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Billion dollar printing flaw could cost a mint

Over a billion $100 bills, representing roughly 10% of the entire stock of US currency, is being stored in two highly-fortified US government warehouses after printing problems left it unusable.

Officials say a production error means that as many as 30% of the notes, printed at a cost of roughly $120m (£76m), have been left with a blank strip on their face, which only appears after they are pulled flat.

They are now trying to design and build a machine that can identify the faulty $100 bills and separate them from the correctly-printed ones. Sorting them by hand would take workers between 20 and 30 years, they estimate, whereas a mechanical system would complete the task by 2012.

The embarrassing mix-up came after the Federal Reserve decided to relaunch America's most valuable banknote, which carries a host of new security features to thwart counterfeiters.

No-one yet knows what caused the problem or why it was not |immediately rectified. “There is something drastically wrong here,” one official said reportedly, adding: “The frustration level is off the charts.”

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