Dollar facelift hits the wrong note

(First Edition)

THE MOSSY old greenback is due for a facelift that will make it shimmer like a rhinestone cowboy. But the multi-million-dollar question is, will Americans ever learn to live with funny money?

A few modernists would love to see Dolly Parton, Ollie North or Oprah Winfrey replace George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Benjamin Franklin on the back of a bill - although this is not what the US Treasury has in mind - but most Americans are so serious when it comes to money that they like the greenback just as it is.

The Treasury's idea is to fool the counterfeiters with hi-tech security devices, adding iridescent ink dots and inserting coloured pieces of tissue paper into the bill's cotton fibres. A pattern of hidden wavy lines will appear as blurry as a striped shirt on a television set when reproduced on a counterfeiter's copying machine.

The portraits of the founding fathers will not only remain but be enlarged from their locket-size, and shifted a fraction to the left - hardly the way the country is going, but not exactly radical. But many Americans are unimpressed, and much as counterfeiting is talked up by the banks, it is really more an irritant than a threat, accounting for only dollars 21m (pounds 14m), compared with dollars 100bn of legitimate bills printed annually.

The greenback is a national icon. For all their devotion to glitz, Americans don't like gaudiness on their currency - no bright colours, no sea-to-shining-sea grand images. Dollar bills should be the same as they have been since 1929, small and dull in black and green.

'You screw around with the currency and you screw around with the symbols of the nation,' says Thomas Dibacco, an historian of money at the American University. He forecasts the new dollar bills will be rejected - in exactly the same way as Americans have spurned other attempts to introduce changes in the bills.

In 1976, the Treasury launched the dollars 2 bill, which Americans had always associated with the phrase 'as queer as . . .'. They refused to have anything to do with it. New Hampshire residents was especially upset. Treasury artists cropped John Trumbull's painting of the Declaration of Independence, eliminating six of the signatories, including the entire New Hampshire delegation.

Then there was the shining silver dollar of the 19th-century suffragette SusanBAnthony. The 1979 coin was cast to reduce costs: each year the Bureau of Engraving and Printing uses 5,000 tons of paper and 2,000 tons of ink, half of it on dollars 1 bills. But Americans rejected the coins, leaving 334 million locked in a vault in Washington.

The Treasury insists the counterfeiting problem is too big to ignore. Three years ago the dollars 100 bill, which is the one usualy faked, was issued with a polyester strip which read 'USA100' when held up to the light. But if the problem is so great, how about some really radical solutions?

Why not do away with Latin mottos, for example? Many Americans would undoubtedly like to rid the dollars 1 bill of the motto on the ribbon in the bald eagle's mouth - E Pluribus Unum, which refers to the one country formed from the 13 original American colonies. As everyone knows, this is not a Latin motto for civic and political unity but a phrase from an early Virgil poem giving a recipe for salad.

Besides, Latin has not been taught in America's public schools for years. So, instead of the motto that reads Novus Ordo Seclorum (a new order of the ages), how about the multi-digit phone number for calling Home Box Office on the information super highway? If the Treasury cannot make the dollar hold its value, it should at least make the bill useful.

And what about the unfinished pyramid on the back of the dollars 1 bill, symbolising the country's limitless growth and multiculturalism? Perhaps the time has come for the pyramid to be topped off: with the largest wave of immigration since the turn of the century many are saying, 'Enough already'.

Such radical ideas have been rejected by the traditionalists at the Treasury, in favour of Clintonesque mini-shifts to the left and little dots of colour. How about some broad brush-strokes? Why can't a dollar look more like a yen?

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas