This $20 Bill Is Selling for Almost $70K Because There's a Banana Sticker on It
The unique note was "probably the result of some very bored or creative employee" at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
In the summer of 2004, a college student from Ohio went to an ATM, entered his PIN, and got a few bills out of the machine. Before he pocketed them, he noticed that one of the $20s had a Del Monte banana sticker on the front of it, just to the right of Andrew Jackson's head. Not only was the sticker firmly attached to the $20, but it was also overprinted with the serial number and the official seal of the U.S. Treasury.
The student realized that he had a unique collectible—and one that was probably worth more than its face value—so he put it on eBay. The "Del Monte Note," as it's now known, sold for around $10,000 bucks to a collector in Arizona. Two years later, the Banana Bill sold to a different collector who paid $25,300 for it. Last month, Heritage Auctions, a Dallas, Texas, auction house announced that it would be putting the famed $20 up for sale again and, as of this writing, the high bidder is willing to pay $67,000 (or $81,000 including the 20 percent buyer's premium) so that he or she can have a $20 that, uh, has a banana sticker on it.
"Most obstructions fall off shortly after printing, leaving behind a blank area of paper lacking the design, but errors with objects that 'stick' to the note and enter circulation are very rare," the item's description says. "When this note was printed at the Fort Worth Western Currency Facility, it went through the first and second printings normally before the Del Monte sticker found its way onto the surface. The sticker's placement is ideal, as it covers part of the second printing details and is overlaid by part of the Treasury Seal and the right serial number from the third printing."
Heritage Auctions suggests that, due to the three-part printing process that paper currency goes through, the well-timed sticker placement was "probably the result of some very bored or creative [U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing] employee." (CoinWeek concurs, adding that there is a significant distance between the staff cafeteria and the note-printing area in the Western Currency Facility.)
"Most of these errors in this class are not worth as much, but this one has just captured everybody's fascination," Dustin Johnston, the vice-president of currency at Heritage Auctions, told CBC News. "It's one of those in our industry that everybody knows about, Everybody would love to own. [It] made the cover of the latest book on banknote errors."
We seriously hope that whoever peeled a sticker off a banana and pressed it onto a piece of U.S. currency has been paying attention. It's probably safe to assume that most people's lunchtime pranks don't end up in CoinWeek—or sell for upwards of $65,000.