New $20 bills arrive in Clayton County

By Ed Brock

While counting the proceeds from a recent fundraiser, Forest Park High School bookkeeper Ellen Coleman came upon two strange bills.

Not knowing what to make of the oddly colored $20 notes, Coleman called Vanessa Heaffner, branch manager of the Heritage Bank in Forest Park.

"It doesn't look real," Coleman exclaimed Tuesday afternoon upon walking into Heaffner's bank and seeing yet another of the bills.

But they are real, and they're slowly beginning to circulate into Clayton County after being issued last week.

The new $20 bill is America's first movement toward the world norm of having different colors for different denominations. Along with the new peach and green background colors, the bills have updated security features while including previous security features such as the security thread, color-shifting ink and a watermark.

On the front of the bill the words "Twenty USA" are printed in blue ink next to the portrait of President Andrew Jackson and the portrait is no longer surrounded by a border. Small 20s in yellow ink are printed across the background on the reverse side.

Two new American eagles have been added to the bill as well.

"Throughout the rest of the month whenever a bank orders new 20s they will be sent the ones with the new design," said Pierce Nelson with the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta.

Nelson said that the old bills will still be good and will only be taken out of circulation gradually as they become worn and dirty. The average life of a bill is two years, but they often last longer.

"People will be seeing both designs for some time," Nelson said.

Heaffner said they didn't receive the new bills in their last order of $20s but they have been getting them from customers. Other banks reported the same thing.

"They're lovely," Heaffner said. "It makes them easier to identify and harder to copy."

Now that she knows the money is real, Coleman said she thinks the bills are pretty. Another customer at Heaffner's bank Tuesday, Anthony Johnson of Jonesboro, said the new bill was "different."

"As long as it spends, I have no complaints," Johnson said.

Johnson was concerned about whether vending machines would recognize the new bills, but Heaffner said that there should be no problem.

The U.S. Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing is issuing the money in an attempt to further complicate efforts to counterfeit the money in light of ongoing advances in printing technology.

New designs for the $50 and $100 are planned to be released in 2004 and 2005.