US currency soon to be radically altered

Reach into your wallet for a five dollar bill in the near future, and you will likely pull out a much-downsized, multi-colored version of the venerable green bill with the visage of Abraham Lincoln printed thereon.  You will soon have to search in vain for uniformly-sized and colored tens, twenties, fifties or hundreds.  Is this dramatic change the result of Congress having passed a law requiring new designs for all currency bills larger than one dollar?  Nope.  It’s because of a special-interest lawsuit.

A little over three years ago, a federal court ordered the Treasury Department to begin the process of radically changing all US currency above the denomination of $1.  That decision was subsequently affirmed in 2008 by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.  All this judicial decision-making is based on a 1970s-era federal law, the “Rehabilitation Act,” that was intended to extend civil rights to disabled individuals.   While this law had been employed in a number of areas to remove barriers to disabled persons seeking employment and access to various facilities and services, in 2002 an advocacy group – the American Council of the Blind (ACB) — filed a lawsuit interpreting the Act as requiring the government to design its currency in such a way as to be easily identifiable by the blind and the visually-impaired.

That lawsuit has now become the vehicle forcing a multi-hundred million dollar change in US currency.  Uniformly-sized and -designed US currency, which has served America well for so many decades, will soon be a relic of the past — but not because of action by the Congress or the President of the United States as representatives of the citizenry.  This change is being forced on the American people because of creative advocacy by a special-interest organization which was able to convince a handful of unelected federal appeals court judges to expansively interpret a federal statute, that arguably was not even intended to reach an issue such as currency design. 

The federal judges apparently were swayed also by the fact that many nations other than the United States already have switched to multi-sized paper currency incorporating all manner of visual and tactile identifiers.  The judges’ decision was arrived at notwithstanding that the number of people in the country who are actually blind is less than one-tenth of one percent of the US population of nearly 309 million, and even though other organizations advocating for the blind (such as the National Federation of the Blind) did not support the approach taken by the ACB. 

In short, this is another example of important public policy matters being decided not by the people’s representatives, but by shrewd advocacy groups and federal judges eager to interpret federal laws expansively and to leave their imprimatur far beyond the confines of the courtroom.  In the near future, when you search in vain for the uniquely American currency of uniform and professional size and design, and you find only oddly-shaped, multi-colored and highly-textured bills that are little different from bills circulated by other countries, remember you have a couple of unelected judges and powerful special interest groups to thank.

95 comments Add your comment


March 5th, 2010
6:11 am


While I think the way this was accomplished was the wrong way, I’m pretty sure the US Treasury and the Secret Service are very happy. By having different denominations different sizes, counterfeiters will not be able to “wash” small bills and turn them into larger bills. Taking all the ink off of a 5 and printing the graphics for a 20 will not be possible if all the bills are of a different size.

YellerSkeeters are PeterEaters!

March 5th, 2010
6:29 am

The inmates are running the Asylum! Nancy Boys are ruining everything!

Does anyone really use money anymore … anyway? I mean, I usually keep a $20 or two on me, but my debit card (and AmEx) is my usual mode for almost all transactions. Unless I’m getting a prostitute, or “making rain” at the Pink Pony!


March 5th, 2010
7:08 am

They should just get rid of legal tender laws altogether and let currencies compete with each other. At least now when the Fed destroys the currency, we’ll have sleek, small, multi-colored versions of monetary toilet paper.


March 5th, 2010
7:18 am

Rob is right. Even if this initiative costs hundreds of millions of dollars, think of all the money it will save in terms of counterfeiting: a multi-billion dollar a year problem.

The real problem isn’t the special interest groups, its our government. Everyone realizes that, but we are all helpless to do anything about it.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 5th, 2010
7:54 am

Given that a dollar is not a dollar anymore, and never will be again (thanks to “The Stimulus,”) why shouldn’t it look like “Monopoly” money?


March 5th, 2010
7:56 am

Sounds like Bob, the man, is just trying to keep us blind folks down.

R Pitts

March 5th, 2010
8:01 am

Yeah, let’s get rid of all the Courts. What do we need them for anyway? I mean, they are just the 3rd co-equal branch of government. I am so sick of people acting like and saying that the Courts have basically no or a very minimal role in governance. They interpreted a statute that Congress passed, and apparently were very much in agreement as to what it said and the interpretation of it since all the judges reached the same conclusion. If you don’t like the result, then get Congress to change the law. Besides, how would you feel if you were blind and had no idea how much money was being exchanged. In the end, this is the right and fair result anyway.


March 5th, 2010
8:04 am

Will this be detrimental to people who are not blind? If not shut the f up!


March 5th, 2010
8:06 am

Bob is a little empathy-challenged.

A True Patriot

March 5th, 2010
8:11 am

Well Folks, here we go……Political Correctness has once again taken over, albeit in a different manner…..this little attempt at satisfying a very small group of people (the people affected could probably care less) by their saviors is gonna cost the American Taxpayer Billions of Dollars that we don’t have and will have to borrow from the Chinese to pay (if they, in fact, will even lend us any more). Our Congress (bless their little “Pea Sized” Brains) should act to stop this insidious bit of foolishness which will only benefit a few and will cause everyone in America a big pain in the butt. Oh my, where oh where has our common sense gone? Remember to vote on November 2, 2010. Thank you Bob Barr, a Great American, for continuing to inform.

Helen keller

March 5th, 2010
8:11 am

I don’t see what the big issue is?

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
8:36 am

My sister was born disabled. Having observed her struggle with independence issues all her life, many of which could have been eliminated by some painless policy changes, I say “Bravo!” to this judicial decision. Sounds like the system is working great to me!

What is so wrong about being swayed by the fact other countries have implemented this change? If you observe someone with a better way of doing things, don’t you usually adopt their methods? After all, this is how human civilization has advanced. It seems rather nationalistic to assume the United States will always initiate the best ideas around.

I used to work in a money handling business. Other posters have already pointed out the advantage different sized bills will offer in deterring counterfeiting. And if you keep the bills in your wallet organized, the different sizes will actually made it easier to handle currency than would current bills all of the same size.

david wayne osedach

March 5th, 2010
8:36 am

I welcome the changeover to multi-colored currency. You are much less likely to hand out the wrong denomination by mistake.

Gator Nation

March 5th, 2010
8:41 am

Wow, what a waste of money when an alternative solution could have been explored and utilized. With the advances in technoloty, couldn’t we have provided the truly blind a hand sized scanner that would be just a fraction of the cost? I’m sure we could have come up with a couple additional solutions. Where in the world is our creativity for solving problems?


March 5th, 2010
8:51 am

Political Correctness and it’s worshipers are hard at work with this issue.

This change benefits a very few. On the other side of the coin, we have Mr. Fascist hard at work dismantling the Capitalist system and redistributing the wealth of this nation to those he sees as deserving it. Is this “forced Reparations”?

1. Forced Reparations by the president?
2. Forced political correctness by activist judges and special interest groups?

Leave the money alone, and keep Mr. Grant on the fifty dollar bill while we are at it, folks. I’m sick of PCism and special interests getting away with their garbage, aided by a corrupt judicial system.

Road Scholar

March 5th, 2010
8:57 am

Will the same size changes apply to credit cards from different banks? How can a visually impaired person know which credit card they are using? Besides, if Ronald reagans picture is put on one of the bills, you won’t need a different size for it! That bill will just feel a little oily?


March 5th, 2010
8:58 am

It’s only fitting that our money is going to look like currency of Third World nations. Pretty soon it will be worth about the same, seeing as how the solution for everything these days is “print more money”.

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
9:01 am

It is really quite pathetic when the derisive term political correctness is so often used to demonize such honorable concepts as fairness and good manners.

Adapt to survive

March 5th, 2010
9:04 am

What a whiner! When countries like North Korea are running large scale operations counterfeiting and then laundering US Dollars it only makes sense to stay a step ahead of the game.The fact is that Congress has been behind the ball on this because every one is afraid of changing the old green bills. Get over it. American currency has changed size and design many times over the history of our nation. This is not about being PC this is about moving with the times.

Daniel Kurnath

March 5th, 2010
9:04 am

Acid washing and reprinting bills is a relic in the counterfeiting market. new security features such as security threads and watermarks have long done away with such simple techniques. The big issue for those of you wondering is two part, one is cost switching all of the bills to new sizes will require massive manufacturing changes which will be very expensive. Two is the fact that this decision has not gone through the proper legislative channels and is instead an example of activist judges loosely interpreting existing statutes in a manner they were never intended for.


March 5th, 2010
9:12 am

Years ago, I was on a committee from a “certain agency” in Washington, D.C. to try and convince the Bureau of Engraving and Printing to not change the old “blue card stock U.S. Treasury checks” to the new “paper checks”. There were many reasons including the new ones being harder to store as evidence, harder to lift good fingerprints, harder for the handwriting/forgery experts, etc. But when I told them the new checks would be easier to eat they looked at me kind of funny. My reply:

“If you’ve never chased a suspect down the street while he’s trying to eat the evidence you won’t appreciate what I’m talking about” ……………… :o )

We’re soon going to a one world government with one world currency anyway so not to worry ……….. thankfully, I know the last chapter !!


March 5th, 2010
9:13 am


“Counterfeiting is economic treason.”

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
9:13 am

Definition of an activist judge: any judge who decides a case differently than one wanted.


March 5th, 2010
9:27 am

I am SURE the kooks will find a way to blame this ALL on President Obama.

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
9:34 am

Daniel Kurnathm, March 5th, 2010, 9:04 am wrote:
… Acid washing and reprinting bills is a relic in the counterfeiting market. new security features such as security threads and watermarks have long done away with such simple techniques. …

I am sorry, but this is not accurate. Acid washing, etc, is still quite effective. New security features cannot be identified at the speed even experienced bank tellers are sometimes required to count commercial cash deposits. And they certainly offer little help to the busy cashiers at the local Taco Bell who are never even taught to look for these features.


March 5th, 2010
9:36 am

Not sure why this is a bad thing. I don’t like the idea of a vendor telling a blind client that they are giving them correct change when instead it’s all ones. I can easily see why this is an issue for blind people. Having currency of differing sizes will solve this problem for them while not being much of an issue for the rest of us. Why resist this change?


March 5th, 2010
9:37 am

There are probably more vending machines and change machines that accept bills in this country than there are blind people. The inconvenience and expense factor in requiring the retooling of every machine that physically handles cash is off the charts here. Think for moment how much more complicated the machinery would have to be when the bills entering the machine do not have a uniform size!

The Treasury has added large print denomination numbers to bills to make them more easily identifiable to the visually impaired, and there is ample technology available for the blind to electronically scan the bills and audibly announce the denomination.

It’s quite clearly a case of the courts interpreting a law far beyond Congressional intent. But there are three branches of government with checks and balances between them. Congress can modify the rehabilitation law being grossly misinterpreted here to explicitly exclude our currency from its reach. That is, if the Republicans can stop acting like John Cleese in Monty Python’s argument clinic and realize that is okay for both parties to agree on something for the benefit of the country.

Just Curious

March 5th, 2010
9:43 am

I’m wondering what the consequences will be for using ATMs, bill slots at self-scan check out lanes, etc. Think about it – wouldn’t all of these machines need to be retooled to handle differently sized currency?


March 5th, 2010
9:48 am

Bob, you’re a libertarian so i feel comfortable commenting about this is on your wall. in regards to the 2 guys in Smyrna that just got busted growing pot. what kind of idiots have an operation that is relatively large and dont do anything about the smell? they could smell it in the street for crissakes! i mean c’mon, that was the first thing we worried about during our college growing experimentation….and we were 19 at the time.

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
9:51 am

Mechanical bill acceptors have been retooled many times over the past decade to accommodate current multi-colored bills as they have been gradually issued.


March 5th, 2010
9:53 am

this should hurry things up at the ATM machines – especially the drive-ups — HMMM! Ive always wondered about the Braille at the drive-up ATM

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
9:58 am

To Ted, March 5th, 2010, 9:53 am:

I suppose the Braille at the drive-up ATM could be useful to a back seat passenger.

Paul B

March 5th, 2010
9:59 am

Do not curse the deaf, or put a stumbling block before the blind, but fear your God; I am the Lord
Leviticus 19:14. NIV
In this group of verses God gives a list of how we are to deal with each other. There are only a handfull where he ends his instruction with, but fear your God. It is in this group that we are commanded to love your neighbor as yourself.
Funny thing – “we” claim we trust in God – but to actually do something he wants us to – just a “little simple thing” like removing a stumbling block in front of the blind is asking too much.


March 5th, 2010
10:15 am

Um, why is it so bad for the government to ensure that people who can’t see can at least tell the difference between one of the government’s own 5s or 10s?

This sounds like a case of someone putting an ideology way, way out in front of any reasonable interpretation of an issue. It’s one thing to defend our freedom from tyranny. It’s another to nitpick federal process issues to death for the sake of some principle that does no one any good. That’s just petty.

What the hell is tyrannical or undemocratic about some color and texture on our currency to help some blind people out?

Sounds like the rantings of another old school southern reactionary in libertarian’s clothing. I knew it all along.


March 5th, 2010
10:16 am

I do not like the idea of judges making law! Call me old fashion! The judges should have rule that congress can change law.

Gen. Halftrack

March 5th, 2010
10:19 am

Those of us that have been in the military do not want to see Military Pay Certificate size bills. This is just another “efficiency” modifications that our grand government is going to do for us. If they could print this on a soft paper so that when the colors faded we all could use this for another reason. Billfold makers will have to revamp for the new style.


March 5th, 2010
10:31 am

William…LOL…man do you want see this country collapse even quicker? My God man…Congress is incapable of anything…they can’t even get a $15 billion jobs bill to the president’s desk to sign. However, the fault lies with us…we elect them and because everyone has a different opinion, nothing but gridlock ensues. You want to see how direct democracy really works…take a look at California…gimme all this social service directives but I’m not paying for them with increased taxes. What a joke…the nation current generation are such kids…let me have my cake and eat it too.

As far as Bob’s “issue”…the only time someone gets called an advocate judge is when they rule in a way that you don’t agree. Look at the upcoming Senate battle over reconciliation..the Republicans are preemptively smearing the parliamentarian, who is the guy calling balls and strikes, and they installed the guy…I mean give me a break.

Keep up the good fight!

March 5th, 2010
10:35 am

Really Bob? Another idiot article. Ooooh other countries do it so it must be wrong because it can not be American. The only good ideas are American right?

“Professional design” — what exactly does that mean Bob? Other countries monies not “professional”? Your phobias are showing Bob.

Others have well defended the civil rights of many in previous posts so I will not repeat it but Bob why dont you try being blind or in a wheelchair for a month or two and maybe you’ll understand. No wait, that would take some compassion. You dont care about the form of money, just another offbased comment talking about activist judges.

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 5th, 2010
10:38 am

When the dollar dies, and it will, the guv is reported to have stockpiled a new currency, to be issued by the politicians, in the manner they choose. Foreign debts will be renounced, American citizens will be allowed to exchange a limited number of old dollars for the new dollars, and all other dollars will become worthless, including the hundreds of billions currently offshore. What happens to bank deposits, domestically held Treasure debt (including I and E savings bonds) is up to the politicians in office at the time of the debt repudiation, Anyway, that is the theory circulation on the internet. The new currency reportedly will be gold backed. Again, this is just hearsay.


March 5th, 2010
10:46 am

Seriously, Bob? Of all the issues you could speak about with knowledge and insight (and yes, they exist, even though I am on the liberal end of libertarian), you pick this?

Get the beam out of your own eye first, my brother.


March 5th, 2010
10:50 am

Bob, I was under the impression the change was designed to make it harder for counterfeiters who sometimes bleach a $1 bill and “re-print” it as a larger denomination ($100, $50, etc.), as opposed to some nefarious “creative special interest” types. I’m going back to Cynthia’s blog (2nd Amendment/Starbucks).

Swede Atlanta

March 5th, 2010
10:58 am

Ref: William @ 10:16

The federal appeals court is not making law. The judges have simply ruled that the federal government’s implementation of current law is not consistent with the relevant law.

The appropriate step would have been for the Executive Branch to have appealled the decision. Bob’s blog isn’t clear if this was an en banc decision or a decision by a full circuit court.

I guess in law school Mr. Barr missed the class where the independence of the federal judiciary was discussed at length. The Founding Fathers made them lifetime appointments for a reason. They are to be free of the will of the people by way of election or political tides. They are to sit as independent, disinterested parties in adjudicating cases.

Bob = Tool

March 5th, 2010
11:10 am

Bob doesn’t believe in empathy.
He’s not blind, so damn those who are.


March 5th, 2010
11:27 am

This article is much ado about nothing. There is an attrition associated with old currency such that it is constantly being replaced with newer currency; so fresh currency is always being printed. Personally, I think it’s good that some folks in the government have compassion for people with disabilities and special needs. However, it seems to me that Mr. Barr’s ulterior motive is to stir up anti-government sentiments, but he fails to address the core issue of the article. The truth of the matter is that money, lobbyists and special interest groups control the congress. Why is he picking on the blind and disabled and ignoring how the rich and powerful use their influence to get what they want. The effect the poor and disabled have on the legal, judicial and executive branch of government is negligible, but the power that the rich, powerful and well-connected exert over these branches is not only shocking but self-serving. Mr. Barr is the type that criticizes David but gives Goliath a pass.


March 5th, 2010
11:31 am

Are you truly suggesting there are a mere 300,000 “blind” people in this country (”less than one-tenth of one percent of the US population”)? Even the National Federation of the Blind (which you cite approvingly) says “It is estimated that about 1.3 million people in the U.S. are legally blind. Legal blindness refers to central visual acuity of 20/200 or less in the better eye with the best possible correction, or a visual field of 20 degrees or less.” ( The 2006 National Health Interview Survey puts the number of Americans “experiencing vision loss” at 21.2 million.

Obviously it makes some difference in how you define “blind,” but your 300,000 figure is laughable.


March 5th, 2010
11:42 am

The Federal Reserve counterfeits all freaking day. Why are we that concerned with “counterfeiting” when we allow a small board of UNELECTED people, whom we know little to nothing about (except maybe for Ben Bernanke, who is in the news and potentially perjuring himself every time he appears before congress) to completely destroy the value of the money we work for? So they can counterfeit all the want, but this new legislation is good because it will make counterfeiting more difficult for the small-time counterfeiter? I’m not defending counterfeiting, but let’s not have a double standard, and the Federal Reserve is the biggest counterfeiting scam out there.

And another thing–what is “fair?” I don’t consider completely shifting the balance from one group of people suffering to another group to be “fair” at all. If the National Federation of the Blind don’t support this change, then at least let’s pause for a minute and consider just how needed it is. Is this change worth the money it’s going to cost to implement? Need I remind you “empathetic” people that we literally don’t have ANY money as a nation to run our government?


March 5th, 2010
11:44 am

This is what I call chnge youcan believe in. Soon…all you will have left from your bills is change. I also propose putting my image on all coins. Furthermore, the color of all currency should be such that it is not offensive to the heritage of any American. No red, yellow or black currency will be allowed. Look what happened in Atlanta when MARTA tried calling their rail line the “Yellow” line.

You Asked

March 5th, 2010
11:50 am

If anyone is offended by their new currency I will gladly take it off of their hands for free. Just send all unwanted bills to “You Asked @ …”

Byron Mathison Kerr

March 5th, 2010
12:15 pm

deathportal, March 5th, 2010, 11:42 am wrote:
… And another thing–what is “fair?” I don’t consider completely shifting the balance from one group of people suffering to another group to be “fair” at all.

I would say that fair is providing a solution that allows the visually impaired to detect currency denominations, so they know how much cash they have on hand, without the assistance of a seeing person.


Chris Broe

March 5th, 2010
12:54 pm

The color of money! How about The value of a dollar? The devalued dollar!! That’s what is about to change. Our dollar is in trouble, people.

Buy Gold here?