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The U.S. Currency Gets a Makeover

Portraits on U.S. Currency Keep Getting Younger

more info and pix after the jump

The iconic images of presidents–the ones printed on our money–are timeless. Or are they? Rather than staying the same, the members of America’s honorable legion look like a fine wine: better with age. They appear cleaner, sharper, and, well, nipped and tucked. The Bureau of Printing and Engraving, the federal agency that designs and prints new bills, claims that redesigns are undertaken solely to thwart counterfeiters. "If there are [cosmetic changes], it was completely unconscious," says BEP Director Larry Felix. But in a society entranced by aesthetics, the brushups are unmistakable. For an expert look, NEWSWEEK consulted New York plastic surgeon Dr. David Hidalgo to illuminate just how much time each deacon of his denomination spent under the artistic knife. Read on....

Andrew Jackson

This Andrew Jackson portrait has been on the $20 bill since 1928 (far left). It was redesigned in 1998 (center), then again in 2003 (right). With his new look, President Jackson went from old hickory to new hickory.

DR. HIDALGO: 'President Jackson has been treated with injectables to fill in his temple hollows and laugh lines (nasolabial folds). His lower-eyelid fat bags have been removed to make him less tired looking, but he has acquired an overall 'surgical look' in the process. Together with the hair styling and blow-dry (does he still have a stylist’s apron on?) he looks a bit less masculine than before.'

Abraham Lincoln

The original portrait of Lincoln (far left) first appeared on the $5 bill in 1923 (before that, Alexander Hamilton, Ulysses Grant, and Andrew Jackson made appearances on the note). The Lincoln bill was redesigned in 2000 (center), and then in 2006. According to our surgeon, it seems as if someone bestowed a laser peel upon Lincoln.

DR. HIDALGO: 'President Lincoln has been treated to a full-face laser peel that has removed all blemishes and has rejuvenated his sun-damaged skin [this is the effect of a softer engraving technique with no dotted lines]. He has been treated to a haircut and an expert dye job that leaves only a few wisps of distinguished gray color. His beard has been trimmed to give him a less disheveled look. His eyebrows have been waxed to remove errant hairs. He has gotten small cheek implants that he did not need (it would have been better to fill in his hollow cheeks with fat or injectables). His nasolabial folds are a bit softer, suggesting the addition of injectable fillers. Surgically, he has been treated to a subtle rhinoplasty that retains a masculine look. The nose is straightened and the aged, drooping tip raised. He has had his lower-eyelid bags surgically removed, effectively eliminating a tired look.'

Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton first appeared on the Federal Reserve Note in 1914 (before that, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and Lewis and Clark were among notables on $10 currency).The Hamilton portrait (far left) was changed in 2000 (center), then again in 2005 (right). His redesigned portrait has taken a star turn, as he time-travels from Capitol Hill to One Tree Hill.
DR. HIDALGO: 'Hamilton has been treated to a full-face laser peel to smooth his complexion, lower-eyelid surgery to remove bags and a tired look, and a subtle tweaking of his nasal tip to make it less angular. One cannot rule out jaw implants to give a more masculine jawline. He has the subtle rejuvenated look of a well-done face-lift and has been treated to a blow-dry. In the latest version he looks like a movie star!'

Ulysses S. Grant

This portrait of President Grant was first put to use on the $50 bill in 1929 (far left), then redesigned in 1997 (center), then again in 2004 (right). The new appearance of this old portrait seems to give the president a more civil look.
DR. HIDALGO: 'President Grant has had Botox to soften an angry look between the eyes and also the lower forehead. He has had subtle upper- and lower-eyelid surgery to make him look less tired. A trim of the beard and some eyebrow-shaping makes him look more lean and fit.'

Benjamin Franklin

Though he never served as president, Benjamin Franklin's portrait has been on many denominations of U.S. currency. This portrait has been used on the $100 bill since 1929 (far left), was redesigned in 1996 (left), and then again in a soon-to-be-released bill in April 2010. Franklin was an advocate for living on a budget, so it makes sense that he opted for a frugal makeover.
DR. HIDALGO: 'This one does not fit the mold. He does not look any better in the new version. There are slight improvements though: soair coloring and and possibly some tightening of the neck.