Dear Crabby, Is 2021 the Year We Finally Get a New Face on the $20 Bill?

Dear Crabby,

Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t the $20 bill supposed to get a facelift at some point?

Phil Plastic

Dear Phil Plastic,

Join me in my time machine as we travel all the way back to 2016. A time of innocence, where Corona was still a beer and not a virus. That’s the last time I remember a discussion about changing whose mug appears on money; specifically, as you mentioned, the $20 bill.

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I imagine most folks would consider it quite an honor to be featured on money. But then I think of poor Queen Elizabeth II. Getting older is bad enough, but can you imagine seeing your age progression every time someone opens their wallet? No thank you! Since the United States isn’t ruled by a monarchy, we have a different process for picking who gets to grace our currency. There are basically two requirements. First, you need to be a G.O.A.T. in the scope of American history. You know something along the lines of a superstar president, discovering a cure for a disease, or securing world peace. The bottom line is when someone says your name, people know immediately who you are. Bonus points if you can be recognized by just one name. That’s when you know you’ve really made it. I’m looking at you here, Abe. You really have to want to be on a bill to meet the second requirement. In fact, you have to be dead. Yup. You can thank some jerk from the Civil Wars days for that rule. This clerk decided his face would look great on money and started circulating it. Of course, everyone else thought he was crazy and put an end to his narcissism. Now that you know a bit of the past, I can talk about the future of the $20 bill.

Since 1929, George, Abe, Alexander, Andrew, Ulysses, and Ben – the bigwigs of the bucks – have held court on their respective bills. After a nearly 100-year reign, there are a lot of folks who think it’s time to see a fresh face on the $20 bill and that it should be a woman. Interestingly, we’ve had a woman on paper currency before. Back in 1886, Martha Washington appeared on the $1 Silver Certificate, but what is probably most surprising is that the certificates weren’t discontinued until 1957! So, why not give the women another crack on the currency? And the lady who seems to have the people’s vote for that is Harriet Tubman. And that brings us to our current challenge.

The Secretary of Treasury is the person who decides when it’s time for a change. Back in 2016, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced Tubman was the recommendation for the $20 bill. But then we got a new Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin. He said the $20 bill redesign wouldn’t happen in 2020 and that no new imagery would be unveiled until 2028! So, now we’re here in 2021 with yet another new Treasury Secretary named Janet L. Yellen who has said the Treasury Department has plans to accelerate the timeline in an effort to get Tubman on the new $20 bills but naturally doesn’t have any idea when the new design might be released. Whew. I guess it’s a good thing the person has to already be dead because they would certainly die while waiting for Washington D.C. to decide!

So, the bottom line is change is coming … maybe. Until then it looks like we’re stuck with Andrew Jackson’s face staring back at us.

I hope that answers your question.

Dear Crabby

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Stuck in a rut? Need some biased advice from a crabby old baby-boomer? Read regularly by thousands and loved by some, Dear Crabby answers questions weekly to life's challenges. Send him a note at

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