The following is the first in a series of posts on
double-denomination U.S. notes.
The note looks perfectly normal at first.
Andrew Jackson, his tousled hair topping that
patrician head, a hand clutching his cloak at his upper chest, peers
out from the centered portrait at something in the distance and to his
left. All of the design elements are there and in their usual places
on the Series 1974 Federal Reserve note, including the denominational
inscription TWENTY DOLLARS along the border at the bottom.
The back of the note, too, looks perfectly normal. The stately
columned Treasury Building rests at center, with a 1920s-styled
automobile traveling down one of the streets framing the building.
Stretching along the bottom border of the note is the denomination TEN DOLLARS.
Wait a minute. What?
Flip the note over again to the face; confirm that it has the
designs of the $20 denomination. Then back over to the back,
where you rediscover the $10 note’s Treasury Building and not the scene
of the White House that should be on a $20 note.
Yes, the note is genuine — it’s what paper money collectors call a
double-denomination error, printed with the face plate of one
denomination and the back plate of another.
Looked at casually, the two sides of the note taken in individually,
the note barely registers a 2 on the excitement scale of 1 to 10. It
does not have the immediate wow factor of a note with upside down or
off-center seals and serial numbers, or the neatness of an offset
printing error with its extra layer of ink in a mirror image of the
design from the other side of the note. It’s not until the brain makes
the connection, realizing the absurdity of a $20/$10 note, that the
observer recognizes the sheer awesomeness of the error — it scores a
How did it happen?
The Series 1974 double-denomination note is the latest such error
(at least of the traditional kind) produced by the Bureau of Engraving
and Printing or one of its designated private printers. All of these
notes — from the 1860s $10/$20 national bank note of the Second
National Bank of Springfield (Massachusetts) printed by the private
American Bank Note Co. on behalf of the Treasury Department, to the
Series 1974 $20/$10 issue printed by the BEP — have their origins in
the printing methods used.
The Series 1974 error was printed on sheets of currency paper (a mix
of cotton and linen) sized to hold 32 individual notes. The sheets
were first run through a press containing curved plates for the $10
denomination mounted to a large plate cylinder. After the back of each
sheet was printed, it was set aside in a pile with other one-sided
sheets to allow the ink to cure.
The sheets were then run through a press containing plates
containing the face design, and here is where the error occurred. The
sheets containing the back design of the $10 note were transported by
mistake to a press set up to print the faces of $20 notes. Somehow the
mistake was not noticed during the third printing run through the
overprinting press where the sheets received their serial numbers and
seals, or when the stacks of sheets were cut into individual notes
that were then bundled for transportation to a Federal Reserve Bank —
in the case of the errors, to the Dallas bank.
Once the Series 1974 “$30” notes entered circulation, keen-eyed
users began discovering the oddity. The note illustrating this article
was found in the Houston area; by the time it had been set aside, it
had received enough wear to be graded Extremely Fine/About
Uncirculated. As described in the September 2007 auction in which it
was sold for $23,000, the note had a “few folds.”
Double-denomination error notes typically bring five-figure prices
when offered at auction. A Series 1934D $5/$10 Federal Reserve note
graded Choice Uncirculated 64 by Paper Money Guaranty sold by Heritage
in April 2015 realized $20,562.50; a PCGS Currency Very Fine 25
$20/$10 1902 Date Back national bank note issued for the National City
Bank of Chicago sold for $39,950 in January 2015. A review of other
auctions of notes in recent years would yield similar results.
Keep reading this series:
Part 2: Large-size errors
Part 3: Many different combinations
Part 4: Is their production still possible today?
More from CoinWorld.com:
by eBay exempts some numismatic items from Confederate flag ban
American Liberty, High Relief gold coin to be 1-ounce, $100 face
Lincoln, Small Date cent discovery a keeper: Found in Rolls
Mexico 1776 8-real coin: Detecting Counterfeits
woman will be put on the $10 Federal Reserve note, U.S. Treasury announces
Keep up with all of CoinWorld.com's news and insights by
up for our free eNewsletters,
liking us on Facebook
us on Twitter
. We're also on