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CoinWeek editor Charles Morgan takes a survey of all of the different $20 bills that have been issued since roughly 1976. Quite a few signature combinations and design changes have taken place over the period. You think American currency doesn’t change much? You’re about to be proven wrong, my friend!
We start with the Series 1974 $20 note featuring the signature of Francine Irving Neff and William Edward Simon. Neff was the 35th Treasurer of the United States, serving from June 21, 1974, to January 19, 1977.
Neff was appointed by President Nixon and served under both Nixon and President Ford.
As Treasurer, Neff oversaw the Bicentennial program and saw the reorganization of her position, which was to report to the Undersecretary for Monetary Affairs.
Neff was a resident of New Mexico and passed away in 2010.
Simon was the nation’s 63rd Secretary of the Treasury. Appointed in 1974 by Richard Nixon, he served from May 9, 1974, until January 20, 1977.
A laissez-faire capitalist, Simon was against government bailouts for companies, thinking that competition in the free market was what created wealth and innovation. After his government service, he worked tirelessly for the U.S. Olympic Committee and served on the boards of various sports organizations, including the National Basketball Hall of Fame. Simon died in 2000.
The note we feature was issued for Boston and is one of 56,960,000 released.
There are serial star note issues with printings under a million. 2071-F Atlanta has a release of 480,000, while Dallas Star notes have a slightly higher emission- 608,000 but are somewhat more scarce.
A typical choice uncirculated note for this issue trades for $60 or more.
Here is a cool offset print error. You can see the image from the reverse has been printed by mistake on the note’s front. This is a scarce error type but there are quite a few of these that turn up in 1977.
This example was printed for the Federal Reserve Branch of Cleveland. A common bank for the series. The note features the signatures of Azie Taylor Morton and W. Michael Blumenthal.
Morton served as Treasurer from September 12, 1977, to January 20, 1981.
She is, to date, the only African American to hold the position.
Born in Dale, Texas, she attended school in the segregated south and graduated from high school at the top of her class at age 16. In 1952, she matriculated to the Houston-Tillotson College and graduated cum laude but was denied admission to the University of Texas due to segregationist policies.
Morton took a job at a school for delinquent girls and became involved in Democratic politics. She was nominated to the position of Treasurer by President Jimmy Carter.
A side note, in 2018, Austin’s Robert E. Lee Rd was renamed Azie Morton Road.
Blumenthal was born in Germany to a Jewish family who narrowly escaped the nazi regime. Upon leaving Europe, his family traveled east and were forced to live in a ghetto in Japanese-occupied Shanghai. He immigrated to the US with his family in 1947.
Blumenthal became active in democratic politics starting in 1961 and was considered for a senior role in the State Department during the Carter administration but ultimately took the position at Treasury. In 1979 he traveled to China as the Treasury Secretary and gave a speech in Chinese. His tenure ended in 1979 when President Carter turned over his cabinet following the US economic and energy crisis.
There are quite a few issues in the series of 1977 worth seeking out. The key to the series is the Minneapolis Star note, with a printing of just 512,000 pieces. Error aside, this Cleveland issue is one of the more common releases, with 189,440,000. Of course, expect many times more than the $50-$60 that a properly printed Cleveland sells for this dramatic error.
There are two series for 1981.
The first one features the signatures of Angela Marie “Bay” Buchanan and Donald Thomas Regan.
G. William Miller actually preceded Secretary Don Regan, but there are no $20, $50, or $100 notes bearing Miller’s signature. There are, however, $1, $5, and $10 notes with Miller’s John Hancock.
Donald Regan served as Treasury Secretary from 1981 to 1985, and later was the White House chief of Staff during the majority of President Reagan’s second term. Regan has an incredible biography. He studied at Harvard and earned a bachelor’s degree before leaving Harvard Law School to join the US Marine Corps to fight in World War II.
After the war, Regan found success in banking, serving as the Chairman and CEO of Merrill Lynch from 1971 to 1980.
Bay Buchanan is the sister of former Republican official and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.
Bay was heavily involved in Republican politics throughout her life and was especially close to California Governor Ronald Reagan as he sought the Republican presidential nomination in 1976 and again in 1980. When she took on the position of Treasurer of the United States on March 20, 1981, she was the youngest person ever to hold the position, at the age of 32. Buchanan served until July 5, 1983.
In our video, we feature a Boston note. Boston saw a distribution of 191,360,000 pieces. The key to this issue is the Minneapolis Star note with an emission of 256,000. That note trades for over $200. Also, the Philadelphia Star note, with its emission of 384,000, sells for about $200.
A Second Series of 1981 note features the signature combination of Ortega & Regan. These were prepared after Treasurer Katherine Ortega assumed the role in September 1983.
None of our references point to a date of emission for the Series 1981-A notes.
Ortega served from September 26, 1983, to July 1, 1989, under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
Like Francine Neff, Ortega was a New Mexico resident. Ortega was born to Spanish-speaking parents who trace their family lineage to the New Mexican territory before it became a state. Ortega worked in the banking industry, starting as a teller and worked her way up to the position of Vice President of the Pan American National Bank. Later she served as the president of the Santa Ana State Bank.
The note we feature was also issued by the Boston, Massachusetts bank and is indicative of the type. None of the Ortega / Regan notes are particularly scarce.
There was a Series 1985, but unfortunately we don’t have an example to show you. The star notes from this issue are worth roughly twice the amount of the regular issues. They feature the Ortega and James Baker signature combination.
There were no Series of 1988 $20 bills issued, instead we get Series of 1988-A with the combination of Catalina Vasquez Villapando and Nicholas F. Brady.
Villapando served as the 39th Treasurer of the United States, serving from December 11, 1989, to January 20, 1993.
She was appointed to the position by President George W. Bush.
Villapando was active in Texas Republican politics since the late 1970s and was a supporter of George H. W. Bush’s 1980 presidential bid. At the time of her service, she was the highest-ranking Latina in the federal government.
Unfortunately, Villapando’s tenure as Treasurer was marred by claims of illegal and unethical conduct concerning her personal use of substantial funds and benefits from a Georgia-based telecommunications company. She plead guilty to multiple crimes including tax evasion and was sentenced to four months in prison, three years of supervised release, 200 hours of community service, and a $150 special assessment for tax evasion.
Villalponda retired to Maryland.
Brady was born in Manhattan in 1930 but grew up in Far Hills, New Jersey.
After getting an MBA from Harvard, Brady went into the banking industry.
He was appointed to a Senate position by Republican Governor Thomas Kean, filling a vacancy caused by the resignation of Harrison Williams, Jr., Brady served for eight months and did not seek election.
Brady’s tenure at Treasury began in the final four months of the Reagan presidency and continued through the duration of the Bush administration.
This is an issue from the New York branch- the most heavily produced issue of the series with a total of 1,446,400,000 pieces. A couple of star notes to look for – none are particularly rare but are good to obtain examples: Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.
For our video, we show a Series of 1990 star note from Cleveland. 3,200,000 were printed of this type. Boston star notes, Atlanta star notes, and St. Louis notes are worth a slight premium over regular issues.
This example has the Withrow / Bentsen signature combination and was printed in Washington, D.C. for the Boston Federal Reserve Bank. A robust 288,000,000 were printed making this a common issue for the series. For the lower print runs in this series you are looking for star notes from Boston, Atlanta, and Cleveland. Some notes this year were printed at the Fort Worth facility.
Mary Ellen Withrow was the 40th Treasurer of the United States, serving in the Clinton administration from March 1, 1994, to January 20, 2001.
Redesigns of notes were initiated under her tenure- seeing updates to all denominations except the $1. A native of Marion County, Ohio, Withrow also serves as Treasurer from the state of Ohio from 1892 until she was nominated for her role in the Clinton administration.
Moving on to the Series of 1995.
This note features the Signatures of Withrow and Rubin.
Robert Rubin was a career banker who served as the co-chairman of Goldman Sachs before getting the nomination. He was born in New York City and is the son of a wealthy Jewish family. Rubin was a prodigious student and active in the Boy Scouts, earning the coveted Eagle Scout rank. He graduated summa cum laude in economics from Harvard. He continued his post-graduate work at the London School of Economics and then later received a master’s from Yale.
Rubin was a key figure in Clinton’s economic policy team, serving as the first director of the National Economic Council for two years, before moving over to head Treasury.
Rubin’s term was consequential. Dealing with weak global financial markets, Rubin worked to secure loans for Mexico to help it navigate financial trouble and to stop the country from defaulting on its foreign obligations. He also worked with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan to strengthen the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
This example is a star note from New York. 5,760,000 were made of this type. This is the last Series of this design type.
Two variations- The sample seen in our video, a Friedberg 2081 note, was printed in Washington, D.C. and covers New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Richmond releases.
Friedberg 2082 notes were printed at the Western facility in Fort Worth, Texas, and covers Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, and San Francisco.
The Cleveland star notes are scarce, with 640,000 printed. But the rest of the issue is plentiful. Do expect to pay a premium of 50% to double face value for a choice uncirculated note.
The Series of 1996 saw a major design change for the $20 note.
A larger, younger portrait of Jackson is used. It is thematically similar to the previous portrait, with several modifications. The new $20 slightly offset this portrait, eliminated the scrollwork on the legend, minimized the spirograph motifs, removed the Federal Reserve Branch bank seal, among other refinements.
The reverse is also simpler in its layout, featuring the portico of the White House. A change of perspective. This note was issued for the New York branch. New York issued 896,000,000 notes. This note features the Withrow and Rubin signature combination. In choice uncirculated, this issue carries a small premium over face.
For the Series of 1999 note, we see Withrow and Summers signature combination. Larry Summers replaced Rubin on July 2, 1999, and served for the remainder of Clinton’s second term. Summers is the first baby boomer to serve as Treasury Secretary.
Born in New Haven, Connecticut, Summers was trained as an academic economist, taught at Harvard University, served as Chief Economist at the World Bank before taking a position as Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the Clinton administration in 1993. This example has a radar serial number that was printed for the Cleveland branch.
This 2001 series was issued during the first year of the George W. Bush administration. This series features the signature of Rosario Marin and Paul H. O’Neill.
Marin was the 41st Treasurer of the United States, serving from August 16, 2001, to June 30.
Marin was the first Treasurer of the United States since William Clark in 1828 to be born in another country. Marin was born in Mexico City and immigrated to the United States at the age of 14 after her father was hired to work a factory job in California.
Marin gravitated towards Republican politics in her mid-20s and began a career in the banking industry, working for a regional California bank, first as a receptionist and later as the assistant vice president. For much of her professional life, Marin devoted much time and energy to advocate on behalf of the mentally disabled.
Paul O’Neill was 66 years old when he took the position of Secretary of the Treasury.
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and spent years working for Alcoa and International Paper.
In the Bush administration, O’Neill was a fiscal conservative who often clashed with Bush and his other advisors. He opposed the war in Iraq, the second Bush tax cut, and navigated the country through the 2001 recession and the immediate financial fallout from the 9/11 attack.
Marin and Snow feature on the Series of 2004.
This is Series 2004-A with a different signature combination of Cabral and Snow.
This note features the large younger Jackson portrait. The frame has been removed. In addition, color-shifting ink is used in the numeral. A large blue eagle is depicted on the left, blue-colored printing appears on the right.
The note’s front and back features a blue and peach background color. Other security features, such as microsized printing was utilized to thwart counterfeiters.
Anna Escobedo Cabral served as the 42nd Treasurer of the United States, serving from January 19, 2005, to January 20, 2009. She was the highest-ranking Latina in the George W. Bush administration.
Cabral worked in the Justice Department in the 1990s and was part of the Senate Republican Conferences’ Task Force on Hispanic Affairs. Her appointment to the Treasurer position ended a year-and-a-half long vacancy after the departure of Rosario Marin. While Treasurer she pursued her JD at Georgetown University. John W. Snow served as Treasury Secretary from February 3, 2003, to June 28, 2006.
Snow served in the Nixon administration as the Deputy Undersecretary of Transportation and later served as the Administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. After Carter’s election in 1977, Snow taught economics at the University of Virginia.
Snow’s tenure at Treasury was short and relatively uneventful. He was replaced by Hank Paulson.
The example shown in our video was printed for the Boston Branch location and is one of 134,400,000 issued. A scarce issue of this series is the Boston star Note – with an emission of 384,000 pieces.
Moving on to the Series 2006 $20, we have the Cabral / Paulson note.
Hank Paulson was born in 1946 and served as the 74th Treasury Secretary, serving from July 10, 2006 to the end of Bush’s second term.
His tenure as Treasury Secretary took place at one of the most consequential economic periods of modern American history. Paulson directed the federal response at the outset of the Great Recession of 2008/2009.
Before serving in the Bush administration, the Harvard-educated Paulson served as the CEO of Goldman Sachs. He now works to promote economic growth and environmental initiatives.
The note in our video was issued for the Richmond branch and is one 390,400,000 of the release. The San Francisco Star note is of particular interest for collectors, as it has a very low total of 128,000 pieces.
The Series 2009 features two new signatures: Rosie Rios and Timothy Geitner.
Rios was born in San Jose, California, and studied at Harvard University and Berkeley.
Rios was very friendly to the numismatic community and we had the opportunity to meet her once.
She now serves as a consultant for a private firm specializing in real estate development and modernizing infrastructure to comply with California earthquake regulations.
Timothy Geithner led the New York Fed before getting the job as Treasury Secretary.
Geitner was 48 at the time of his appointment.
Geithner received some strong scrutiny for the Treasury’s policies towards Wall Street in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the Financial Crisis that was born out of Wall Street greed, bad policies, and poor government oversight.
The AIG bailout proved to be a particular sticking point, once the company paid its senior employees bonuses with bailout money.
This note, issued by the Philadelphia bank, features a repeater serial number of 68686868. It is one of 345,600,000 notes issued for that bank. If you can, try to find a Chicago star note for this issue. It has a low emission of 320,000 pieces.
The Series of 2013 has the Rios / Lew signature pairing. This release was intended to serve as the final Series featuring the likeness of Andrew Jackson. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew ordered the replacement of Jackson after a public petition garnered national attention. The Women on 20s campaign allowed the public to vote on a replacement figure for Jackson, citing the seventh President’s horrific record on race- he was a slaver who owed his entire fortune by forcing black men, women, and children to work tirelessly on his cotton plantation and as President, he disobeyed a United States Supreme Court decision and compelled the removal of Native Americans from lands that were discovered to contain gold deposits sufficient enough to warrant the opening of the branch mints of Charlotte and Dahlonega. Lew, following the lead of Women on 20s, chose to place abolitionist and civil rights advocate Harriet Tubman on the note.
With the election of President Donald J. Trump, the Treasury rescinded Lew’s directive and decided to continue using the Jackson design.
We’ll have more on that subject in a forthcoming episode of the CoinWeek Podcast, where we reveal new information about the shelved/delayed redesign. For more information about the timeline of the events in the Jackson/Tubman design change drama, click here.
Another funny story about Lew- he had this nonsensical looping signature that he had to reconfigure in order to sign the notes. His signature looked like a well-practiced series of loops drawn by somebody who had never learned the alphabet.
Lew was active in Democratic politics for years, his father was a rare book dealer. In our video, we show another example with a repeater serial number.
With the Series of 2017 note we are now up to date.
The 2017 issue features the signature combination of Carranza and Mnuchin.
Jovita Caranza studied at the University of Miami and served as Treasurer from June 19, 2017 to January 14, 2020. She is now the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA). Kind of an important job at the moment.
Carranza worked in a senior position at UPS before taking a job in the current administration.
Steve Mnuchin is a billionaire investment banker who worked at Goldman Sachs as its Chief Information Officer before taking a job in the Trump administration.
Trivia: he visited Fort Knox in time to view the solar eclipse in 2017. I assume the gold was all in order. Also curiously, he was an executive producer of the Lego Batman movie (2017). And remember that Suicide Squad (2016) movie that sucked? He was executive producer of that too.
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The reviews are in! Charles Morgan and Hubert Walker’s 100 Greatest Modern World Coins has gotten five-star reviews on Amazon and Lou Golino and David T. Alexander both gave the book their highest recommendations. To secure a copy before they sell out, go to our supply site at supplies.coinweek.com.