United States: Face Value: How The U.S. Treasury Designs Our Money

Last Updated: July 13 2016
Article by Leonard J. Essig and Mark C. Winings

Recent announcements regarding changes to the U.S. $20 and $10 bills have stimulated curiosity about the decision-making process for who can and cannot have their portrait on American money.

The Secretary of the Treasury and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) redesign U.S. currency every 7 to 10 years for aesthetics and, more importantly, to deter counterfeiting and enhance security.

Aesthetic features include artistry, symbols, monuments, and concepts that are intended to reinforce a theme.

In April 2016, the Treasury announced its plan to redesign the $20 bill to include a portrait of Harriet Tubman on the front, with images of the White House and President Andrew Jackson on the back. The Treasury explained that Harriet Tubman was selected as a "woman whose life was dedicated to fighting for liberty." U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also announced that the BEP would be redesigning the $10 bill. Although the agency later decided to retain Alexander Hamilton's portrait on the front, the back of the new $10 bill will depict the "March of 1913" for women's suffrage. Further, the redesigned $5 bill will keep President Abraham Lincoln's portrait on the front, while the back will illustrate historical events at the Lincoln Memorial with images of Marian Anderson, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Lew further stated that the Treasury "anticipates the final concept designs for the new $20, $10, and $5 notes will be unveiled in 2020 in conjunction with the 19th Amendment's 100th anniversary, which granted women the right to vote." Of the 92 individuals whose faces have appeared on U.S. currency, five (Martha Washington, Pocahontas, Susan B. Anthony, Sacagawea, and Helen Keller) have been women.

Whose Face Can We Put on Our Money?

Section 5114(b) of Title 31 of the U.S. Code restricts whose portrait may be printed on U.S. currency:

"United States currency has the inscription 'In God We Trust' in a place the Secretary decides is appropriate. Only the portrait of deceased individuals may appear on United States currency and securities. The name of the individual shall be inscribed below the portrait."

The Treasury explained that the portraits currently printed on various denominations of paper currency were adopted in 1929 when the department reduced the size of the notes. The Treasury believed that portraits of U.S. Presidents have a more "permanent familiarity in the minds of the public" than would portraits of other persons. This determination was later altered to include well-known public figures; for example, Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill, Benjamin Franklin on the $100 bill, and now Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bill.

Rules Guiding the Decisions and Selection Process of U.S. Currency Design

The U.S. Treasury selects the design, including portraits, shown on U.S. currency and generally has final approval over the appearance of U.S. currency. Although currency is primarily redesigned as necessary to address current and potential security threats, the Treasury works closely with the BEP and the U.S. Secret Service when designing the notes to promote a specific "theme" that captures the core values of the United States in a specific time period. "Freedom" has been the theme from 2003 to the present, using several designs such as the U.S. Seal on the $5 bill, Lady Liberty's torch on the $10 bill, the eagle on the $20 bill, the American flag on the $50 bill, and the quill and ink well with phrases representing the Declaration of Independence on the $100 bill.

The theme for the next generation of U.S. currency is "democracy." The Treasury explained that it wants to use currency notes to "celebrate the nation's democratic ideals and continued efforts to form a more perfect union." Further, the Treasury will incorporate a much greater degree of artistry in the new note designs, while continuing to honor past designs.

After announcements to redesign U.S. currency caught the attention of the public and the mass media, the U.S. Treasury and the BEP created a web page, which asks the public to nominate, for possible depiction on U.S. currency, deceased American women who contributed to our nation's history and were champions of democracy.Technical features are another reason for redesigning currency. The technical aspects focus primarily on counterfeit prevention, authentication, accessibility, usability, public use, and other "security features." These technical aspects are determined after due diligence by the Advanced Counterfeit Deterrence Steering Committee, an agency within the Treasury.

The authors thank Trevor T. LaBarge for his contributions to this article.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions