Harriet Tubman Is Going on the $20 Bill: What You Need to Know

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, and keep Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill. But unlike with the $10 bill, there’s no timeframe to introduce a new $20.
  1. What happened to Alexander Hamilton?
    It appears that Hamilton will stay on the $10 bill after all. While the outcry from Hamilton’s defenders happened almost immediately after Lew announced his plan for the new $10 bill last June, Hamilton received a huge assist from the hit Broadway musical that tells his life story in hip-hop verse.
  2. Is a woman still going on the $10 bill?
    The new plan will instead put a vignette honoring women’s suffrage on the back of the $10.
  3. Is this a win-win for grass-roots organizers who initially wanted a woman to go on the $20 bill?
    Not entirely. It’s true that Hamilton devotees and advocates for putting a woman on paper money agreed that it made more sense to put a woman on the $20 note, likely displacing Andrew Jackson. But unlike the $10 bill, there’s no time frame to introduce a new $20 bill.
  4. When will the new $10 bill enter circulation?
    The redesigned note will roll off presses in 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of when women won the right to vote.
  5. What about the $20 bill?
    There’s no set time frame for introducing a new $20 note. It could take many years because the $20 bill is far more widely circulated—it’s the bill that ATMs stock—and it will require more advanced security features.
  6. What’s the most widely used bill?
    The $1 bill, which features George Washington, accounted for around 30% of all bills in circulation by bill count last year, according to the Federal Reserve. The $100 bill, which features Benjamin Franklin, is gaining ground. It represented 28% of all bills last year, and its share has doubled over the last 20 years. The $20 bill is the third-most circulated bill, at 23%, followed by the $5 bill, at 7%, and then the $10 bill, at 5%.
  7. Why did Treasury do the redesign?
    Bills are constantly being redesigned for security purposes, but the U.S. was also ordered by a federal court in 2008 to redesign several bills to include tactile features for the blind and visually impaired.
  8. Why did Lew decide to put a woman on the $10 originally?
    As part of that redesign, officials concluded in 2013 that the $10 bill should go first, which made it the only vehicle for Lew to ensure a woman would arrive on the currency in the near future.
  9. Who makes these decisions?
    The physical illustrations on the currency are up to the Treasury. A separate anticounterfeiting committee, which includes the U.S. Secret Service, the Federal Reserve and the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, make decisions over how and when to design the security features and print new bills.
  10. How much money does all of this cost?
    The government already regularly redesigns bills and introduces new notes into circulation. So it’s not clear that redesigning the displays on the back and front create much more work. The real cost of issuing currency is in the security and anticounterfeiting technology that officials must constantly police.
  11. Can the Treasury secretary put anyone on the bill?
    By law, it can’t be a living person. Also, Congress would have to pass a law to redesign the $1 bill.
  12. When was the last time the portrait lineup changed?
    The roster of presidents and statesmen on the seven bills currently in circulation was selected in 1928.
  13. Has a woman been on paper currency before?
    Not since Martha Washington appeared on a $1 silver note in 1891.
  14. What happens to the old $10 and $20 bills?
    They’re still good money.
  15. There are reports they might also ditch the penny. What’s happening there?
    Lew last year outlined a plan to the White House that would print Susan B. Anthony on the $10 bill and suspend production of the penny. Lew said last fall that the plan to suspend penny production had been under review for a long time, and he didn’t say when or whether it would ever happen. Read more about it here: http://on.wsj.com/1WFSl7Z