The Life Of A $20 Bill
Hello, I am Andrew, named after the seventh president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, and I am a $20 bill. We are very popular with many people, so I thought you might want to learn a little more about us.

Birth of a $20 Bill
The U.S. Treasury creates my kind in secure buildings in either WashingtonD.C. or Fort Worth, Texas. The Treasury uses special ink and threads woven into a blend of cotton and linen to make us durable. (Learn more about the U.S. Treasury in The Treasury And The Federal Reserve.)

One of the most important facets of a bill is its security features to help prevent counterfeiting. If you hold up a bill to the light, look for a security thread or plastic strip embedded into the paper that runs vertically up one side of the note. If you look closely, the words "USA TWENTY" and a small flag are visible along the thread from both sides of me. This thread glows green when held under an ultraviolet light.

Another feature is color-shifting ink. Look at the number "20" in the lower right corner on the face of the note. Tilt the note up and down to observe the ink change from copper to green.

Security and Costs
Speaking of counterfeiting, the Secret Service estimates that fewer than one out of 10,000 bills are counterfeit. Banks and people find about 80% of all the fake bills. There are more $20 bill counterfeits than any other bill, since I am so popular.

By the way, while we are worth a lot, according to the Bureau of Engraving, it only costs the U.S. government 6.2 cents to print one bill, regardless of the denomination, making us a good deal. Twenty-dollar bills have an average life span of slightly over two years. At this point, due to wear and tear, we must be replaced.

As a rule, my cousins the $1, $5 and $10 bills last between 1.3 and 1.8 years as they are used more and perhaps not cared for as much. When we become worn from so much use, the Federal Reserve takes us out of circulation, replacing us with brand new bills and the circle of life continues. (Learn more about currency in Formulating Monetary Policy and our Federal Reserve Tutorial.)

Travels
With about $892 billion in circulation, you can imagine that the other $20 bills and I do a lot of traveling. According to Where's George, $1 Serial # D77------L Series 1995 traveled 1,191 miles in one year, 156 days, 5 hours 27 minutes, an average of 2.3 net miles per day. Just imagine the things that dollar saw. Where's Willy is the comparable site for tracking Canadian currency. Look at the bills in your wallet and see if you can find where they have been. Unfortunately, not everyone records them but you never know.

Contamination
Many people worry about getting sick from touching door handles, shopping charts, etc. Studies carried out over the years have shown between 87 and 94% of the bills carry bacteria. A much smaller, yet significant percentage of bills carry harmful bacteria such as Staphykococcus aureus. Be sure to wash your hands any time you have been in the public and touched doorknobs, shopping carts and money.

You might have heard that drug dealers and users contaminate $20 bills. This is true. According to a study by the Argonne National Laboratory, 78% of bills from Miami, Houston and Chicago carried trace amounts of cocaine. Other studies have revealed that 100% of bills have traces of cocaine. You have no idea what we must deal with on some days.

It Doesn't End When I'm Spent
Next time you pick up a 20, I hope you think of some of the things I go through in my short life. Be sure to see if you can find out where I have been. You never know what you might discover.

comments powered by Disqus
Trading Center