May 20, 1998

Redesigned note is latest in series to add anti-counterfeiting features

Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin, Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and U.S. Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow today unveiled the redesigned $20 note, which includes new and modified security features to deter counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

The design of the new note was unveiled today in a ceremony at the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Washington, D.C., and in press conferences at Federal Reserve banks and branches around the country. The Series 1996 $20 note is the third U.S. currency note to be redesigned to include new and modified security features. It will be issued in the fall of 1998. Lower denominations will follow; it is anticipated that the $10 and $5 notes will be issued simultaneously and that the $1 note will be more modestly redesigned.

The continuing introduction of redesigned notes is a critical component of the Federal government's anti-counterfeiting effort. The new series aims to maintain the security of the nation's currency as computerized reprographic technologies such as color copiers, scanners and printers become more sophisticated and more readily available. The $20 note is the most frequently counterfeited note in the United States.

"The new $20 note will be an important tool against would-be counterfeiters," Secretary Rubin said. "The introduction provides us with an opportunity to educate cash-handlers and consumers about the importance of authenticating currency. These security features are effective only when they are used."

Like its predecessors, the $20 will replace older notes gradually. However, unlike the new $50 and $100 note introduction, old $20 notes still in good condition will be recirculated. About $88 billion worth of $20 notes is currently in circulation, 80 percent of those are in the U.S. More than $450 billion worth of U.S. currency circulates around the globe.

"We are most gratified with the successful introduction of the new $100 and $50 notes and look forward to the same success with the new $20s," Chairman Greenspan said. "Older notes will not be recalled or devalued. All existing notes will continue to be legal tender."

For the first time, a machine-readable capability has been incorporated for the blind. A new feature in the $20 will facilitate the development of convenient scanning devices that could identify the note as a $20. Similar to the redesigned $50 note issued in October 1997, the redesigned $20 note and consequent denominations will also include a large dark numeral on a light background on the back of the note that will make it easier for millions of Americans to identify the denomination.

U.S. embassies and consulates around the world will also conduct localized campaigns to ensure that financial institutions, money exchange points, and the general public are aware of the redesigned currency. Materials are being translated into 15 languages including Russian, French, Spanish, Bulgarian and Traditional and Simplified Chinese, among others. Treasury anticipates that the $20 introduction will proceed as smoothly as the $100 and $50 introductions did.

The overall architecture of the $20 note has been changed somewhat to provide space for the new and modified security features. Microprinting and security threads, which first appeared in the 1991 series currency, continue to prove effective deterrents and appear in the new note series. The new features include:

  • A larger portrait, moved off-center to create more space for a watermark.

  • The watermark to the right of the portrait depicting the same historical figure as the portrait. The watermark can be seen only when held up to a light.

  • A security thread to the far left of the portrait that glows green when exposed to ultraviolet light in a dark environment. "USA TWENTY" and a flag are printed on the thread, and the numeral "20" is printed within the star field of the flag.

  • Color-shifting ink in the numeral on the lower right corner of the bill front that changes from green to black when viewed from different angles.

  • Microprinting in the lower left ornamentation of the portrait and in the lower left corner of the note front.

  • Fine-line printing patterns in the background of the portrait and on the back of the note. This type of printing is difficult to copy well.

  • A large numeral "20" on the back of the note.

The U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board have undertaken an aggressive public education effort aimed at encouraging consumers and money-handlers to take the few seconds necessary to authenticate the redesigned notes. The education efforts include:

  • Direct outreach to loss prevention, training and communications officials at 3,000 major retailers, 4,300 financial institutions, 350 shopping mall outlets and 4,000 small business organizations around the country.

  • Speaking to financial trade, retail and other constituency organizations.

  • Distribution of millions of brochures, posters, tent cards and other materials designed to educate the public about the location and purpose of the new security features.

Fact sheets on the new note, the history of U.S. currency and related agencies are available at