The Taipei Times for June 27 carried the following article: "Debate rages over currency ‘misprint'".
It is a question of whether the upper part of the long form of the character for the word yī ("one"), i.e., 壹, should be written as 士 ("scholar"), the "correct" configuration, with the ends of the upper horizontal stroke extending beyond those of the lower horizontal stroke, or 土 ("land; earth"), as it appears on certain banknotes, with the ends of the upper horizontal stroke being shorter than those of the lower horizontal stroke. Fortunately, yī ("one") is usually written as 一, the simplest of all Chinese characters, consisting of only a single horizontal stroke. The complicated form 壹, with twelve strokes, is used in banking, business, and so forth, to avoid mistakes and forgery.
These kinds of controversies about the proper shapes of Chinese characters are surprisingly common, and include the following types of differences of opinion:
1. how to write certain components (e.g., rì 日 or yuē 曰)
2. how many strokes there are in a character (counts can vary fairly widely)
3. the order of strokes
4. the proper shapes of stroke (should, for example, they have a hook at the bottom?)
5. whether two strokes intersect or not
6. which of two or more variant forms is the preferred one
7. differences in the way characters have been written through time and space
8. preferences for various simplified forms
9. different possibilities for the identification of various components (e.g., does the 月 radical in certain characters mean "flesh" or "moon"?)
10. whether one line extends above / beyond another line, just barely touches it, or doesn't quite reach it
All of these things make a huge difference when one is trying to look / call up characters in shape-based dictionaries and electronic information processing systems. This is another reason (aside from speed and ease) why most people now rely on sound-based systems when looking / calling up Chinese characters and words — when they know how a given character or word is pronounced (which most of the time is the case).
Judging from the standard of rectitude in writing applied to 壹 described at the beginning of this post, there are lots of "mistakes" in the three characters (shènglùyì 聖 路易) used to transcribe the name "St. Louis" here:
But the mistakes are probably intentional stylizations, though they are stretching recognizability almost to the limit in the last character (if it appeared in isolation, many people might have a hard time figuring out what it is supposed to be)
[h.t. to Mark Swofford]