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Jewish World Review Oct. 8, 2003 / 12 Tishrei, 5764

Lenore Skenazy

Skenazy
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Consumer Reports


Putting my money on the new $20


http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Nikes. Wheaties. Camrys. Twenties. What do these items have in common?

They all have multimillion-dollar ad campaigns behind them. Yes, the federal government is spending $33 million to introduce the newly redesigned, peach-and-blue-tinted $20 bill that debuts tomorrow. What kind of ads?

SCENE: Two women in adjoining backyards, hanging money on their clotheslines:

JANE: Oh, Midge, my twenties look so dingy! Yours are so bright!

MIDGE: I'm using the new, improved double sawbuck, Jane.

JANE: Darn it all! Your kids are smarter, your house is bigger, and now your $20s are fresher!

MIDGE: Don't forget my husband is better looking, too. Just like the new $20!

Fade out on cackling Midge as Jane reaches for ice pick.

Actually, no - that's not one of the ads. Fact is, most of the ad money is being spent not on commercials, but on unusual promotions.

For instance, pictures of the new bill are going to start popping up on ATMs countrywide. Educational packets are being sent to businesses that deal with cash all the time, like McDonald's. And the government has even hired a Hollywood product placement firm to do for the $20 what it usually does for cans of Coke and fancy cars - i.e., ruin the flow of a movie by shoving the product into the plot. Thus, writers are trying to work the new bill into shows like "Law & Order" (Idea: Have a suitcase filled with money from a drug deal!) and "The West Wing" (Idea: Have a suitcase filled with money from Halliburton!).

But the real question is: Why? Why spend money to promote money? I mean, it's not like something people don't appreciate already.

Care for a $20, Steve?

No thanks. I'm trying to quit.

Donate to JWR

"We want [people] to know that this is genuine currency and what to look for," said Dawn Haley of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. "We're giving people the tools to recognize genuine U.S. currency."

Aha! Now that makes some sense. The $20 is being redesigned to make it harder to counterfeit. If people don't learn that it comes with special features like color-shifting ink that changes from copper to green, microprinting that spells out "TWENTY" and "USA" and two new eagles, one blue and one metallic green, they might not know what to look for in the new currency. They might not even accept it. And that, all joking aside, really could cause chaos.

Worse, counterfeiters could easily exploit that confusion by printing colorful new bills of their own.

So to help you make sure that the new $20s you're about to get are genuine, here is a list of what to watch out for. You know your tender is not legal if:

  • The two eagles are kissing.

  • The logo on Andrew Jackson's cape says FUBU.

  • Microprinted neck tattoo reads, "I (heart) The Bureau of Engraving & Printing."

  • Bill changes color when dipped in a Slurpee.

  • Banner across the White House says, "Over 280 million served."

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JWR contributor Lenore Skenazy is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

Up

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