Originally created 08/05/98

New $20 bills arrive next month



WASHINGTON -- The newly designed $20 bill will start showing up at banks, stores and automated teller machines next month, Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin said Tuesday.

The new bill, like the revamped $100 and $50 notes before it, is aimed at making it tougher for computer-savvy counterfeiters to produce highly deceptive fakes. But some counterfeiters may try to take advantage of the public's initial lack of familiarity to pass what later would be unconvincing knock-offs.

So, the Treasury Department is launching a public education campaign to make sure people can tell between bonafide and bogus bills.

"It's critically important that people know what to look for and that people look," Rubin said.

The new notes, with a larger and off-center portrait of Andrew Jackson, the nation's seventh president, on the front, will be issued Sept. 24. The north side of the White House will appear on the reverse, and the denomination will appear in large dark numerals on a light background, to help people with poor vision.

The new notes will replace the old notes, which also depict Jackson on the front, and the South side of the White House on the back, as they wear out. That should take about two years. However, Rubin stressed that the old notes always will remain legal tender.

"The United States never -- I repeat, never -- recalls its currency," he said.

The government issued new $100 notes, with Benjamin Franklin, in March 1996 and new $50s, with Ulysses S. Grant, in October 1997. It plans to simultaneously introduce a new $10 and a new $5 and, after that, a more modestly designed $1

The new $100s, $50s and $20s all have a watermark in the shape of the portrait, visible when the bills are held to the light. They have an embedded plastic security thread that glows under ultraviolet light -- red for the $100, yellow for the $50 and green for the $20.

And the numeral in the lower right corner of each denomination's face is printed in color-shifting ink. It looks green when viewed straight on and black when viewed from an angle.

The features are intended to foil counterfeiters using computers and ink-jet printers and top-of-the-line color copiers. These will produce slightly more than half of the $40 million to $45 million in counterfeit currency the U.S. Secret Service estimates will be made this year. Four years ago, computers and copiers accounted for less than 1 percent of counterfeiting.

Because the $20 is the bill of choice for ATMs and is the largest denomination used by most Americans in their daily business, the Treasury Department has begun a broader education campaign than for the redesigns of larger denominations.

This week, it began sending public service ads to television and radio stations. It's lined up major retailers to help, too. Wal-Mart will promote the new $20s in its circular reaching 84 million households. Kroger Company Inc. will play Treasury's radio announcement in its stores. Greyhound Bus Lines will distribute posters to all ticket agents. Supervalue has agreed to show the new bill on paper grocery bags.

"Even with these efforts, there will still be some who have not glimpsed the new bills before, but they are sure to recognize it as American with its familiar feel and color scheme," Rubin said.