The anticipated changes to Federal Reserve notes that have been the
focus of so much public interest for two years, including placement of
abolitionist Harriet Tubman’s portrait on the $20 note, may not be
such a sure thing after all.
In an Aug. 31 interview on CNBC, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin
appeared to distance himself from the idea with a series of vague
comments, such as “Ultimately we will be looking at this issue. It’s
not something I’m focused on at the moment,” and “People have been on
the bills for a long period of time. And this is something we will
consider. Right now, we’ve got a lot more important issues to focus on.”
The Reverse Proof American Buffalo, a model of
Also in this week’s print issue, we explore a cluster of Lincoln
cents found while searching two rolls and ponder their origin.
The original plan was revealed by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on
April 20, 2016, when he surprised nearly everyone by announcing
greater-than-anticipated plans for new $20, $10 and $5 notes.
Officials had long been working on improvements to the
anti-counterfeiting technology on the notes, but Lew’s announcement
included plans to change portraits and vignettes on the notes.
By Lew’s decision, Alexander Hamilton would remain on the face of
the new $10 note, but with a back portraying the March 3, 1913, march
for suffrage that ended on the steps of the Treasury Building (the
note currently depicts a static view of the building). It would also
honor the leaders of the suffrage movement — Lucretia Mott, Sojourner
Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Alice Paul.
The face of the $5 note was to retain Abraham Lincoln’s image, but
with a representation, on the other side, of some of the civil rights
events that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, such as Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech and Marian Anderson’s
famous 1939 open-air concert.
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Abolitionist Harriet Tubman was Lew’s idea for face of the new $20,
with the back showing images of the White House and Andrew Jackson.
The announcement about Tubman generated more publicity for United
States paper money than any event in recent memory. Tubman was the
choice of the public in a widely publicized online Women on 20s campaign.
Lew’s timetable would have the new $10 note ready for production by
Aug. 18, 2020, along with final design concepts for the $5 and $20 notes.
In his interview with CNBC, Mnuchin confirmed long-standing policy
in reminding people that “The No. 1 issue why we change the currency
is to stop counterfeiting. So the issues of what we change will be
primarily related to what we need to do for security purposes. I’ve
received classified briefings on that. And that’s what I’m focused on
for the most part.”
A spokesperson for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (the
Treasury agency that prints U.S. paper money) told Coin World Aug. 31,
“Currency is primarily redesigned for security purposes and the
Secretary of the Treasury makes the final decisions on all currency designs.”
Mnuchin on $20 bill: Any changes to currency will be focused on counterfeiting from CNBC.