Artist takes $20 bill design into his own hands with Harriet Tubman decorative stamp

Stamp sales surge after Mnuchin's announced delay

By Taylor Romine and Mimi Hsin Hsuan Sun, CNN
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A photograph of escaped slave, abolitionist and Union spy Harriet Tubman

(CNN) - Supporters of an Obama-era plan to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill were disappointed last week by news that the Treasury Department has delayed the bill's redesign.

But artist Dano Wall decided not to wait for the Trump administration to honor the Underground Railroad hero. He has created a stamp that can be used to superimpose Tubman's image over President Andrew Jackson's portrait.

Wall created the stamp in 2017 with the intent of getting Tubman on the bill as soon as possible. In February of that year, he gave about 100 stamps to his friends before opening an Etsy shop to sustain the costs.

But the stamp has soared in popularity in the last week after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday during a House Financial Services Committee meeting that he hasn't made any decisions about the redesigning the bill. Mnuchin told the committee that decisions about the imagery on the $20 "will not be an issue that comes up until most likely 2026."

Mnuchin's predecessor, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, announced in 2016 that the US would swap out Jackson, the slave-owning president whose legacy is synonymous with the Trail of Tears, with Tubman. Under Lew's plan, Tubman -- an escaped slave who would be the first black woman featured on official US currency -- would be on the face of the bill and Jackson moved from the front of the $20 to its back.

President Donald Trump previously slammed the move as "pure political correctness." And his administration has delayed plans to move forward with the redesign.

"My goal when I started making Tubman stamps was to get 5,000 made and into people's hands, as this seemed at the start like a goal of sufficient ambition as to put it almost out of reach, but not quite," Wall said. "I now have over 6,000 people who've signed up to be notified when more stamps go into stock, so I will likely eventually pass that goal."

Wall has had more than 600 sales on Etsy, often with more than one stamp in each sale. He is currently out of stock but his instructions on how to make your own stamp have been downloaded more than 5,000 times. Two "stamping stations" in New York City are listed on his website.

A video on the Tubman stamp website shows the stamped bills being accepted into a variety of different vending machines.

"I never thought it would take off in the way it has, but I'm very glad that so many people have responded to it with such passion," Wall said.

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