United States twenty-dollar bill

United States twenty-dollar bill
Obverse of the Series 2006 $20 bill
Reverse of the Series 2006 $20 bill

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, which is why the twenty-dollar bill is often called a "Jackson," while the White House is featured on the reverse side.

The twenty-dollar bill in the past was referred to as a "double-sawbuck" because it is twice the value of a ten-dollar bill, which was nicknamed a "sawbuck" due to the resemblance the Roman numeral for ten (X) bears to the legs of a sawbuck, although this usage had largely fallen out of favor by the 1980s.[1] The twenty dollar gold coin was known as a "double eagle". Rather than a nickname, this nomenclature was specified by an act of Congress.[specify]

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing says the average circulation life of a $20 bill is 25 months (2 years) before it is replaced due to wear.[2] Approximately 11% of all notes printed in 2009 were $20 bills.[3] Twenty-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in violet straps.[citation needed]


Pre-Federal Reserve history

Series 1905 $20 gold certificate
Thomas Sully portrait of Andrew Jackson used for the $20 dollar bill from 1928 onward.
  • 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 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: A treasury (coin) note with John Marshall on the left of the face. Two different backs exist: both with abstract designs.
  • 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.

Federal Reserve history

Series 1914 $20 bill
Series 1929 $20 bill
Series 1950 $20 Note
Series 1985 $20 Note
Series 1995 $20 bill
The security strip in a twenty-dollar bill glows green under a blacklight.

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."[4] The placement of Jackson on the $20 bill may be a historical irony; as president, he vehemently opposed both the National Bank and paper money and made the goal of his administration the destruction of the National Bank.[5][6] In his farewell address to the nation, he cautioned the public about paper money.[7]

  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 1918: A federal reserve bank note with Grover Cleveland on the front, and a back design similar to the 1914 Federal Reserve Note.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 1934: The obligation is changed. The bill is no longer redeemable in gold, but rather in "lawful money". This is due to the U.S. being taken off of the gold standard. "Lawful Money" in this case means silver.[citation needed]
  • 1942: 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.[citation needed]
  • 1948: The White House picture was updated to reflect renovations to the building itself, including the addition of the Truman Balcony, as well as the passage of time. Most notably, the trees are larger.[citation needed]
  • 1950: Design elements like the serial numbers are reduced in size and moved around subtly, presumably for aesthetic reasons.[citation needed]
  • 1963: "Redeemable in Lawful Money" is replaced by "In God We Trust". The two acts (one taking U.S. currency off silver backing, and the other authorizing the national motto) are coincidental, even if their combined result is implemented in one redesign. Also, several design elements are rearranged, less perceptibly than the change in 1950, mostly to make room for the slightly rearranged obligations.[citation needed]
  • 1969: The new treasury seal appears on all denominations, including the $20.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • 1990: Anti-counterfeiting features are added: microprinting around the portrait, and a plastic strip embedded in the paper.[citation needed]
  • 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.[citation needed]
  • October 9, 2003[8]: The current series of 20 dollar bills is released 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. Ninety, faint "20"s are scattered on the back in yellow as a "EURion constellation" to prevent photocopying. The first issue's series date is 2004 with Marin-Snow signatures.

Design controversy

Because of Jackson's actions toward the Native Americans as a general, as well as during his Presidency, the suitability of his depiction on a Federal Reserve Note has been questioned. Howard Zinn, for instance, identifies Jackson as a leading "exterminator of Indians,"[9] and notes how the public commemoration of Jackson obscures this part of American history. Additionally, some libertarians, such as Ron Paul opposed to Central Banking point out the contradiction of having Andrew Jackson, who spent much of his Presidency fighting against the Bank of the United States, depicted on a Reserve Note. [10]

See also

  • Twenty Bucks, a 1993 movie that follows the travels of a $20 bill.


  1. ^ Feldman, David (1990). Who Put the Butter in Butterfly?. New York, N.Y.: Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc.. pp. 119–120. ISBN 0-06-091661-3. 
  2. ^ "Circulation Fact Sheet — The New Color of Money: When Will I See It?". U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. http://www.moneyfactory.gov/newmoney/main.cfm/media/circulation. Retrieved 2007-11-20. [dead link]
  3. ^ "Money Facts". Bureau of Engraving and Printing. http://www.moneyfactory.gov/document.cfm/18/2230. 
  4. ^ "Selection of Portraits and Designs Appearing on Paper Currency". U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. http://web.archive.org/web/20070928013452/http://www.moneyfactory.gov/document.cfm/18/118. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  5. ^ "Jackson as President". CliffsNotes. http://www.cliffsnotes.com/WileyCDA/CliffsReviewTopic/Jackson-as-President.topicArticleId-25073,articleId-25041.html. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  6. ^ "Jackson Vetoes Bank Bill — July 10, 1832". Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. http://millercenter.virginia.edu/academic/americanpresident/events/07_10. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  7. ^ "JAndrew Jackson's Farewell Address". Wikisource. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Andrew_Jackson's_Farewell_Address. Retrieved 2007-11-20. 
  8. ^[citation needed] "Anti-Counterfeiting". Bureau of Engraving and Printing (United States Treasury). 2007. http://www.bep.treas.gov/section.cfm/7. Retrieved 2008-06-11. [dead link]
  9. ^ Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (1999), p. 130
  10. ^ http://dollarcollapse.com/articles/irony-andrew-jacksons-image-on-a-federal-reserve-note/

External links

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