United States currency/$20 bill

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Overview[edit | edit source]

The United States twenty-dollar bill ($20) is a denomination of United States currency. U.S. President Andrew Jackson is currently featured on the front side of the bill, while the White House is featured on the reverse side.

The $20 bill is sometimes also nicknamed a "double-sawbuck" because it is twice the value of a $10 bill, which is nicknamed a "sawbuck" due to the resemblance the Roman numeral for ten (X) bears to the legs of a sawbuck, although this usage is far less common today than it was in the early 20th century. It may also be referred to as a "yuppie food stamp", since the $20 bill is often the main currency dispensed by ATM's.

The $20 bill is the primary banknote (and in most cases, the only banknote, as it would increase costs to make ATM's compatible with other bills) dispensed by ATM's in the United States as well as the primary bill used for withdrawals or cashing checks. It is, therefore, the highest denomination note most commonly used by Americans on an everyday basis.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the "average circulation life" of a $20 bill is two years before it is replaced due to wear. Approximately 22% of all notes printed today are $20 bills. Twenty-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in violet straps.

History[edit | edit source]

Pre-Federal Reserve History[edit | edit source]

  • 1861: A demand note with Lady Liberty holding a sword and shield on the front, and an abstract design on the back. The back is printed in green.
  • 1862: A note that is very similar, the first $20 United States note. The back is different, with several small variations extant.
  • 1863: A gold certificate $20 note with an Eagle vignette on the face. The reverse has a $20 gold coin and various abstract elements. The back is orange.
  • 1865: A national bank note with "The Battle of Lexington" and "Columbia Leading a Procession" on either side of the face and obligation text conspicuously in the middle. The reverse features "The Baptism of Pocahontas" in black, and a green border.
  • 1869: A new United States note design with Alexander Hamilton on the left side of the front and Victory holding a shield and sword. The back design is green.
  • 1875: As above, except with a different reverse.
  • 1878: A silver certificate $20 note with a portrait of Stephen Decatur on the right side of the face. The back design is black.
  • 1882: A new gold certificate with a portrait of James Garfield on the right of the face. The back is orange and features an eagle.
  • 1882: A new national bank note. The front is similar, but the back is different and printed in brown.
  • 1886: A new silver certificate $20 note with Daniel Manning on the center of the face.
  • 1890: Twenty-dollar (Treasury) "Coin" Notes with John Marshall's image on the left of the face were issued. This type had a large white TWENTY while featuring an abstract design that occupied almost the entire note.
  • 1891: The reverse of the $20 Treasury Note was changed because of people thinking they were "busy" which would make it too easy to counterfeit. More open space was added into the design.
  • 1902: A new national bank note. The front design features Hugh McCulloch, and the back has a vignette of an allegorical America.
  • 1905: A new gold certificate $20 note with George Washington on the center of the face. The back design is orange.
  • 1918: A federal reserve bank note with Grover Cleveland on the front, and a back design similar to the 1914 Federal Reserve Note.

Federal Reserve History[edit | edit source]

Jackson first appeared on the twenty dollar bill in 1928. It is not clear the reason the bill was switched from Grover Cleveland to Andrew Jackson. According to the U.S. Treasury, "Treasury Department records do not reveal the reason that portraits of these particular statesmen were chosen in preference to those of other persons of equal importance and prominence." The placement of President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill may be an historical irony; as president, Jackson vehemently opposed both the National Bank and paper money and made the goal of his administration the destruction of the National Bank. In his farewell address to the nation, he cautioned the public about paper money.

  • 1914: Began as a large-sized note with a portrait of Grover Cleveland on the face, and, on the back, a steam locomotive approaching from the left, and a steamship approaching from the right.
  • 1928: Switched to a small-sized note with a portrait of Andrew Jackson on the face and the south view of the White House on the reverse. The banknote is redeemable in gold or silver (at the bearer's discretion) at any Federal Reserve Bank.
  • 1934: The "redeemable in gold" clause was taken off the obverse of the $20 Federal Reserve Note due to the U.S. withdrawing from the gold standard.
  • 1943: A special emergency series, with brown serial numbers and "HAWAII" overprinted on both the front and the back, is issued. These notes are designed to circulate on the islands, and be deemed invalid in the event of a Japanese invasion.
  • 1948: The White House picture was updated to reflect renovations to the building itself as well as the passage of time. Most notably, the trees are larger.
  • 1950: The $20 FRN was changed. Most notably, the treasury seal, gray word TWENTY, the serial numbers, and the Federal Reserve Seal were made smaller, furthermore, the Federal Reserve seal had spikes added around it and the serial numbers were moved and changed in font.
  • 1963: The $20 bill recieved a makeover when WILL PAY TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND was removed and IN GOD WE TRUST was added on the reverse. The acts (authorizing the national motto, and taking U.S. currency off of silver backing) may have been the reason for these changes. Also, the obligation was changed to THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.
  • 1969: The $20 bill accepts the new treasury seal with wording in English instead of Latin.
  • 1977: A new type of serial-number press results in a slightly different font. The old presses are gradually retired, and old-style serial numbers appear as late as 1981 for this denomination.
  • 1990: Anti-counterfeiting features are added: microprinting around the portrait, and a plastic strip embedded in the paper.
  • September 24, 1998: Received a completely new appearance to further deter counterfeiting; the picture of the White House was changed to the north side view. A larger, off-center portrait of Jackson was used on front, and several anti-counterfeiting features were added, including color-shifting ink, microprinting, and a watermark. The plastic strip now reads "USA 20" and glows green under a black light.
  • October 9, 2003: Still another new appearance with light background shading in green and yellow, and no oval around Andrew Jackson's portrait (background images of eagles, etc. were also added to the front); the back is the same view of the White House, but without the oval around it.

Many tiny, faint "20"s are scattered on the back in yellow as a "EURion constellation" to prevent photocopying. The series date is 2004 and the signatures are Marin-Snow.

Related Small Sized Notes[edit | edit source]

The 1928 design was made both as a Federal Reserve Note and also a Gold Certificate. The design work is identical, but the obligations are different. Both are black on the front, and green on the back, but the Federal Reserve Note has green serial numbers, and the Gold Certificate has yellow. There is also a Series of 1929 National Bank Note and Federal Reserve Bank Note, which have the same back design and a similar front design.

Unmade Bills[edit | edit source]

Several unmade twenty-dollar bills are known. Most are similar in design to the ones described above, with the only difference being certain obligations. For example, a silver-certificate variety of the 1928 style Federal Reserve Note is known in the proof stage, with blue serial numbers. More interesting examples include a 1923 Federal Reserve Note, with Grover Cleveland as on the Series of 1914, but different border elements, an 1873 National Bank note whose design is unknown, and also an 1896 Silver Certificate.