Redesigned $20 Bills Debut Sept. 24
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 1998 The government rolls out its new redesigned high- tech, tough-to-copy $20 bill worldwide Sept. 24.
Revamped $50 and $100 notes are already in circulation. The $20 bill, though, is key to thwarting counterfeiters, because it's the most widely circulated "big bill" and the most counterfeited, Secret Service spokeswoman Chaun Yount said. The Secret Service -- the organization that guards the president -- is the Treasury Department unit that oversees counterfeiting issues.
Both sides of the redesigned $20 bills include numerous anti- counterfeiting measures, she said. Security features include embedded threads with micro-printing; a watermark; a large, off- center portrait of President Andrew Jackson with micro-printed words and hard-to-copy engraved details; the Federal Reserve seal; and color-shifting ink.
Yount said people are the first line of defense against counterfeiting. People need to be familiar with the new twenties because they'll be seeing a lot of them, she said. According to U.S. Treasury figures, the mints print $20 notes in numbers second only to $1 notes.
"We always have $20 bills in our pocket, if we're lucky," she noted. "The general public pays little attention to the $20 bill because it's the most commonly used note. Counterfeiters look at that as an opportunity. They like twenties because of their 'nice profit margin'" -- they have the highest face value that doesn't draw most people's attention, and passable fake twenties cost no more to make than fake fives and tens.
"People who are passing counterfeit money are looking for a high volume of cash," she said. "They target people who are rushed and don't take time to authenticate the bills." She said military people are not typical targets of counterfeiters. However, the Treasury Department has been working with possible targets, such as the military exchange services, to train employees on the look and security features of the new $20 bill.
In 1995, $231 million worth of counterfeit U.S. money was seized worldwide, Yount noted. That dropped to $64 million in 1996 and 1997 after the similarly redesigned $100 and $50 notes were introduced.
She said the new notes will spread as fast as financial institutions order $20 bills and circulate them. "So for some time, the old and new $20 bills will circulate at the same time," she noted. "As the old $20 bills wear out, they'll be replaced with the new ones. The life of a $20 bill is about two years."
Treasury officials are working on new, high-tech $1, $5 and $10 notes with anti-counterfeiting features. For more information about redesigned U.S. currency, visit the Treasury Department Web sites at www.treas.gov or www.moneyfactory.com/currency/20.cfm.