Press Release

BEP Prints 100 Millionth Newly Designed $20 Note at the Western Currency Facility

U.S. government officials and local leaders today watched the 100 millionth newly redesigned $20 note roll off the press at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Western Currency Facility. They also got a sneak preview of a new Visitor Center -- expected to draw significant tourist traffic when it opens in early 2004 -- where the general public will be able to watch currency production in progress.

The Fort Worth facility plays a central role in production of The New Color of Money – new currency designs featuring enhanced security features and, for the first time in modern history, subtle background colors other than green and black. The $20 note is the first to be redesigned and is slated for circulation this fall. The new designs are part of an ongoing effort to stay ahead of the counterfeiting of U.S. currency.

“U.S. currency is a worldwide symbol of security and integrity. This new design will help us keep it that way, by protecting against counterfeiting and making it easier for people to confirm 3 the authenticity of their hard-earned money,” said Thomas A. Ferguson, director of the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing. “This is The New Color of Money; it is safer because it is harder to fake and easier to check, smarter to stay ahead of tech-savvy counterfeiters, and more secure than ever.”

The Western Currency Facility opened in 1991 and now prints $1, $2, $5, $10 and $20 notes, totaling 54 percent of the nation’s currency. One of only two facilities to print U.S. currency, the Western Currency Facility produces 18 million notes a day, with an average face value of $169 million. It began printing the newly redesigned $20 notes in June 2003.

Western Currency Facility Plant Manager Charlene E. Williams, who led a behind-the-scenes tour of the production floor, said, “Printing the new $20 notes is a complex and exacting process. From start to finish, each note takes approximately four weeks to complete and requires the precise coordination of more than 700 employees. I’m proud to lead a team that is committed to producing high-quality notes in the most secure, efficient and cost-effective manner.”

Helen E. Holcomb, first vice president and chief operating officer, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said, “The soundness of a nation’s currency is essential to the soundness of its economy. I’m committed to working with Director Ferguson and Charlene Williams to successfully introduce the new $20 note into circulation in the fall, in order to stay ahead of counterfeiters and maintain the integrity of our currency.”

Guests also previewed the facility’s Tour and Visitor Center, scheduled to open in early 2004. The center will allow the public to view currency production and will include an interactive museum on the history and production of paper money. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s facility in Washington, D.C., enjoys about 500,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most popular tourist attractions in the nation’s capital.

The New Color of Money

The most noticeable difference in the new $20 notes is the subtle green, peach and blue colors featured in the background. New designs for the $50 and $100 notes are scheduled for introduction in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Different colors will be used for different denominations, which will help everyone -- particularly those who are visually impaired -- to tell denominations apart. Redesign of the $5 and $10 notes is under consideration, but the $1 and $2 notes will not be redesigned. Even after the new money is issued, older-design notes will remain legal tender.

While consumers should not use color to check the authenticity of their currency (relying instead on user-friendly security features -- see below), color does add complexity to the note, making counterfeiting more difficult.

The new $20 bills remain the same size and use the same, but enhanced portraits and historical images of Andrew Jackson on the face of the note and the White House on the back. The redesign also features symbols of freedom -- a blue eagle in the background, and a metallic green eagle and shield to the right of the portrait.

Security Features

The new $20 design retains three important security features that were first introduced in the late 1990s and are easy for consumers and merchants alike to check:

  • The watermark -- the faint image similar to the large portrait, which is part of the paper itself and is visible from both sides when held up to the light. 4
  • The security thread -- also visible from both sides when held up to the light, this vertical strip of plastic is embedded in the paper. “USA TWENTY” and a small flag are visible along the thread.
  • The color-shifting ink -- the numeral “20” in the lower-right corner on the face of the note changes from copper to green when the note is tilted. The color shift is more dramatic and easier to see on the new-design notes.

Because these features are difficult for counterfeiters to reproduce well, they often do not try. Counterfeiters are hoping that cash-handlers and the public will not check their money closely.

Counterfeiting: Increasingly Digital

Currency counterfeiters are increasingly turning to digital methods, as advances in technology make digital counterfeiting of currency easier and cheaper. In 1995, for example, less than 1 percent of counterfeit notes detected in the U.S. were digitally produced. By 2002, that number had grown to nearly 40 percent, according to the U.S. Secret Service.

Yet despite the efforts of counterfeiters, U.S. currency counterfeiting has been kept at low levels, with current estimates putting the level of counterfeit notes in circulation worldwide at between 0.01 and 0.02 percent, or about 1-2 notes in every 10,000 genuine notes.

Public Education

Because the improved security features are more effective if the public knows about them, the U.S. government is undertaking a broad public education program. This program will ensure that people all over the world know the new currency is coming, and help them recognize and use the security features. The outreach will include cash-handlers, merchants, business and industry associations and the media. With roughly two-thirds of all U.S. currency held outside the U.S., the public education program will extend worldwide.

To learn more about the new currency and to download an image of the new $20 note, visit