The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 22, Number 23, June 9, 2019, Article 36


Lou Golino published a nice article for on the status of redesign efforts for U.S. paper money. Here's an excerpt, but be sure to read the complete article online. -Editor

Printing $20 bills

In 1996 the Treasury began redesigning each of our bills except the $1 by altering aspects of the designs such as removing the artwork on borders and adding special anti-counterfeiting measures to our currency, and those efforts have continued since then.

Lydia Washington, lead public affairs specialist with the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, explained in an e-mail that "the redesign timeline is on schedule and there never was a delay. The redesign sequence for denominations and the timeline is driven by current and potential security threats, not aesthetics. In 2013, the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence (ACD) Steering Committee indicated that the $10 note would be the first denomination to be redesigned. The estimated redesign of the $50 (2028), $5 (2032-2035), and $100 (2034-2038) notes will follow, pending any new developments in counterfeiting threats or technology issues."

Washington added: "The 2020 timeline mentioned by former Secretary Lew and others in numerous 2016 media interviews, referred to proposed design ideas (concepts), not the final designs and indicated the $20 note would be released in approximately 2030. Presently, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing's redesign efforts remain focused on the security of the next two notes to be redesigned, the $10 and the $50."

This news from Secretary Mnuchin was received with disappointment by many members of the congress and the public, who were anticipating the Tubman $20 would be released in 2020 to coincide with the centennial of ratification of the 19th amendment that gave women the right to vote. In a 2015 poll conducted by the non-profit advocacy group, Women on 20s, Harriet Tubman received the most votes to appear on a redesigned $20 bill.

When he made his announcement in April 2016 about a new $20 bill with Tubman on it, then-Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew also announced other changes. The $10 bill would retain the portrait of Alexander Hamilton on its face, but with a new reverse that would depict several leaders of the suffragist movement, including Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Alice Paul. There would also be changes to the back of the $5 note on the same theme. It is unclear whether these aesthetic changes will still occur as part of the redesign of these bills.

Currency redesign is typically a long process. For example, the new version of the $100 bill rolled out in 2013 took 15 years to develop. However, it is also the case that the timeline for currency changes is driven not only by technical and security features but also by the priorities and political will of different administrations. As CoinWeek editor Charles Morgan told USA Today: "There is no doubt the Trump administration could have fast-tracked the Tubman redesign to make the 2020 deadline if it wanted to."

A couple of aspects about the history of U.S. paper currency designs are especially relevant in this context. The first is that the portraits that have appeared on our currency change very rarely with the last time a change was made being 90 years ago in 1929. At that time Hamilton replaced Jackson on the $10 bill. In 1928 Jackson replaced Grover Cleveland on the $20 bill. Moreover, George Washington has been on the $1 bill for 150 years since 1869.

The other point is that while real historical women (as opposed to allegorical depictions) have appeared on some U.S. circulating and commemorative coins such as the $1 coins for Sacagawea and Susan B. Anthony and the $10 First Spouse gold coins, among others, only two women have ever appeared on U.S. federal currency. The first was Pocahontas, who was on the back of the $20 bill from 1865 to 1869 and the $20 bill in 1875. The second was Martha Washington, who was on the front of the 1886 and 1891 $1 silver certificates and with her husband George on the back of 1896 $1 silver certificate.

Changes to our paper currency designs proposed by the Obama administration to pay tribute to Tubman and other suffragists appear unlikely to be rolled out for many years. The trajectory of these developments will be determined as much by the outcome of presidential elections and developments in Congress as by ongoing efforts to enhance the security features on our currency.

To read the complete article, see:
U.S. Paper Money Redesign: Security, Aesthetics and Political Factors (

Wayne Homren, Editor

NBS ( Web

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