The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 13, Number 17, April 25, 2010, Article 22


NEWSWEEK had a great take on the currency redesign effort. They brought in a plastic surgeon to remark on the facial changes in portraits on U.S. currency. The article asks, "Are the illustrious Americans gracing our bank notes appearing younger with each redesign?" -Editor

Money Makeovers

There are two elements of a redesign. One is the introduction of new security features, like watermarks and hidden text (hold any new bill up to the light and you'll see them). The government lists many of the features on its Web site, but the more advanced components are never publicized, for obvious reasons. The other element of the redesign is aesthetic. "Two thirds of American money circulates outside the U.S., so it has to look uniquely American," says BEP Director Larry Felix. As for the larger and easier-to-read numbers on more current bills, you can thank "an aging population," he says.

But that's not all. NEWSWEEK has noticed something more subtle, something that would appear to be so indelible in American lore that it couldn't possibly change over time: the styling of the portraits, which appear to have been altered in a strange way. Over time, America's iconic forefathers come off looking good, even better than they used to—and it's not just some airbrushing and smoothing out. Put simply, if the Founders and their notable descendants lived in modern times, they might find themselves on magazine covers beside words like "nip and tuck."

Dr. David Hidalgo, a plastic surgeon in New York, compared the images of the presidents (and Ben Franklin and Alexander Hamilton) on past and current bills, pointing out just what kinds of procedures currency designers might have performed on our presidents had they been cosmetic surgeons. The most obvious: Alexander Hamilton, who might be surprised to hear he's undergone eyelid surgery to remove bags under his eyes and a "full-face laser peel" to smooth his complexion.

Then there's Abe Lincoln, pictured several months after a nose job to heighten his masculine look, plus small cheek implants, which, Hidalgo notes, "he did not need." Civil War Gen. Ulysses Grant, keeper of the $50 note, has had an apparent Botox injection to "soften the angry look between the eyes and lower forehead." In the latest portrayal of Franklin, it appears that his neck has been visibly tightened and several wrinkles have been removed around his right eye.

It might be more humorous than offensive, but straight-faced BEP officials deny that touch-ups are part of the design process. "If there are [cosmetic changes], they were unconscious," says Felix when shown side-by-side images of the different portraits. But "if we're talking about the authority of U.S. icons conveyed in these images, I suppose it's possible," he adds, referring to slight improvements in appearance. He notes with each redesign, the iconic images are interpreted by different artists.

Andrew Jackson portraits

'President Jackson has been treated with injectables to fill in his temple hollows and laugh lines (nasolabial folds). His lower-eyelid fat bags have been removed to make him less tired-looking, but he has acquired an overall 'surgical look' in the process. Together with the hair styling and blow-dry (does he still have a stylist's apron on?) he looks a bit less masculine than before.'

Abraham Lincoln portraits

'President Lincoln has been treated to a full-face laser peel that has removed all blemishes and has rejuvenated his sun-damaged skin [this is the effect of a softer engraving technique with no dotted lines]. He has been treated to a haircut and an expert dye job that leaves only a few wisps of distinguished gray color. His beard has been trimmed to give him a less disheveled look.

His eyebrows have been waxed to remove errant hairs. He has gotten small cheek implants that he did not need (it would have been better to fill in his hollow cheeks with fat or injectables). His nasolabial folds are a bit softer, suggesting the addition of injectable fillers. Surgically, he has been treated to a subtle rhinoplasty that retains a masculine look. The nose is straightened and the aged, drooping tip raised. He has had his lower-eyelid bags surgically removed, effectively eliminating a tired look.'

To read the complete article, see: Million-Dollar Men (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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