21 September 2008

Disney Dollars: Currency With Character For The Magic Kingdom

Disney Dollars have been in circulation since 1987. In the Fall of that year, Disney News’ Jackie Schell gave readers some insight into the painstaking process that led to the first Disney dough.

The romance of travel.

Cross a border into a foreign land and leave “back home” far behind. There are new sights to see, new smells to savor and a different language to fill our ears. Even dealing with the local currency is an adventure.

A trip to Disneyland is like visiting a foreign land. Enter the Magic Kingdom and leave the real world behind. This enchanted realm has its own City Hall. A one horse-power transit system. A fire department. Even a navy that boasts among its fleet a sternwheel steamboat and sleek submarines.

Last May, the Disneyland fantasy became complete when Disney Dollars were issued. Now guests crossing the frontier between reality and Disneyland can exchange their U.S. currency for this new coin of the realm.

“Disneyland has long been considered its own nation,” explains Jack Lindquist, Executive Vice-President of Marketing and Entertainment for Disneyland/Walt Disney World. “If you count our guests and cast members, we have a population in the millions. In keeping with that theme, it seemed natural to create our own currency. It’s an extension of the fantasy environment we offer our guests.”

Disney Dollars are available in $1 and 5$ denominations, with Mickey Mouse and a Disney Fantasyland castle on the $1 bill, Goofy and the Mark Twain steamboat on the $5.

Guests can receive their change in Disney Dollars for ticket purchases or for any regular transactions throughout the Park, such as food, merchandise, and service. Then after a day at Disneyland, the currency can be changed back into U.S. notes. But many of these beautiful, brightly colored bills will be tucked away as souvenirs. “Disneyana” fans are among the most dedicated collectors in the world.

“The collector market could easily swallow up half of those (Disney Dollars) and they’ll never get used,” says Tom Tumbusch, and Ohio author of a three-volume guide to Disneyana collectibles. Tumbusch also cites the practice of some Disneyland guests who bank within the Park to have a special Disneyland check drafted without any intention of ever cashing it.

So the success of Disney Dollars seems assured. But this is far more than “funny” money, and anti-counterfeiting is of the highest priority. The production of Disney Dollars employs highly sophisticated techniques. State of the art four-color printing was produced by Embossing Printers, Inc. of Battle Creek Michigan. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time four-color currency has ever been used in the United States,” said Mike Fatt, Vice President and General Manager of EPI. “The Walt Disney Company is known for their excellence through the world, and it is very exciting for us to be involved in this pioneering program.”

The next step in creating Disney Dollars was a complex intaglio engraving process. This gives the bills raised texture and fine detail. United States Banknote Corporation of Chicago, a recognized leader in the design of stock certificates, bank notes, and bonds and other security documents, completed this part of the process. “What we produced for the Disney organization, the engraving and making of the two plates ($1 and $5 denominations), took 203 hours,” said Morris Weisman, Chairman of the Board of U.S. Banknote.

Each bill carries an individual serial number. And, to further prevent counterfeiting, the bills were printed on rare, expensive rag cotton stock which bears a subtle watermark.

Look on the face of a Disney Dollar and you’ll see the finishing touch that makes these bills official, the signature of Scrooge McDuck, Secretary of the Disney Treasury. “I’m glad we’re finally producing our own money,” says Scrooge. “I’d like to see a famous Disney Duck on one of these bills in the future. Say Donald, Huey, Dewey, Louie – or even me!”

The Treasurer’s only misgivings center around the even exchange rate with U.S. currency, “This is really beautiful money, I tried to convince the administration that it is worth much more. But they thought I was quackers.”

For the inaugural run, over $2 million worth of Disney Dollars were put into circulation. The bills, identical to those Disneyland, will be available at Walt Disney World beginning October 1. A 1988 series of Disney Dollars will be introduced early next year, in line with plans to issue new currency annually.

So when your travels take you to the magic Kingdoms, don’t be surprised if someone asks, “Do you have five Mickey’s for a Goofy?”

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