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Dear Matt:

When I opened my wallet this morning, I pulled out a dollar and noticed it had a little star printed on it, right after the serial number. None of my other dollars has a star. What does it mean? Another way to prevent counterfeiting? And if my dollar is unique, should I hang on to it in case it's valuable someday?

LeeZee, in the Navy

Wow! Thinkin� maybe you've won the Federal Reserve's equivalent of the Super Lotto - five minutes running amok in Ft. Knox with a shopping cart? If you've taped that bill under the toilet tank for safekeeping, I'd suggest you rip it off and take it down to the 7-Eleven and invest in a Slurpee or something. All you have is what's called a star note. It just means that somebody at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing flubbed up. As you can imagine, quality control is a major concern when you're printing currency. And when you're printing currency, you give each bill its own serial number. When a substandard bill comes off the press, it's destroyed, then reprinted with the bad bill's serial number followed by a star to indicate that it's a replacement. Star notes are unusual; less than a half a percent of the annual government print run gets messed up and replaced. The bills are collected by some hobbyists, but don't count on your buck to finance the kids' college or a tank of gas. Sorry, Lee, but your life really is tedious and uneventful, just as you suspected all along.

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