An ordinary fruit sticker that mysteriously ended up on a $20 bill could spur currency collectors to bid up to 1,000 times the bill's face value at an auction Friday.
The flawed bill bears a red, green and yellow Del Monte sticker next to Andrew Jackson's portrait. The bill originated at a U.S. Treasury Department printing facility in Fort Worth, but how the fruit tag found its way onto the greenback is unknown.
"I've collected for probably seven years now and nothing comes close to the way people react to it -- their eyes pop out," said Daniel Wishnatsky, a Phoenix currency collector who bought the bill in 2003 on the eBay auction Web site for $10,100.
Heritage Galleries and Auctioneers was auctioning the bill for Wishnatsky in Orlando, Florida. The auction company and Wishnatsky, a member of the Society of Paper Money Collectors, think the bill could fetch two to three times his investment.
Jason Bradford, president of PCGS Currency in Newport Beach, California, authenticated the error was genuine and not faked outside the printing plant.
Bradford said currency goes through three printing stages: first the back is printed, next the face and then the bill receives serial number and treasury seal stamps.
In the case of the Del Monte note, the seal and serial number are both printed on top of the sticker, meaning the fruit tag must have found its way onto the bill midway through the process, he said.
There's no way of knowing whether a mischievous printer intentionally placed the sticker on the bill, he said.
The Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which produces all U.S. paper money at facilities in Washington and Fort Worth, inspects and destroys flawed currency before it escapes the plants.
It investigated the note's history after the misprint surfaced but couldn't pinpoint a cause, spokeswoman Dawn Haley said.
The note, which is in nearly perfect condition, has achieved celebrity status among currency collectors, appearing on the covers of the Bank Note Reporter and Numismatic News.
As of Thursday, the auctioneers had already received an online bid of $14,000.