the economy truly is.

The above infographic uses data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis to visualize a breakdown of U.S. GDP by industry in 2023. To show this, we use value added by industry, which reflects the difference between gross output and the cost of intermediate inputs.

The Top 10 U.S. Industries by GDP

As of Q1 2023, the annualized GDP of the U.S. sits at $26.5 trillion.

Of this, 88% or $23.5 trillion comes from private industries. The remaining $3 trillion is government spending at the federal, state, and local levels.

Here’s a look at the largest private industries by economic contribution in the United States:

IndustryAnnualized Nominal GDP
(as of Q1 2023)
% of U.S. GDP
Professional and business services$3.5T13%
Real estate, rental, and leasing$3.3T12%
Educational services, health care, and social assistance$2.3T9%
Finance and insurance$2.0T8%
Wholesale trade$1.7T6%
Retail trade$1.5T6%
Arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services$1.2T4%
Other private industries$2.6T10%

Like most other developed nations, the U.S. economy is largely based on services.

Service-based industries, including professional and business services, real estate, finance, and health care, make up the bulk (70%) of U.S. GDP. In comparison, goods-producing industries like agriculture, manufacturing, mining, and construction play a smaller role.

Professional and business services is the largest industry with $3.5 trillion in value added. It comprises establishments providing legal, consulting, design, administration, and other services. This is followed by real estate at $3.3 trillion, which has consistently been an integral part of the economy.

Due to outsourcing and other factors, the manufacturing industry’s share of GDP has been declining for decades, but it still remains a significant part of the economy. Manufacturing of durable goods (metals, machines, computers) accounts for $1.6 trillion in value added, alongside nondurable goods (food, petroleum, chemicals) at $1.3 trillion.

The Government’s Contribution to GDP

Just like private industries, the government’s value added to GDP consists of compensation of employees, taxes collected (less subsidies), and gross operating surplus.

GovernmentAnnualized Nominal GDP
(as of Q1 2023)
% of U.S. GDP
State and Local$2.1T8%

Figures may not add up to the total due to rounding.

State and local government spending, largely focused on the education and public welfare sectors, accounts for the bulk of value added. The Federal contribution to GDP amounts to roughly $948 billion, with 52% of it attributed to national defense.

The Fastest Growing Industries (2022–2032P)

In the next 10 years, services-producing industries are projected to see the fastest growth in output.

The table below shows the five fastest-growing industries in the U.S. from 2022–2032 in terms of total output, based on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

IndustrySectorCompound Annual Rate of Output Growth (2022–2032P)
Software publishersInformation5.2%
Computing infrastructure providers, data processing, and related servicesInformation3.9%
Wireless telecommunications carriers (except satellite)Information3.6%
Home health care servicesHealth care and social assistance3.6%
Oil and gas extractionMining3.5%

Three of the fastest-growing industries are in the information sector, underscoring the growing role of technology and digital infrastructure. Meanwhile, the projected growth of the oil and gas extraction industry highlights the enduring demand for traditional energy sources, despite the energy transition.

Overall, the development of these industries suggests that the U.S. will continue its shift toward a services-oriented economy. But today, it’s also worth noticing how services- and goods-producing industries are increasingly tied together. For example, it’s now common for tech companies to produce devices, and for manufacturers to use software in their operations.

Therefore, the oncoming tide of growth in service-based industries could potentially lift other interconnected sectors of the diverse U.S. economy.

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