An overview of the wavelet scalar quantization (WSQ) and Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) image compression algorithms is given. Results of application of both algorithms to a database of 60 fingerprint images are then discussed. Signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) results for WSQ, JPEG with quantization matrix (QM) optimization, and JPEG with standard QM scaling are given at several average bit rates. In all cases, optimized-QM JPEG is equal or superior to WSQ in SNR performance. At 0.48 bit/pixel, which is in the operating range proposed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), WSQ and QM-optimized JPEG exhibit nearly identical SNR performance. In addition, neither was subjectively preferred on average by human viewers in a forced-choice image-quality experiment. Although WSQ was chosen by the FBI as the national standard for compression of digital fingerprint images on the basis of image quallty that was ostensibly superior to that of existing internationalstandard JPEG, it appears possible that this superiority was due more to lack of optimization of JPEG parameters than to inherent superiority of the WSQ algorithm. Furthermore, substantial worldwide support for JPEG has developed due to its status as an international standard, and WSQ is significantly slower than JPEG in software implementation. Still, it is possible that WSQ enhanced with an optimal quantizer-design algorithm could outperform JPEG. This is a topic for future research.