Not 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.
At 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, everybody hates pennies — and nobody knows what to do with $2 bills.
If you’re like me and most other people, pennies typically get tossed into desk drawers or five-gallon pickle jars where they are quickly forgotten.
As for $2 bills, well … due to their perceived rarity, they usually end up being tucked away in old dressers and other secret hiding places as collectible souvenirs — or even handed out as magical birthday and Christmas gifts for the kids.
As such, people rarely see $2 bills in circulation because nobody ever spends them.
With that in mind, here are 18 facts you probably didn’t know about all those $2 bills you’re currently squirreling away for no good reason:
- 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.
- Jefferson’s home, the 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.
- In 1925, the US government tried — unsuccessfully — to increase the popularity of the $2 bill by placing one in federal employee pay envelopes.
- After years of public indifference to the $2 bill, production was finally discontinued in 1966, only to be restarted as part of the American Bicentennial celebration in 1976.
- The revised $2 bill from 1976 replaced the Monticello with a depiction of John Trumbull’s painting, “Declaration of Independence.”
- Industrious folks looking to create a money-making collectable had the new $2 bills postmarked by the US Post Office on their first day of issue (April 13, 1976).
- 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.
- 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 collectable. If the bill has a green Treasury seal and serial numbers, then it’s probably not worth more than face value.
- Believe it or not, $2 bills are seen in circulation so rarely that some people still think they’re counterfeit upon first encountering them.
- 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.
- Actually, it’s a wonder we don’t see $2 bills more often; as late as the turn of the 21st century, there were over $1.1 billion worth of the bills in circulation.
- For its part, the US Bureau of Engraving and Printing continues to print $2 bills, including as many as 230 million of them back in 2006. Even so, $2 bills make up just 1% of all US bills in circulation.
- In 1989, Geneva Steel in Provo, Utah paid their 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 at merchants throughout the surrounding communities.
- 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 $2 bills as legal tender.
- According to the US Treasury, merchants aren’t legally obligated to accept $2 bills — or bills of any other denomination. Yes, they have to accept US dollars, but those dollars don’t have to be in the form of coins and paper money.
- Legally, there is nothing stopping vendors from choosing to only accept payment in US dollars for goods and services via credit cards or other electronic means.
- The next time you pay for something using a $2 bill, the odds are 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, tens, twenties and checks or coupons.
- Speaking of spare change, for quite awhile 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.
Photo Credit: The Comedian
The last one is hilarious! I bet it works though. I heard that if you call your bank in advance they can order 2 dollar bills if you want a bunch of them for some reason. I haven’t tried it though so I don’t know if it is true or not…
Buddy Gore says
I spend two dollar bills on a regular basis.I have paid for an item at a yard sale that was a dollar with a two dollar bill and the Lady tried to give me change back for a twenty more than once.There are no usa pennies.The U.S. only minted cents and half cents !!
Banks will order them for you – when I worked in one B of A, the busiest times were Christmas and Chinese New Year.
Mick Epperson says
I call ahead to my Credit Union and ask them to get $50 or sometimes $100 worth of the $2 bills. They will always say one if two things. 1).OK grandpa Mick. We got ’em fir you right now. Or 2) We will have them ready first thing in the morning. Yes. I am. Grandpa who has 20 grandkids. They love the novelty and the fact it is double a $1 bill.
I hear some people put pennies in the TRASH!
Say in ain’t so!
Where are these trash cans?
For some pennies??? Have at it man.
I thought the most useful thing to do with $2 bills was to give them to young relatives?
Next time you go to the shop, pay it $2 bills and dollar coins. Please take a picture.
My bank keeps $2 bills in stock, but doesn’t distribute them without a request. I get some whenever I get cash there, because it’s fun to spend.
Roger @ The Chicago Financial Planner says
Great stuff, I don’t think I’ve seen a $2 bill since I was a kid. Glad you qualified your “research” on point 18. LOL
I’m amazed by how you come by this information. Number 18 is too funny!
Many,many years ago (WWII) my Dad was paid in $2 bills. Company wanted to see how many stayed in the town. Still have one or two. Great idea as gifts for young relatives. In my volunteer position, I’ve had people refuse to take silver dollars in change!
About the only time I see $2 bills is when I pay the entrance fee at local gun shows. There’s always more than one old guy that thinks he is cool by giving your change in $2 bills.
Len Penzo says
That is not a coincidence, Squeezer. A lot of gun owners spend $2 bills as a means of showing support for the 2nd Amendment and the right to bear arms.
(That was another nugget of info I found researching this piece, but I left it out.)
Money Beagle says
When I was a kid, my grandparents used to give me $2 bills when I’d see them. I still have a big stack of them.
Not going to lie…I thought 2 dollar bills were a big myth. I found one in our monopoly box once.
Len Penzo says
Just think, Lauren … after all these years it still only takes 30 two-dollar bills to buy Baltic Ave!
Len, I will trade you a whole book of matches and a softball-sized ball of lint for your $2 bill!
Crystal @ Prairie Ecothrifter says
I want all of your $2 bills and pennies. I’ll trade you for “real” money. 😉 Seriously, I think odd money is awesome but still usable. 🙂
Years ago, I asked my bank for some $2 bills. They had none but said they could order 1000. 1000? They agreed to order the 1000 but let me just take 500. I used to send them with my daughter to school for lunch, give them to toll takers, etc. Never got stopped or questioned. In my opinion they are the most beautiful bill circulating today.
Len Penzo says
I agree, Joe. It is a very beautiful bill.
R.B. Seaney says
When I was in the USN in the mid 50’s we were paid in cash and 2 dollar bills were part of our pay. We always call the 2 dollar bills upstairs money, to spend in the houses of illrepute in Japan.
Haters gonna hate. Feel free to send me all of the $2 bills you have. I’ll e-mail you my mailing address.
As for pennies, you do know that the older ones (30 years ago and before) are worth more than twice their face value in copper content? And you throw them away!
I was on an Honor Flight with WWII veterans recently. When we arrived in DC, a man was giving $2 bills to certain WWII vets. I tried to ask the significance at the time, but we had to move on… Do you know of any unit or service these bills were more significant to?
t me says
I ended up on this page because in the last 4 days I have ended up with 9 $2 bills that I have recieved back as change from 3 different locations. 3 from each place. How odd is that? They range from 1976 to 2009. The first 3 my teenage son bought off of me, the next 3 I still had in my purse and then tonight I recieved another 3….I think I need to buy me a lottery ticket with them!
I’ve been spending nothing but $2s and dollar coins. Turns out casheirs can’t count by 2, she had to count the money I gave her 3 times before she got it right. And the dollar coins always snag a casheirs attention. Between twos and coins I’ve been accused of counterfeiting constantly the past 2 weeks but its all legal money from the bank
$2 bills are the answer to getting rid of the $1 dollar bill and increasing the use of the $1 coin. Stop printing $1 bills already
About 8 years ago I was at a basketball game in Madison Square Garden. When the cashier gave me my change back, included was a 2 dollar bill. Even though I was a man in his 20’s I was as giddy as a 6 year old on Christmas morning. I never, before or after, got a $2 bill through a transaction.
I still carry that $2 bill in my wallet to this day.
You really should see the documentary about $2 bills – you will quite surprised about their usage! You may also come around to wanting and spending them too. Check their website at 2dollarbillmovie dot com
wilma jean arnold says
I have been collecting 2-dollar bills, have about $300 worth. They are beautiful. My son wanted me to deposit them in my checking account, I wouldn’t so he ask me to check on the computer. Glad I did for I do have a few different designs.
I have $100 in 2 dollars bills.
Len Penzo says
I currently have $4 worth of them.
No; I ain’t spending them.
Pat Stevenson says
I have found out that when Europeans exchange Euros and Pounds, etc. beforehand for U.S. dollars they are often given $2. bills. This I believe keeps the bank’s cost down a bit. They do not need to store so many $1. notes. The balance is given in local coins. Many friends from Europe are surprised that we see so few $2. bills here.
Laura Gojara says
My ancestor is in the picture on the back of the $2 bill.
He would be the only one pictured to have been jailed at some point in time…lol
Do you happen to know how I can find out his name??
I can never remember it.
I’m getting old 🙁
Len Penzo says
Laura, the back of the $2 bill is an image of the painting Declaration of Independence by artist John Trumbull.
There are 47 individuals depicted. The names of those individuals are outlined here.
RD Blakeslee says
One issue of the two dollar bill was a so-called “silver certificate” exchangeable for silver bullion at the U.S Treasury until June 24, 1968.
Ending that right was another step in the continuous debasement of our currency.