$20 Bills Get Colorful Makeover

The first of America's greenbacks to be colorized - the $20 note sporting splashes of peach, blue and yellow - will start appearing next month in cash registers, ATM machines and wallets.

Banks will be able to start stocking up on the new twenties beginning Oct. 9, said Marsha Reidhill, the Federal Reserve's cash maven.

On that date, banks can send armored trucks to a Federal Reserve bank to get a stash of the new notes, she said.

The Federal Reserve has been stocking up the new bills for four months, she said. About 915 million of the twenties have been printed by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, maker of the nation's paper currency, and will be available to banks in October, officials from the Fed and the bureau said.

"This is the most secure note the United States has ever issued, and we want to get it out in circulation as quickly as we can," Reidhill said.

The $20 bill is the most-counterfeited note in the United States.

In May, the government took the wrappers off a revamped $20 aimed at foiling counterfeiters. The new $20 is the same size and still features the image of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, on the front and the White House on the back.

But along with the traditional green and black colors, the new notes also include faint touches of peach and blue in certain spots on the bills. Tiny number 20s are printed on the back of the notes in yellow.

Besides color, the new notes include new features aimed making the bills harder to knock off. For instance, there's a faint blue eagle in the background on the front of the bill to the left of Jackson's image and a metallic green eagle and shield to the right of Old Hickory.

Some old anti-counterfeiting features included in the bill's last redesign, in 1998, were kept, including watermarks.

In the 2004 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, the bureau expects to print 2.7 billion of the new twenties, bureau officials said.

Old $20 bills will continue to be accepted and re-circulated until they wear out. The $20 bill has a life of about 2 years, Reidhill said.

New, more colorful $50 and $100 bills - the latter the most counterfeited note outside the country - are expected in 2004 and 2005, respectively. Colors for the new bills have not been announced but will vary by denomination.

The government has waged an extensive campaign to help people, especially those who handle cash frequently in their jobs such as merchants and bank tellers, to be able to spot genuine or bogus $20 bills.

By Jeannine Aversa