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Handicapping Currency Design: Counterfeit Deterrence and Visual Accessibility in the United States and Abroad

Despite the increasing use of electronic payments, currency retains an important role in the payment system of every country. In this article, the authors compare and contrast tradeoffs among currency design features, including those primarily intended to deter counterfeiting and ones to improve usability by the visually impaired. The authors conclude that periodic changes in the design of currency are an important aspect of counterfeit deterrence, and that currency designers worldwide generally have been successful in efforts to deter counterfeiting. At the same time, currency designers have sought to be sensitive to the needs of the visually impaired. Although tradeoffs among goals sometimes have forced compromises, new technologies promise banknotes both more difficult to counterfeit and more accessible to the visually impaired. U.S. banknotes are special because, among the world’s currencies, they are the banknotes most widely used outside their country of issue.

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