Is your 1985 20-dollar bill fake? The 1985 $20 is one of the most counterfeited banknotes in the United States. If you’re wondering whether your 1985 $20 is real or fake, this comprehensive guide will help you resolve that dilemma.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Examine the portrait, serial numbers, color-shifting ink, security thread, watermark, and feel of the paper to determine if a 1985 20-dollar bill is counterfeit.

Genuine bills will have highly detailed engraving with no blurred lines, matching serial numbers, color-shifting ink that changes from copper to green, an embedded security thread that glows under UV light, a distinct watermark portrait visible when held up to light, and stiff paper with embedded red and blue fibers.

In this detailed guide, we’ll cover what security features to check on 1985 series $20 bills to determine if they’re fake, as well as the differences between real and counterfeit $20 bills in terms of engraving, color, text, paper quality, and more.

Examining the Portrait and Engraving

Is Your 1985 20 Dollar Bill Fake? How To Spot Counterfeits
Image from Silver Recyclers

Look for blurred lines and missing details

When examining the portrait on a 1985 $20 bill, it’s important to pay close attention to the fine details. Counterfeiters often struggle to replicate the intricate lines and features present in genuine bills. One telltale sign of a fake is blurred lines or missing details in the portrait.

Take a close look at the face, hair, and clothing of the individual depicted on the bill. Are the lines crisp and well-defined, or do they appear smudged or fuzzy? Genuine bills will have clear and distinct lines, while counterfeit bills may exhibit blurriness or a lack of fine details.

Pay attention to the borders

The borders of a 1985 $20 bill provide another area to examine for potential counterfeits. Genuine bills have precise and well-defined borders, while counterfeit bills may have irregular or uneven borders.

Look closely at the edges of the bill and check for any signs of blurriness, roughness, or inconsistency in the printing. In addition, authentic bills have intricate and detailed patterns within the borders, such as fine lines or microprinting.

Counterfeit bills may lack these intricate details or have them poorly replicated.

It’s important to note that counterfeiters have become increasingly sophisticated in their methods. Some counterfeit bills can be very convincing and difficult to detect with the naked eye alone. Therefore, it’s recommended to use additional methods, such as UV light or counterfeit detection pens, to further verify the authenticity of a 1985 $20 bill.

For more detailed information and visual examples, you can visit the official website of the United States Secret Service, which provides extensive resources on how to detect counterfeit currency.

Checking the Serial Numbers

Image from Mighty Bargain Hunter

One of the first steps in determining if your 1985 $20 bill is fake is to check the serial numbers. The serial numbers on authentic bills are printed with a unique combination of letters and numbers that are evenly spaced and aligned.

Counterfeit bills often have serial numbers that are poorly printed, unevenly spaced, or not aligned properly. Take a close look at the serial numbers on your bill and compare them to a known authentic bill to see if they match up.

Look for Consistency

Authentic bills will have serial numbers that are consistent in font size, style, and spacing. Counterfeit bills may have inconsistencies in these areas, which can be a red flag. Compare the font size and style of the serial numbers on your bill to that of a genuine bill.

If there are noticeable differences, it could indicate that your bill is fake.

Check for Repetition

Another thing to look out for is repetition in the serial numbers. Authentic bills will have unique serial numbers, while counterfeit bills may have the same serial number printed multiple times on different bills. This is a common tactic used by counterfeiters to save time and money.

If you notice any repetition in the serial numbers on your bill, it is likely a fake.

Use Online Resources

If you’re still unsure about the authenticity of your 1985 $20 bill, there are online resources available to help you. The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing has a website that provides information on how to identify counterfeit currency.

They also have a tool called the “Currency Note Reader” which allows you to enter the serial number of your bill to check its authenticity. Additionally, there are online forums and communities where collectors and experts can help you determine if your bill is genuine or not.

Remember, spotting counterfeit bills takes practice and attention to detail. Checking the serial numbers is just one aspect of the process. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so if you suspect that your 1985 20-dollar bill is fake, it’s best to take it to a professional for further examination.

Testing the Color-Shifting Ink

One of the key security features of a 1985 $20 bill is the color-shifting ink. This ink is used to print the large numeral “20” on the bottom right corner of the bill. It is designed to change color when the bill is tilted, making it difficult for counterfeiters to replicate.

To test the color-shifting ink, there are a few simple steps you can follow:

Step 1: Tilt the Bill

Start by holding the bill in your hand and tilting it back and forth. Observe the numeral “20” closely and see if the color changes. Legitimate bills will show a shift from copper to green or vice versa when tilted.

Step 2: Check for Smooth Transition

As you tilt the bill, pay attention to how smoothly the color transition occurs. Genuine bills will have a seamless shift from one color to another. If you notice any abrupt changes or inconsistent transitions, it may indicate a counterfeit bill.

Step 3: Compare with a Genuine Bill

If you have access to a known genuine 1985 $20 bill, compare the color-shifting ink on the suspect bill with the genuine one. Place the bills side by side and tilt them simultaneously to see if the color changes align. Any noticeable differences could be a sign of counterfeiting.

It’s important to note that while the color-shifting ink is a reliable security feature, counterfeiters have become increasingly skilled at replicating it. Therefore, it’s essential to combine this test with other methods of counterfeit detection, such as examining the watermark, security thread, and microprinting.

For more detailed information on counterfeit detection and tips on how to spot fake 1985 $20 bills, you can visit the U.S. Currency Education Program website.

Looking for the Security Thread

One of the key features to look for when determining the authenticity of a 1985 $20 bill is the security thread. The security thread is a thin strip embedded in the bill that runs vertically from top to bottom. It is an important security feature that counterfeiters often struggle to replicate.

Use a UV light to check the thread

One of the easiest ways to check for the security thread is by using a UV light. Counterfeit $20 bills may lack this security feature or have a poorly replicated thread. When you shine a UV light on a genuine bill, you will see a thin line running from top to bottom that glows a specific color depending on the bill’s denomination.

For a 1985 20-dollar bill, the thread should glow green.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a UV light handy, you can also hold the bill up to a bright light source. The security thread should still be visible as a thin vertical line when held up to the light.

It’s important to note that some counterfeit bills may have a fake security thread that can pass a simple UV light test. Therefore, it is always recommended to use multiple methods to authenticate a bill.

Holding Up to Light to View Watermark

One of the simplest ways to determine if a 1985 $20 bill is authentic or counterfeit is by examining the watermark. The watermark is a security feature that is embedded into genuine currency during the manufacturing process.

When you hold the bill up to a light source, you should be able to see a faint image of the portrait featured on the bill. In the case of the 1985 $20 bill, the watermark will show a faint image of President Jackson, the 7th President of the United States.

To properly view the watermark, find a well-lit area and hold the bill up to a light source. Position the bill so that the light shines through the paper. Look for the watermark just to the right of the portrait of Andrew Jackson.

If you can see the watermark clearly, it is a good indication that the bill is genuine. However, if the watermark is not visible or is blurry, there is a possibility that it could be a counterfeit.

What to Look for in the Watermark

When examining the watermark, there are a few key details to look for that can help you determine if the bill is authentic:

  • Clarity: The watermark should be clear and well-defined. If it appears smudged or blurry, it may be a sign of a counterfeit bill.
  • Size: The size of the watermark should match the size of the portrait on the front of the bill. If the watermark appears too small or too large, it could be a counterfeit.
  • Detail: Genuine watermarks have intricate details that can be seen when held up to light. Look for fine lines and shading within the watermark.

Some counterfeit bills may have watermarks that appear convincing at first glance. Therefore, it is always best to examine multiple security features and consult with a professional if you have any doubts about the authenticity of a 1985 $20 bill.

For more information on counterfeit currency and how to detect it, visit the U.S. Currency Education Program website.

Feeling the Paper’s Quality

One of the first things you can do to determine if your 1985 $20 bill is fake is to feel the paper quality. Counterfeit bills are often made with lower-quality paper that feels different from genuine currency.

Run your finger along the note

Start by running your finger along the entire surface of the bill. Genuine currency is printed on a special blend of cotton and linen fibers, giving it a unique texture. Counterfeit bills, on the other hand, may feel smoother or even slightly sticky to the touch.

If the bill feels off or doesn’t have a distinctive texture, it could be a sign of a fake.

Bend and snap the note

Another way to test the paper quality is by bending and snapping the note. Genuine currency has a crisp, firm feel when you bend it. It should quickly snap back into place without any creases or folds. Counterfeit bills, however, may feel flimsy or easily crease when bent.

If the bill doesn’t hold its shape or feels weak, it’s a red flag that it may be counterfeit.

Remember, these methods are just initial indicators and not foolproof ways to determine the authenticity of a 1985 $20 bill. If you have doubts about the bill’s legitimacy, it’s always best to consult with a professional or contact your local authorities for further assistance.

Comparing Other Security Features

Aside from examining the watermark and security thread, there are other security features on a 1985 $20 bill that can help you determine its authenticity. By familiarizing yourself with these features, you can become more confident in identifying counterfeit bills.


Microprinting is one of the most effective anti-counterfeiting measures used on currency. It involves printing tiny, intricate text that is nearly impossible to replicate accurately. On a genuine 1985 $20 bill you will find microprinting in various locations, such as the borders, numbers, and even within the portraits.

To check for micro printing, use a magnifying glass. Authentic bills will display clear and crisp text, while counterfeit bills may show blurry or irregular patterns. Look for words like “TWENTY DOLLARS” or “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” that are so small they appear as solid lines when magnified.

Federal Reserve and Treasury seals

The Federal Reserve and Treasury seals are another crucial security feature to examine. These seals are typically printed in green ink and appear on the front of the bill. Counterfeit bills may have seals that lack detail or have inconsistent coloring.

On a genuine 1985 $20 bill, the Treasury seal should be located to the right of the portrait, and the Federal Reserve seal should be on the left. Both seals should be printed clearly and be easily recognizable.

Counterfeit bills may have blurred or smudged seals, so pay close attention to these details.

For more information on the various security features and how to detect counterfeit money, you can visit the U.S. Currency Education Program website. They provide comprehensive resources and visual aids to help educate the public on currency authenticity.

Is Your 1985 20-Dollar Bill Fake? How To Spot Counterfeits Mystery Resolved

With counterfeiting becoming more advanced, it’s important to closely inspect any older high denomination bills like the 1985 series $20. By checking the portrait, serial numbers, color-shifting ink, security thread, watermark, and paper quality, you can determine if your $20 bill is real or fake.

The next time you come across an older $20 bill, be sure to take a few seconds and examine it for signs of counterfeiting. Catching fake bills early can save you from loss as well as help prevent them from circulating further.

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