All the news that's fit to abuse, desecrate, adulterate, skew, twist, embellish, warp, humorize, fictionalize, satirize ... and print.

Reinventing the $5

Stop the presses!! There must be some kind of mistake. The new five-spots are coming out Wednesday, but who's that fool on the bill and what has he done with Abe Lincoln?!?

Relax, I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for all of this. No reason to be alarmed. Abe is perfectly safe. In fact, as you'll soon see, he's looking sharper than ever. He's still got that wise presidential twinkle in his eye, he parts his hair just the same as always, and his familiar right ear is even bigger than before.

It's just that the boys down at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing wanted our 16th president to look his absolute best for the big May 24 debut of the redesigned $5, so they sent the fancy new Lincoln portrait engraving out for a real thorough polishing job.

Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers needed somebody to stand in and do some of the promotional work that, quite frankly, someone as important and dignified as Mr. Lincoln should not be bothered with.

I mean, someone has got to tell the public about all the state-of-the-art security features on the new fives and tens -- the watermarks, the delicate microprinting, the contemporary gangland graffiti spraypainted on the Lincoln Memorial.

And since I had done such a good job helping out with the introduction of the new $20 back in August of '98, my pals down in D.C. shipped me an exquisitely etched invitation to pitch in again. Naturally, I was eager to oblige.

First, I feel it is imperative to debunk certain rumors about the new $5. Abe Lincoln will NOT be wearing Bolle wraparound sunglasses (thank God) and, despite the overwhelming preference of several focus groups, he will NOT be sporting his trademark stovepipe hat. Our U.S. currency is simply not tall enough to accommodate Lincoln's prodigious and distinctive headgear.

At first glance, the most obvious difference in the new fives and tens is that the faces of Lincoln and Alexander Hamilton -- like Michael Jackson on the $20 and Aretha "Ben" Franklin on the $100 -- appear gigantic compared to the old bills.
The Treasury states that the enlarged portrait of President Abraham Lincoln is easier to recognize. This is good because I've often heard people mistaking him for folks like Buddy Ebsen, Janet Reno and Sammy Davis Jr.

The Lincoln Memorial will still appear on the reverse side of the bill, but this time instead of sitting in that big armchair way up amid those pillars, Lincoln will be out front tossing a baseball with myself and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

But the really interesting part is the high-tech, anti-counterfeiting measures that our government has dreamed up to deter treasonous lowlifes from running off batches of $20s on the laser printer. To stay one step ahead of the counterfeiters -- including the notorious "El Marko" magic marker syndicate -- the new $5 will also feature:

1. A polymer security thread embedded vertically in the bill that glows with the words Keep away from heat sources when held next to a bright light or acetylene torch.

2. An eight-dimensional hologram of Lincoln's left thumbprint.

3. Strategically placed slivers of uranium-236 that radiate and crackle when held near an ordinary household Geiger counter -- one in Lincoln's left eyebrow, and one just under the E. in E. Pluribus Uganda.

4. An unidentified brownish smudge thought to have been caused by a crack-smoking pressman at the U.S. Mint.

5. Microprinting: Running around the edges of the portraits oval frame, in words so tiny they can only be viewed through a powerful electron microscope, is the phrase "Try replicating THIS, you feeble counterfeiters."

6. There is even a watermark of John Wilkes Booth being tarred and feathered by a mob of angry Whigs that appears when the bill is immersed in Guiness Stout and then held in front of a total eclipse of the sun.

"The new security features and an informed public who knows who how to use them is our best and first line of defense against counterfeiting," said Treasury Secretary Summers. Larry cautions cash-handlers that any bill featuring a picture of Puff Daddy or Ted Kaczynski, or one that has the numeral "1" scratched out and "5" written over it in pencil, may be counterfeit.

To help familiarize the American public with the new currency, the Treasury Department will be launching an extensive educational campaign with public-service ads showing Al Gore and George W. Bush handing out freshly minted $5s and $10s to potential supporters.
Several major retailers are also getting involved.

7-Eleven, in each of its 5,645 U.S. stores, will be selling the new fives at a "special introductory price" of only $6.99 for the May 24 launch.

Ace Hardware stores across the country are posting point-of sale displays featuring a smiling Elian Gonzalez receiving a crisp new American $5 for his allowance. Other corporate partners include McDonalds, Burger King, Microsoft, Lincoln Cash Services, Lincoln-Mercury and Lincoln Logging Co.

To help offset the governments cost of printing the new bills, the microprinting feature will also be used to emblazon the words "Nike" and "Coke" onto the facade of the Lincoln Memorial, and to paste the slogan "Drink Milk" across Abe's upper lip.

John Breneman

Back to PAGE ONE

About the Humor Gazette                    Email this story to a friend

Contact the Humor Gazette: