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New $100 Bills Gain Immediate Interest

March 25, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ They might not have seen the new $100 bill, but they’ve heard about it. Some tellers and cashiers were ready to take the redesigned greenback, one even willing to pay extra for it.

Just after Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin introduced the new bill at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York Monday, tellers across the the street at the headquarters of Chase Manhattan Bank were suspicious.

Vimla Kaura, a teller at the foreign exchange window, took the bill and looked it over. It was crisp, it had just been autographed by the Treasurer of the United States and, while it was the same size as the regular $100 bill, it clearly looked different.

``There was a customer just before you who wanted one,″ Kaura said.

She chuckled, held it up, called other tellers over and then took it to the chief teller. Nobody had seen one. Kaura came back with a brochure and made comparisons.

``Yes, this is the real one. Yeah, this is it,″ she said, authenticating the bill on her own. ``I was scared to take it. That’s the first bill I’ve seen.″

As other tellers pored over it, Kaura smiled broadly and said: ``I’ll give you $110 for it.″

More than 850 million of the new bills are available starting Tuesday.

Rubin denied the bills were redesigned to counter current counterfeits, such as the Superdollar being circulated in the Mideast. He insisted the Treasury is just ``getting ahead of the curve″ on future technology.

Franklin’s head, sitting left of center, is 50 percent larger on the new bill, there is a watermark that can be seen only by holding the bill up to the light and the number 100 changes from green to black depending on how the bill is viewed.

The new $100 bill design, 10 years in the making, is the first significant change since 1929.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, clerks took a couple of hundred dollar bills to security to check them out. ``It’s not that I don’t trust you,″ said a smiling Gisele Volckmer, a cosmetics associate. ``This morning I did hear about it on the radio.″

Inga Linwin, standing next to Volckmer, said: ``What is that? It feels flimsy.″

But Diane Haska, another sales associate, said the bills ``looked like play money, like Monopoly money.″

Meanwhile, security approved the bills.

``Yes sir, you are on,″ Volckmer said, then realized the money was for show and tell only. ``Do not hesitate to spend two new beautiful $100 bills with me.″

The redesigned smaller denominations will be issued about one a year and new bills will circulate along with the old. About two-thirds of the $390 billion in U.S. paper currency is in circulation overseas.

Rubin also held a live question and answer session with Russian journalists via satellite Monday to assure Russians the new note is OK. Russia, more so than any other country outside the United States, has large reserves of $100 bills, the preferred hard currency in troubled places.

A quick check in diners, delis, banks and boutiques indicated that tellers and clerks were at least aware of the bill. At a Citibank branch near the New York Fed, the new $100 had not arrived.

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