Know Your Money: Educating the Public about Counterfeit Money

Since 1941, the United States Secret Service has produced a series of booklets to educate the public about counterfeit currency. Although only a fraction of all circulating Federal currency is counterfeit, the US Secret Service investigates every case, however small. A new counterfeit note usually reaches the Secret Service’s attention via the public or a bank. The brochure Know Your Money is designed to help the public to be aware of counterfeit money of any kind. It contains a historical overview of US currency and other general information about the work of the Secret Service. In the earlier issues, enlargements detail the engraving work on the Federal Reserve notes. The original 1941 edition tries to explain the importance of awareness for counterfeit money through a cartoon and easily accessible illustrations. Examples of counterfeit bills are set against genuine ones. Over the years, as Federal currency has acquired many more security features, Know Your Money has become much more technical. With the introduction of inexpensive color printing, the brochure gives enlarged copies of notes, which are very close in color to the original and allow detailed comparison. Whereas the early issues were perhaps more personal in style by addressing the reader as an individual, the most recent 2008 issue is a more impersonal foldout, which contains color illustrations and facts about the various notes.

Know Your Money 1951 cover (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

Know Your Money 1971 cover (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

Know Your Money 1983 cover (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

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Know Your Money 2008 (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

Current copy of this publication, which is also available on the website of the Secret Service.

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Copy of cartoon in Know Your Money 1941 (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

“Yes they know their berries but they didn’t know their money.”

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Know Your Money, 1941 (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

This page shows aerial views of the Federal jails of Alcatraz and Leavenworth. Under the heading of Federal Penitentiaries, the number of convicted felons for counterfeiting is given. On the other side of the page is a photo of young boys, with the warning “Help save boys—all boys—from temptation! Discourage counterfeiting! Know your money!”

Know Your Money, 1948 (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)

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From the 1941 issue of Know Your Money (Courtesy of the US Secret Service)