• seperator

Aug. 26, 2003


In August of 2003, Numismatic News reported the interesting story of the discovery of a $20 note that had somehow gotten stuck with a Del Monte banana sticker some time during the printing process.

Banana label on note

Is corporate influence on the government growing, or is it just a zoo some days at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing?

How else do you explain a Del Monte sticker getting onto a $20 note during the printing process – after the majority of the face design was printed but before the serial numbers and Treasury seal were applied in the third printing? Then the note apparently slipped past quality control, coming to light publicly in an online auction.

The error note christened “The Del Monte Note” or “The Banana Note,” drew the attention of about 12 different eBay bidders, eventually purchased by a paper money collector in Arizona for slightly over $10,000.

The overprinted sticker is on a Series 1996 $20 Federal Reserve Note.

Daniel Wishnatsky, the note’s new owner, said that the note had been acquired from a bank teller in Ohio who’d said he found the note among a group he received from an ATM.

He said this type of error is called an “obstructed print with retained obstruction” according to Stephen M. Sullivan’s U.S. Error Note Encyclopedia, where Sullivan lists a Class Rarity Rating of R9. The note has been authenticated by Sullivan and also certified and graded AU-58 by Currency Grading and Certification. The CGC label in the holder refers to the note as “The Del Monte.”

At first glance the note appears uncirculated, possessing sharp corners and completely original paper surfaces. The sticker itself is secured to the note.

According to Sullivan’s book, most retained obstructions “are unique and those that are easily recognizable (i.e., a Band Aide strip, cigarette packer wrapper, scotch tape, etc.) are highly sought after.” What distinguishes the Banana Note from other notes in this category is its dramatic look – and the reaction it gets from collectors and non-collectors alike.

Wishnatsky showed two BEP employees a high-resolution scan of the note during the recent American Numismatic Association show in Baltimore.

“One of the BEP employees could not believe her eyes, and once she finally gathered herself wanted to jot down the serial number. Another BEP person was relieved that it was produced at the Fort Worth facility,” said Wishnatsky.

They conjectured that the sticker was likely not an accident, rather a deliberate action by someone in production. They said that BEP cafeteria facilities are separate from the note-printing area, so accidental placement of the sticker was unlikely. The relatively perfect placement of the sticker adds strength to that argument.