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18 fun facts about the $2 bill

Believe it or not, $2 bills are seen in circulation so rarely that some people think they're counterfeit upon first encountering them.

By MSN Money Partner Aug 24, 2012 11:38AM

This post comes from Len Penzo at partner blog Len Penzo dot Com.


Len Penzo dot Com on MSN MoneyNot too long ago I had to mosey on down to my local hardware store because I needed propane for my barbecue grill. The total price for the refill came to $17.96.


U.S. Bureau of Engraving and PrintingAt first I tried to pay with a credit card, but, for some reason, their machine was on the fritz, so I gave the kid the only money I had in my wallet -- a $20 bill. In return, he gave me a $2 bill and four pennies. I'm not kidding.


Talk about a numismatic nightmare.


Of course, the cashier tried to convince me that he had just handed over $2.04, but as far as I was concerned, he gave me the financial equivalent of two matchsticks and a ball of lint. If that.

After all, nobody spends $2 bills -- and everybody hates pennies.


The truth is, if you're like me and most other people, pennies typically get tossed into desk drawers or five-gallon pickle jars -- and sometimes even the trash -- never to be seen again.

As for $2 bills, because people rarely ever see them, they usually end up being tucked away in old dressers and other secret hiding places as souvenirs or, maybe, wondrous birthday and Christmas gifts for kids.


Of course, people rarely see them because nobody ever spends them. (Post continues below.)

Anyway, here are 18 facts you probably didn't know about all those $2 bills you're currently squirreling away for no good reason:

  1. Although Thomas Jefferson has been featured on the $2 bill since 1869, it was Alexander Hamilton's portrait that originally graced the front of the bill when it was introduced in 1862.
  2. Jefferson's home, Monticello, was first featured on the bill's reverse side in 1929. The Monticello gift shop reportedly now gives them out as change to encourage their circulation.
  3. In 1925, the U.S. government tried -- unsuccessfully -- to increase the popularity of the $2 bill by placing one in federal employee pay envelopes.
  4. After years of public indifference to the $2 bill, production was finally discontinued in 1966, only to be restarted as part of the U.S. Bicentennial celebration in 1976.
  5. The revised $2 bill from 1976 replaced Monticello with a depiction of John Trumbull's painting "Declaration of Independence."
  6. Industrious folks looking to create a moneymaking collectible had the new $2 bills postmarked by the U.S. Postal Service on their first day of issue (April 13, 1976).
  7. Unfortunately, so many of them did so that, even today, there are enough postmarked bills floating around to ensure they don't command much above the $2 bill's face value.
  8. As a general rule of thumb, if a $2 bill has a red Treasury seal and serial numbers, it's at least a somewhat valuable collectible. If the bill has a green Treasury seal and serial numbers, then it's probably not worth more than face value.
  9. Believe it or not, $2 bills are seen in circulation so rarely that some people think they're counterfeit upon first encountering them.
  10. In 2005, a Baltimore man was arrested and held in custody until Secret Service agents could verify that the 57 $2 bills he used to pay Best Buy for installing a radio-CD player in his son's car were genuine.
  11. Actually, it's a wonder we don't see $2 bills more often; as late as the turn of the 21st century, more than $1.1 billion worth of the bills were in circulation.
  12. For its part, the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing continues to print $2 bills, including 230 million of them in 2006. Even so, $2 bills make up just 1% of all U.S. bills in circulation.
  13. In 1989, Geneva Steel in Provo, Utah, paid its employee bonuses with $2 bills to highlight the importance of the steel mill to the local economy. That fact became obvious after the rare bills began appearing in stores throughout the surrounding communities.
  14. Then again, not every merchant is enamored with $2 bills. Over the years, there have been more than a few claims of businesses refusing to accept them as legal tender.
  15. According to the U.S. Treasury, merchants aren't legally obligated to accept $2 bills -- or bills of any other denomination. Yes, they have to accept U.S. dollars, but those dollars don't have to be in the form of coins and paper money.
  16. Legally, there is nothing stopping vendors from choosing to accept payment in U.S. dollars for goods and services only via credit cards or other electronic means.
  17. The next time you pay for something using a $2 bill, the odds are that the cashier will have to put it under the cash drawer. That's because most businesses prefer to use the register's five bill slots for ones, fives, 10s, 20s, and checks or coupons.
  18. Speaking of spare change, for quite a while now strip clubs have been including $2 bills in their customers' change whenever possible to help increase tip income for their dancers. Well, at least that's what I've been told.

More on Len Penzo dot Com and MSN Money:

Aug 24, 2012 3:21PM
Just take the LEGAL TENDER and shut up!
Aug 24, 2012 2:48PM
You didn't know this country had a $2 bill, you thought it was fake? you were so intrigued that you wrote an article about $2 bills because it was such a novelty to you due to your ignorance about the currency of the country in which you reside in, and were most likely born in, which only illustrates your ignorance about the nation in which you live...then you further illustrate the general ignorance of your fellow American's by pointing out that people generally see $2 as counterfeit due to their "rarity", how about due to their ignorance, like yours?
Aug 24, 2012 7:58PM
I know this is supposed to be about the $2 bill (which I'd be perfectly fine getting for change by the way). But as for throwing away pennies... people who do that are idiots. I dump my pennies into a jug every day and after a couple months I take it to my bank which has a coin sorter that is free for bank customers. I dump them in and usually walk out with $50 or so.
Aug 24, 2012 1:55PM
In my house two dollar bills are tooth fairy money since the tooth fairy leaves them for each tooth lost.
Aug 24, 2012 5:44PM

I enjoy "odd" money like $2 bills, Eisenhower dollars and the Sacajawea dollars. Really confuses Gen Y clerks, you'd think I was trying to pass off money from Europe or Australia. Funny to watch their flustered reactions.

Aug 24, 2012 5:36PM
I spend $2 bills all the time.
I frequently(every other payday) request either a "strap" (100 bills), or just whatever they have in the till.

They're fun to spend, give as tips, or just buy little items that are more than $1 (drinks, etc).
People always ask where I got them, and I tell them, "go to the bank and ask them, they usually have some on hand"
Aug 24, 2012 6:35PM

There are tens of millions of US $2 bills in southeast Asia.  They are very popular there for several reasons:  in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, Thomas Jefferson is a revered political figure, the personification of democratic political thought. 


In Khmer society, it is thought that "a household that possesses a US $2 bill can never go broke."


A Cambodian told me once that of all the sights to see in Washington, D.C., the one she would most want to visit was the Jefferson Memorial, because "that is the place that Americans go to protest against their goverment, and the police cannot shoot you."


Their reverence for Jefferson does not seem to extend to coins, however--I do NOT recommend you attempt to tip in Phnom Penh with a NICKEL!

Aug 24, 2012 2:43PM
Aug 24, 2012 8:29PM

I LOVE $2 bills.

Half dollar and dollar coins too.

I especially love Susan B. Anthony dollar coins!


Every pay check, the money I know I will spend in a physical store, I cash out as half dollar & dollar coins and $2 & $10 bills.

Years ago, when I had a retail job, there were never enough $10 bills available; I simply try to help out that problem with my small efforts.


I actually had a young girl checker at a Wal-Mart page a CSM and ask them if I was trying to pay her in play money when spending these.

My eldest son had to grab the counter to not fall over laughing!

The CSM simply rolled his eyes and assured her that the currency was indeed real.


I HATE the common ignorance about history and finance I see around the United States.

Aug 24, 2012 12:40PM
TO RECAP;  NObody likes them, vendors and merchants dont want them and can/will refuse payment in them.  And just a while back, the Federal govt decided that the $1 coins were not worth putting out through the banks anymore, while the costly $1 bill was....

And they say Crane Paper Co doesnt have a few CongressPerps in their pocket.

Aug 24, 2012 9:52PM
If you want a bartender or server to remember you next time just include a two (or two) in the tip.  I always carry several.  When a niece was getting married a few years ago I got 500 brand new, uncirculated, sequentially serial numbered twos from my local bank and overlapped them end to end by an inch or so over plastic wrap, then folded it over to make a big long ribbon.  It was rolled up and stuffed into an antique milk can from great grandpa's circa 1920s dairy farm with an end right there when the lid was opened.  It came to about 10 yards long.  Several people said it was the most unique and memorable wedding gift they'd ever seen.  (And I got it at cost.)
Aug 24, 2012 6:15PM
Wow....there are people out there who don't know about $2 bills?? I would understand a teenager not knowing, but come on people!
Aug 24, 2012 3:24PM
I get them for my Daughters school lunch which is $2 a day(when the bank has them)
Aug 24, 2012 6:00PM
I get $2 bills frequently when I recycle my aluminium cans. I also get 50 cent pieces too. I spend them both so they are not that rare.
Aug 24, 2012 5:51PM

Be glad we are still using pennies as currency, otherwise the amount would have been rounded up to the nearest nickel.


Aug 24, 2012 3:11PM
i have hundreds of them. I save them for the kids. banks hate them as their auto counters will not accept them.  it is nmore economical to print this than make a penny or a 1 dollar bill
Aug 24, 2012 7:33PM

Wow!! The $2 bill is popular with the ladies.

They fit nice in a G string.

At least that's the way I see it.

Aug 24, 2012 5:32PM
I used to get them at the race track all the time.  It's a minimum bet.
Aug 24, 2012 6:18PM

How about a $ 500.00 Billl,have not seen them for 40 years......



Aug 27, 2012 3:53PM
I am surprised they aren't more popular since many items that used to cost less than $1 are now between $1 - $2.  Like gum, pop etc. You used to hand the cashier a $1 and get a few cents back and now you have to dig out two $1s for the same purpose...
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