By Erin McPike, CNN
The U.S. Treasury has a new $100 bill designed to stop counterfeiters, but printing problems are delaying its release.
Imagine having $3 billion in cash sitting in front of you, teasing you, that you couldn't use. That's what happened to the Federal Reserve this year because the country's money factory messed up one of America's most familiar exports: the $100 bill.
"We estimate that as many as two-thirds of all $100 notes circulate outside the United States," said Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
"It's certainly one of the most valuable bills to counterfeit," said currency expert Ben Mazzotta.
The mint was supposed to print a new design back in 2011, but they keep botching the bill. The first batch ended up with a blank spot, and the second round? Lifted by thieves on their way to the Federal Reserve. Now? Excess ink.
"Ironically it appears to be not those advanced features. It's the way the paper they are using for this generation of printing is responding the weight of the printing press," said Mazzotta.
The error could cost taxpayers about $4 million because the current bill costs $0.078 to produce, compared to $0.126 for the new one. A blue ribbon is woven into the middle of the bill with alternating 100s and Liberty bells that move when you tilt the paper. A copper inkwell contains a Liberty bell inside it that turns green when you move it.
"Certainly it's much harder to counterfeit the new bill than the old. Every year that passes makes counterfeiting their old $100 bills that much easier," said Mazzotta.
The government says crisp new bills should be ready to change hands by Oct. 8. Then the arms race against counterfeiters begins again.
A spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing says less than one percent of the $100 bills they shipped were affected. They plan to send the bulk of that batch back to the Federal Reserve. The Fed does have a sufficient supply to release Oct. 8.