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What happened to the $2 bill?

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“A $2 bill would be perfect,” said Heather McCabe, a $2 bill evangelist and writer. “Very convenient for a small payment.”

But the $2 bill is the unloved child of paper currency.

In the United States, it is considered curiosity by some, and despised by others. There is no end to the myth surrounding his two-dollar bill, nicknamed “Tom” by his fans, due to the portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the front. Many Americans consider the $2 bill to be rare, no longer printed, or out of circulation.


The Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) plans to print up to $204 million in two-dollar bills this year, based on annual orders from the Federal Reserve. According to the latest Federal Reserve data, there were 1.4 billion $2 bills in circulation in 2020.
However, the $2 bill only accounts for 0.001% of the value of $2 trillion worth of currency in circulation.

BEP doesn’t have to ask for a new $2 bill each year like other bills. This is because the two-dollar bill is infrequently used and has a long circulation. The Federal Reserve orders them every few years and destocks them.

“A lot of Americans have pretty dubious assumptions about the $2 bill. Nothing happened to the $2 bill. It’s still being made. It’s in circulation,” McCabe said. “Americans are so misunderstood that they don’t use their own currency.”

bad luck

The United States first issued the $2 bill in 1862, when the federal government first started printing money. Alexander his portrait of Hamilton was in two photographs until a new series was printed with Jefferson in 1869.

However, Deuce was unpopular and never gained a foothold in the masses.

Main reason: $2 bills were considered bad luck. Superstitious people ripped off the corners of banknotes to “break the curse”, rendering them unusable.

The New York Times wrote in a 1925 article, “Those who play games of chance with two-dollar bills in their pockets are thought to have a jinx.” rice field.”

The two were also known to maintain controversial companies. It was associated with gambling and prostitution, standard bets on racetracks.

And in the 19th century, voter candidates often used two-dollar bills to bribe voters. It was believed that anyone with a $2 bill sold votes to a crooked politician.

In the 1900s, the Treasury Department made several unsuccessful attempts to popularize the use of $2 bills. In 1966, the printing of bills was abandoned and discontinued “due to lack of public demand”.

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But ten years later, as the United States neared its 200th anniversary, the Treasury Department designed a new series of $2 bills with a portrait of the signature of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

The aim was to reduce the number of one-dollar bills in circulation and save Treasury money in production costs.

However, the 1976 reopening was unsuccessful. People saw the newer versions as collector’s items and stocked up instead of going out and using them.

The Postal Service suggested stamping only April 13, the first day issued in honor of Jefferson’s birthday.

The New York Times stated in 1981, “The media and public now tend to associate the two-dollar bill with the Susan B. Anthony dollar under the general headline of ‘The Great Debacle.'” there is

Paolo Pasqualiello, a professor of finance at the University of Michigan, said there was no rational reason why the two-dollar bill wouldn’t be as popular as other bills. But people prefer multiples of 1 and 5.

Another reason the two-dollar bill didn’t become popular was that cash registers, invented in the late 1800s, weren’t designed with a place to put them, so cashiers didn’t know where to put them. Because.

“There were no changes to the two-dollar bill register,” said Heather McCabe. “The infrastructure for paying for things hasn’t changed. There have been no adjustments to how people treat their bills.”

She argued that if cash registers had a familiar slot for two-dollar bills, the bills would be more popular.

$2 subculture

But some people swear by two-dollar bills. In fact, communities and subcultures have developed around them.

U.S. Air Force pilots who fly U-2 reconnaissance planes always carry a $2 bill in their flight suits.
Since the 1970s, fans of the Clemson University Tigers football team have tipped in two-dollar bills (“Tiger Twos”) at restaurants, bars, shops, and hotels in other cities. The tradition began at Georgia Tech in Atlanta as a way to prove that scheduling a game with Clemson would benefit the city.
“They have a certain popularity. There’s excitement,” said American Numismatic Association curator Jesse Kraft. “But as far as getting them back into circulation, that’s the missing key.”

Kraft supports the wider adoption of the $2 bill.

Clemson fans mark their

He said the Treasury Department costs about half as much to print two-dollar bills as it does to print high denomination bills with expensive security features on paper. Also, he is more efficient at printing two-dollar bills than one-dollar bills. This is because for the same amount of money the Treasury can print twice as much and require less storage.

John Benardo, who made the 2015 film about the two-dollar bill, The Two Dollar Bill Documentary, is on a mission to “educate, enlighten, and start using the two-dollar bill in their lives.”

In short, the $2 bill is undervalued in the United States and a way for strangers to meet and engage.

“If you use a two-dollar bill, it will be memorable,” Benardo said. “There’s this ability to connect people in a way that other bills don’t. It opens up a dialogue between you and the cashier.”

“It’s a practical bill with inflation, but it’s also social currency.”

CNN’s Harry Enten contributed to this article.