The United States is preparing to issue a redesigned $20 bill, the first U.S. note in nearly a century to feature colors other than green and black. The goal is to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters.

For the second time in as many decades, the United States is redesigning its paper currency. The first denomination to undergo the makeover will be the $20 bill.

"I think the most noticeable change will be the addition of subtle background colors: peach, green, and blue," says Dawn Haley, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. "We still have the watermark, we still have a security thread. We have enhanced the color-shifting ink."

The new $20 bills will begin to go into circulation on October 9. Similarly, revamped $50 notes are slated for release next year, to be followed by $100 notes in 2005. Banks and other businesses have been briefed on the changes so as to avoid confusion when the bills reach the public.

Ms. Haley says counterfeiters are making use of ever-more advanced technology to produce fake bills, forcing the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to redesign paper currency sooner than had been anticipated just a few years ago.

"Counterfeiting is increasingly turning to digital methods here in the United States. And that is what we are trying to stay ahead of, the technology that is out there," says Ms. Haley. "The $100 note is more counterfeited overseas; the $20 note is more counterfeited in the United States."

What will the public think of multi-colored U.S. bills? Dawn Haley says initial reaction has been positive. "Throughout our focus groups, the general consensus is that people like the look of this new note," she says. "One of my favorite features of the new note is the enhanced portrait of President Andrew Jackson, the portrait almost jumps off the paper at you. I think it is pretty cool."

Ms. Haley says the new notes will be the same size and have the same "feel" as bills currently in circulation.