Mass. company involved in $100 bill glitch

By Todd Wallack, Globe Staff
December 8, 2010

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The US government said it is still trying to identify the source of the production glitch that forced it to postpone introducing the new $100 bill and could force it to shred hundreds of millions of error-ridden bills, printed on paper from a Western Massachusetts company.

Dalton-based Crane & Co., which has been the sole supplier of US currency paper for more than 130 years, has been intimately involved in designing some of the key security features in the redesigned bill, including a three-dimensional security ribbon that is woven into the paper.

But it's unclear if the production glitch was caused by Crane's paper or some other element of the printing process. Some of the paper was creased during the printing process, causing blank spots on some of the bills.

"We really don't know what the problem was," said a spokeswoman from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing who asked not to be named. "We are still investigating it and getting to the root cause of the problem."

Crane & Co. issued a brief statement noting the "new $100 is an extremely complex product." The company said it has been working with the government to resolve the issue.

The new "Benjamins" were originally scheduled to be introduced in February, but the government has indefinitely postponed the date until it can resolve the printing issues. In the meantime, the government plans to continue using the current $100 bill design.

The government said it believes most of the 1.1 billion bills already printed can be salvaged, but any of the bills that were misprinted will have to be shredded. It costs roughly 12 cents to print each bill. The government said it doesn't know precisely how many bills will have to be discarded yet or how much it will cost. The government will also have to segregate the bad bills from the good ones.

The production error occurred at both printing sites -- one in Washington, D.C. and another in Texas. But the Bureau of Engraving said it caught the mistake before it shipped any of the currency to the Federal Reserve for wider distribution.

A spokeswoman said she didn't think the error would force the government to purchase additional paper from Crane & Co, however. Over the past two years, the Treasury Department has awarded the company roughly $130 million a year under federal contracts to produce the paper and related security features.

Crane, a family-owned paper company founded in 1801, has about 850 workers in the Berkshires and 470 elsewhere. It also produces stationery and non-woven products for the aerospace and other industries.