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FIFTEEN MINUTES WITH ...

U.S. Treasury rep Antoinette Banks

When your last name is Banks and you work for the U.S. Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, you've probably heard the phrase "show me the money" more often than anyone this side of Cuba Gooding Jr. But Antoinette Banks doesn't mind a bit, and she's been showing the money for the last 13 years as part of the Treasury's traveling currency exhibit, which is at the Long Beach Convention Center this weekend. Where else can you see a half-billion-dollar note and so much more?

February 24, 2005|Mark Sachs

Do people ask about taking home a souvenir?

Yes, they always ask if we're passing out any samples, and I tell them, "I'm sorry, that's only on the second Tuesday of every month." But we do have a complete selection of souvenirs for purchase, like sheets of uncut currency. And it's real, so if one took the scissors to it they could really use it. In Florida, we had a guy buy a sheet and then take it to a bar that night. When it came time to tip the barmaid, he pulled out the sheet and began to cut off some bills. They ended up calling the police on him. But people use the sheets for wallpaper, wrapping paper -- it's amazing what they do with money.

What's the strangest question you've been asked?

If they paid my salary with cash right from the vault.

What's the most popular part of the exhibit?

The spider printing press. It's over 100 years old, and the spokes stick out like a daddy longlegs spider; that's how it got its name. We ink it up, put the wet paper in and go right through the printing process and people can see the new currency coming out. That's how we really used to do things.

What's the largest bill people can carry around with them?

The $10,000 note. Anything bigger than that is only for use between banks and clearinghouses.

Do you ever worry about foreign agents trying to pull off a "Mission: Impossible"-type heist?

No, the bureau is very serious about security, and they do a tremendous job making sure the tour goes off without a problem.... But I must say that I do worry a little bit about the average Joe, because people get right excited about seeing so much money.

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-- Mark Sachs

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Long Beach Coin, Stamp & Collectibles Expo, Long Beach Convention Center, 100 S. Pine Ave. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today and Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday. $8. www.longbeachshow.com

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