A few weeks ago, I wrote about not finding new coins or the new $5 note in circulation. Since that posting, I found a few additional Oklahoma state quarters and New Mexico quarters. Added to the hunt for new money was a Series 2006 $5 Federal Reserve Note handed to me in change.

This is the first time that I have a note in hand. Like the other note designs, it has a hint of color that makes it look like the addition of color was a mistake. As an artistic composition, it is as ugly as the other “new” notes while individual elements, such as the portraits, show remarkable artwork.

New currency designs look like the Bureau of Engraving and Printing is dabbling in currency design after being mired using the same basic designs for over sixty years. I do not know why BEP never changed the designs for so long since they are not regulated in the same manner as the US Mint. BEP does not have to consult with the Committee of Fine Arts on the designs.

Prior to the 1920’s, BEP created some fascinating currency designs that currency collectors desire. In the book 100 Greatest American Currency Notes by Q. David Bowers and David M. Sundman, they list phenomenal notes and designs that included designs created by the BEP. Bowers and Sundman called the $1,000 “Grand Watermelon” Note as the greatest note produced in the United States. Named because the zeroes on the reverse look like watermelons, with only seven known notes that have survived, the Grand Watermelon is consider the penultimate prize for currency collectors. In December, 2006, Heritage Auction Galleries sold one for $2,225,000.

Currency used to be topical, modern, and represented a theme of the time. The Series 1901, $10 Legal Tender “Buffalo Note” is ranked sixth by Bowers and Sundman. With portraits of Merriwether Lewis and William Clark surrounding an American Bison, the note was issued to celebrate the American west and the trail blazed by Lewis and Clark. This is my favorite note.

For some reason, the BEP stopped creating classics. When given the opportunity to create new classics, the BEP went for plain and bland. When I wrote about the new polymer 20 New Israeli Shekelim notes. Aside from the polymer material, this colorful note whose dominant green color honor’s Moshe Sharrett, Israel’s first ambassador to the United Nation. The reverse features Jewish Brigade volunteers and parts of his first speech to the UN.

The 20 NIS note is beautiful, colorful, and very patriotic for Israel. With the potential that BEP has to change US currency to accommodate the visually impaired, why not take the opportunity to issue modern classic designs?

Images courtesy of Heritage Auction Galleries and the Bank of Israel.

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