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HomePaper MoneyTreasury Department Responds to Questions on Tubman $20 Currency Redesign

Treasury Department Responds to Questions on Tubman $20 Currency Redesign

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….
Last month, CoinWeek reported on the latest developments in the forestalled currency redesign of the $20 Federal Reserve Note as initiated by the Obama administration and former Secretary of the Treasury Jacob “Jack” Lew. After a social media campaign organized by Women on 20s, and some flip-flopping from the Treasury Department, the note was set to feature prominent abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the front – a first for African Americans on the nation’s currency and the first time in over 120 years that a woman would star on U.S. paper money. The current resident of the front of the bill, President Andrew Jackson, would be removed.

The designs of the $10 and $5 bills would also commemorate women and civil rights pioneers, though the changes would primarily affect the backs of the notes (Hamilton and Lincoln would stay on the front).

But for some awaiting a “progress report” on the new designs, the Trump administration’s non-committal take on the Obama-era plans has come across as frustrating or even malicious – whether or not that be the case in fact.

On April 24, Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire wrote an open letter to current Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin requesting a statement on where the Tubman redesign effort stood.

On Tuesday, June 5, she got an answer.

In a letter that praised Tubman’s “courage and persistence” and was addressed to the entire Congress, the Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Drew Maloney stated that the redesign of the next generation of U.S. banknotes was “still in the early stages”, and that neither “final designs nor all features” had so far been prepared by the Treasury.

“For this reason, the department is unable to provide additional information regarding the potential designs at this time,” Maloney said. He estimated that a new $20 bill design would not see release for another 10 years or more.

“I am severely disappointed by the Trump administration’s failure to prioritize the redesign of the $20 bill to honor Harriet Tubman, and other trailblazing women and civil rights leaders. Now that plan has been shelved without notice or reason,” Senator Shaheen responded in a new statement. “I’ll continue to press the Treasury Department to expedite the redesign of the $20 bill and keep its promise to the American people.”

In the New York Times article that broke the story of Maloney’s letter earlier this month, Lydia Washington, Lead Public Affairs Specialist for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP)–the branch of the Treasury responsible for the material production of the United States’ paper currency–stated that the BEP had “no additional guidance” to direct their operations regarding the redesign beyond what Secretary Lew issued previously. She also eemphasized Secretary Mnuchin’s ultimate role in approving or disapproving any such plans now. This is more or less the same answer she gave CoinWeek back in May.

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Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker
Hubert Walker has served as the Assistant Editor of CoinWeek.com since 2015. Along with co-author Charles Morgan, he has written for CoinWeek since 2012, as well as the monthly column "Market Whimsy" for The Numismatist and the book 100 Greatest Modern World Coins (2020) for Whitman Publishing.

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