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