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Feds release new money, but not everyone likes colorful look

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Posted: Thursday, October 9, 2003 10:00 pm

TRACY - No, the Federal Reserve has not started hitting up Parker Brothers for ideas on money colors.

But with the assortment of new hues on $20 bills at banks Thursday - ostensibly to deter counterfeiters - you might think the new money comes straight from a Monopoly board.

The new bills feature elements of brown, blue, yellow and even peach on what is still mostly a green bill. The colors and other changes are intended to discourage counterfeiting, but the new colors aren't "peachy-keen" with everyone.

"I don't like the idea of our money looking like other countries' money," Tracy resident Amy Psuik said.

Psuik's reaction to the new cash was not unusual.

"It's got like the old traditional colors, but money should be green," said Tracy resident Kelly Cabral. "I like the other way."

The new bill is the same size and shape as the $20 bill we're used to. However, the design of the bill has either subtly or radically changed, depending upon the viewer's viewpoint.

On the front of the new note, the words "Twenty USA" are engraved in light blue on the right side, and a large alighting eagle is engraved in light blue on the left side. On the back of the new note, the number 20 is repeatedly printed in light yellow.

The new bill retains the security features added when the nation's money was redesigned several years ago. A watermark is also on the new $20 bill.

Viewers holding the new bill up to the light should see a faint portrait of Andrew Jackson on the bill's front far right.

Another security feature from the previous $20 bill is microprinting. The inscription "USA 20" is printed in tiny letters along the borders of the first three letters in the blue "TWENTY USA," to the right of the portrait of Jackson on the front of the bill.

Because the words used in microprinting are so tiny, they are difficult for electronic scanners to detect and electronic printers to replicate.

Microprinting is also difficult for more traditional offset printing techniques to replicate.

Treasury Department officials are planning to make similar changes to the $50 bill in 2004 and the $100 bill in 2005. All of the new bills will sport different spot colors than the new $20 note, to help people quickly identify different denominations. The primary color of the new bills will still be green.

Changes are also planned for the $5 and $10 notes, but designs are still under consideration. No changes are planned for the $1 and $2 bills.

Rumor and legend hold that the reason United States' money is green is the federal government had an overstock of green ink during the Civil War, when the nation's first paper money, or "greenbacks" as they came to be called, was issued in bulk. A more scientific explanation is that the human eye is capable of discerning more shades of green than any other color in the rainbow. The actual reason, though, was that green was itself a difficult color to counterfeit when printing processes became mechanized in the mid-1800s.

United States' money has been exclusively green for more than a century.

Rather than by judging colors and squinting at watermarks, bank tellers, shopkeepers, gamblers and housewives learned how to tell genuine currency by looking at the engraving of the president's face on the bill and by judging the crispness of the raised engraving and the cloth-like paper of the bill.

Treasury Department officials say the rapid improvement of color printers and copiers forced them to introduce color as an additional security feature to prevent counterfeiting. U.S. currency is the most widely circulating currency in the world.

Banks in Tracy have been awaiting the new bill all summer. Service 1st operations officer Gwen Dunham said the Federal Reserve offered banks free brochures and flyers they could order and distribute to their customers.

"There's been a lot of interest in them," Dunham said. "The customers want to see them. We don't have any today, but we'll have them in Wednesday. We' re ordering extra."

No banks in downtown Tracy had the new bills Thursday, but they will be coming. As the Federal Reserve System introduces the new notes, they will also be removing old $20 bills from circulation.

Not everyone is upset about the new color of money. Cliff Plante, who is visiting his daughter in Tracy from Massachusetts, said he likes the new money.

"So long as it says 20, it's equal to $20 and nobody can copy it, that's what's important," Plante said.

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