Every few years or so, the banknotes of the U.S. dollar of denominations $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100 undergo major design changes to improve both the looks of the banknotes and to increase the number of security features of the bills to help further reduce counterfeiting. Those who are old enough may remember the “greenback” series which were printed from 1963–1995. In 1996, the banknotes were redesigned to feature larger portraits and the addition of new security features to deter forgery. Furthermore, in 2004, the currency was redesigned again beginning with the $20 note that year and concluding with the new redesigned $100 bill that was released in 2013.
Now that twelve years have passed since the initial release of the current series of bills, the U.S. dollar banknotes are due for a makeover. On Wednesday April 20, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced that the designs for the next generation of United States banknotes will be released by 2020.
Abolitionist Harriet Tubman will become the new face of the $20 bill.
The new currency designs are planned to host a vast variety of changes. The most notable of which will be on the $20 bill, where seventh President of the United States Andrew Jackson will be replaced on the note’s obverse with former slave and Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman, who is credited with leading hundreds of escaped slaves to freedom. Reports surfaced in June last year that a woman would be placed on the front of the $10 bill, replacing the portrait of the First Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Hamilton. However, just recently, Secretary Lew changed his mind on the decision after watching the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, deciding instead to boot Jackson from the $20 bill. The push to put a woman on the face of American currency comes as the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, granting women the right to vote, will be celebrated in 2020.
Jackson is expected to still remain on the $20 where he will receive a less prominent spot on the bill’s reverse and will be incorporated into the White House portrait scene, possibly riding on horseback, as Secretary Lew explained.
The $10 and $5 banknotes will be redesigned as well. While the portraits of Secretary Hamilton and Sixteenth President Abraham Lincoln will remain relatively unchanged on the obverse, the bills’ reverses will receive significant makeovers. Instead of the current image of the Treasury Building, the reverse of the $10 bill will depict the the story of the fight for women’s suffrage and will contain portraits of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth, and Alice Paul. On the $5 bill, the image of the Lincoln Memorial on the reverse side will be recreated to depict various historic events that occurred at the monument such as opera singer Marian Anderson’s 1939 concert and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech.
The $1 will remain unchanged in the new series, as it has since 1963. The Omnibus Appropriations Act of 2009 contains a clause that prohibits the use of Federal funds for the purpose of changing the design of the bill because it would require a significant programming change for vending machines to accept a bill different from the current design. In addition, due to its low denomination, the $1 note is the least susceptible to counterfeiting and not worth the cost of adding new security features. There are currently no plans to redesign the lesser-used $2 bill, in addition.
A 2006 federal court ruling also requires that the next generation of U.S. banknotes introduced must contain tactical features that make it easier for the visually impaired and blind to distinguish each bill from one another, a trait over 180 countries currently employ either through tiny perforations, raised numbering, or through varying bill sizes per each denomination.
The final designs for the new $5, $10, and $20 banknotes will be unveiled in 2020 when the new $10 notes are expected to be released. The new $20 banknotes are not expected to enter circulation until 2030.