I have seen my face on a dollar bill. In fact, I have seen my face on hundreds of dollar bills in several cities over the years.
This is, I suppose, a rather peculiar sidelight to being an investment columnist. In unrelated promotions in newspapers, magazines and on television, various publicists have elected to replace George Washington's likeness with my own. I have a drawer full of the results.
To dramatize my professional ties to the greenback, there have been clever depictions of me on actual-size cutup bills in newspaper advertisements, on huge floating bills in magazines and on literally hundreds of tiny green bills scrolling by rapidly on the TV screen.
No one, to my knowledge, has ever tried to cash in an "Andrew Leckey dollar," but the entire nation seems to share with those public relations executives and artists a fascination with reproducing paper currency.
Those in the copier industry tell me that often the first test of the clarity and color quality of a new photocopying machine in an office is a greenback. The office manager will pull a bill out and make a copy just to see how good the detail is.
Lately, thanks to modern digital technology that includes high-resolution color and two-sided reproduction, such copies of currency have looked better and better.
So much better, in fact, that counterfeiters have seized upon sophisticated copiers as a handy way to churn out phony tender. Copier counterfeiting, while still relatively small, has doubled each year since 1989.
"Color copiers are getting so advanced, we need to make more drastic changes to our currency to make sure that counterfeiters won't be able to duplicate it at will," said Rebecca Lowenthal, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Treasury Department.
Starting with Series 1990 bills, a security thread was woven into the left side of each new $10, $20, $50 and $100 bill and microprinting was added to each bill's portrait to thwart counterfeiters. It was a start, but it wasn't enough.
Recent discussion of change has centered on the possibility of making bills multicolored, adding a watermark that can't be easily duplicated and moving the placement of the engraved portraits to one side or the other. First targeting $100 bills, then $50 and $20 bills, this would constitute the first major redesign in 65 years.
Photocopied bills don't really look good enough under careful scrutiny, yet counterfeiters are looking to bilk someone who isn't alert. Be aware of the differences.
"A copier can't reproduce fine detail such as a microprinted line around the portrait and the paper will feel different and have a bit of a shiny gloss to it," explained Jeff Hayzlette, an officer with the Quick Printing Public Affairs Council, a trade group for quick-print shop owners, which is concerned about potential for copier misuse.
"We do have customers coming in asking to have bills copied, and we let them know that they would be breaking the law the second they make a color copy of any bill."
Acknowledging concerns, copier-maker Canon has even introduced some new models with a computer chip that blackens out anything that it recognizes as money.
"In general, bad money looks bad because it isn't made of cotton rag as real currency is, and it isn't printed using the intaglio printing method with an engraved plate so the ink actually stands up on the paper," said Gayle Moore, special agent with the U.S. Secret Service.
"If you hold a Series 1990 bill up to the light, you'll also see the polyester thread that says U.S.A. and identifies the denomination of the note."
About $24 million in counterfeit money was seized last year, a drop from previous years, while the value of fake bills passed on to the public has risen to around $19 million. Because counterfeit currency is considered contraband, there's no reimbursement to anyone stuck holding phony bills.
According to the Battelle research organization, based in Columbus, Ohio, conventional offset presses are still the favored counterfeiting tool. Using straightforward printing technology, a plate is made for a small press and run off. But high-tech copier technology is a concern to be addressed by some changes in our currency.
"Foreign currencies have features such as watermarks, special inks and fibers, and in the case of Australia, Austria and Finland, holograms on some bills," said Gordon Pickett, senior manager in Battelle's polymer center. "The advent of color copiers is what's driving the Treasury Department to take some action."
The American Bankers Association urges that everyone receiving paper dollars watch for printed lines that aren't sharp and clear; unusual paper texture; crooked or badly spaced printing; denominations or serial numbers that vary on the same bill; and two or more bills listing the same serial number.
The ABA also says to make sure that an incorrect portrait is not printed on the bill. That final warning, I would guess, includes those hard-to-find Andrew Leckey dollar bills.