$38.4 million

WASHINGTON--On Road Trip 2010, CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman is getting the chance to visit a lot of very interesting destinations. But there may be few that can top his visit last week to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, and a behind-the-scenes look at how the brand-new line of next-generation $100 bills is made.

On April 21, the bureau unveiled the new bills, which feature a set of new anti-counterfeiting measures. But they're also very beautiful, perhaps the most interesting and colorful American paper money in years.

These two giant stacks of bills amount to $38.4 million, divided into four stacks of 24 bricks of $400,000 each.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Photo by: Daniel Terdiman/CNET / Caption by:

The special paper

At the beginning of the production process of the new $100 bill, the future currency is no more than special paper. Here, large stacks of the paper sit on a pallet at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington D.C. Many of the anti-counterfeiting features that the bureau has designed into the new bill come embedded in the paper.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Offset

The first step in the production process is known as "offset," and it is where the bills' background colors are printed.

Here, in offset, a worker inspects a couple of sheets that have just come off the presses, looking for any kinds of defects.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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First printing

One of the first sets of features to be added to the bills are these, which include a feather pen; an inkwell; the date July 4, 1776; and several other elements, all of which are designed to make it more difficult to counterfeit the bills.

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Printing backs

The next step in the process is known as "intaglio," where the first lettering is printed, along with the bills' faces and backs.

Here, we see sheets of bills coming off the presses, where the backs have just been printed.

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Backs coming off presses

Here, we see stacks of bills with their backs having just been printed being sorted and collected in the presses.

After each round of printing, the bills are set aside to dry for 72 hours before moving on to the next step.

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Backs done

Here, we see sheets--each of which come off the presses with 32 bills--that have had their backs fully printed, but which have not had the major elements of their fronts done yet.

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Smear sheet

This is what is known as a "smear sheet," which is used by the technicians to look and see what is missing from a print job. By examining the smear sheet, they can see if the patterns that are supposed to be on every sheet have been printed properly.

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Examining backs

Assistant supervisor Bob Smith examines sheets that have had their backs printed. Once they've dried for 72 hours, they will be moved to the face printing press.

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Faces printing

Now, we've reached the point in the process where the bills have gone through offset, dried for 72 hours, had their backs printed, dried for another 72 hours, and are now getting the faces printed. Here, we see the sheets--still with 32 bills per sheet--coming off the press.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Stacks of faces

The sheets, now with their faces, collect in a hopper in the printing presses, and a Bureau employee prepares to pull them out.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Examining the sheets with faces

Here, the same worker holds up a sheet that has now had the faces (of Benjamin Franklin) printed on them. She's looking for defects in the bills.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Paper jam

This might be a highly-engineered, tightly-monitored process, but a printing press is a printing press, and there are still going to be paper jams, such as the one that is being cleared out of the machine here.

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The good and the bad

Here, the machine separates good sheets from bad. The determination is made automatically by a computer that scans the sheets. If the computer senses a defect, the sheet is automatically directed straight through here, while good sheets are routed upwards. About 85 percent of the sheets are determined to be good at this point.

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Mutts

Sheets that have been determined to have defects are routed to a bin with an appropriate label: "Mutts."

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Seals

While the sheets have gone most of the way through the process, and now have both the fronts and backs printed on them, they still don't have their seals and serial numbers.

Here, we see the Treasury Department seals in the printing press. The sheets pass through and have the seals imprinted on them.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Serial numbers

Now that the sheets have gotten their Treasury Department seals, they need their serial numbers. When they pass through this part of the press, they'll get the serial numbers printed on them.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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Slicing into single stacks

Each sheet has 32 bills, but toward the end of the production process, they are first cut in half down the middle, meaning that they are now in two sheets of 16 bills. Then, they go through this part of the process, where they are first cut into two stacks, and then a single stack.

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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$100 bills

Now, for the first time in the process, we have actual $100 bills, and here, we see a technician examining stacks of a hundred of them, looking for defects. If any stack of 100 has a defect, the entire stack will be pulled out, destroyed, and replaced with bills that have stars printed at the end of their serial numbers to denote that they are replacements for defects.

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Star bills

Here, we see two bills in a sheet of 32 that have had stars printed at the end of their serials numbers to denote that they are replacements.

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Ten thousand dollars

This is a newly-printed stack of one hundred $100 bills, meaning that it's a total of $10,000.

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Plastic wrap

Here, the stacks of bills are wrapped in plastic.

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One hundred grand

Ten stacks of $10,000 are put together, making this pile worth $100,000.

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Wheel

Here, we see the stacks with $100,000 rotated around as they are prepared to be bundled together in much larger "bricks."

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Four hundred grand

This is a brick of $100 bills. It has 4,000 bills, meaning that this brick contains $400,000. Twenty-four of the bricks are put together into what is called a "skid."

Click here to read the related behind-the-scenes story on the production of the next-generation $100 bill. And click here to check out the entire Road Trip 2010 package.

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