by Father Mark Goldasich
I’ve got a stack of brand-new ones but have been waiting for the ideal time to use them. That time could be now.
The brand-new “ones” are actually “twos,” as in crisp $2 bills. I received them as a gift from one of my parishioners in honor of my 40th anniversary of ordination last July. You don’t see many $2 bills in circulation, which is surprising considering there are about 1.2 billion of them still in circulation.
Although the first $2 bills were printed in 1862, there was a stigma attached to them. People who had $2 bills could be construed as sinners. Why? Because the standard bet at the racetrack was that amount or, in some places, folks would be paid $2 to cast a fraudulent vote in elections. So, if you had $2 bills in your wallet, you could be labeled a gambler or a cheat.
There was another meaning attached to the $2 bill, also called a “deuce.” Apparently, “deuce” was a euphemism for “devil” as in the expressions: “There will be the deuce to pay” or “What the deuce?” (This was news to me.) This association attached a superstition of bad luck to the bill. That’s why in some places it’s not unusual to see a $2 bill with a corner or two torn off, supposedly to let the bad luck “escape.”
In any event, the U.S. Treasury stopped printing the $2 bills in 1966, only to resurrect them in the Bicentennial Year of 1976. But they’re still not popular, especially in the eastern part of the United States, and are not apparently that well known.
For example, in February 2005, a business owner in Maryland named Mike Bolesta tried to pay his $114 bill at a Best Buy with fifty-seven $2 bills. Neither the cashier nor the manager at the store had seen $2 bills and, convinced that they were counterfeit, called the police. The young police officers were also unfamiliar with that denomination of currency and arrested Bolesta. The poor guy was jailed for a time and only released after the Secret Service was called in to verify the money was, indeed, genuine!
Having once been a restaurant cashier, I know there is a practical reason to hate the $2 bill: There’s no specific slot in the till for that denomination, making it way too easy to mix them in with either the $1 or $5 bills.
So, you can print the bills, but you can’t make people like them. As with so many things in life, any change is hard. We often prefer our ruts, our usual way of doing things, and resist anything new.
Now that we’re about halfway through Lent, it’s time to take stock of how we’re doing with our resolutions of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Did you make any resolutions or did you “give up Lent” for Lent?
If spring break derailed your Lenten disciplines, have you returned to them once coming home? This season is a time of conversion, a time to climb out of sinful ruts, a time to em-brace a new way of living. But it’s tough.
Like the $2 bill, just because you give people these 40 special days doesn’t mean they’re going to use them. Sadly, I’ve had a “lazy Lent” so far, preferring old habits over the new life that Christ is calling me to. With God’s grace, though, I intend to finish strong. How about you?
By the way, I intend to start spending those $2 bills this week. If things go south, however, will you bail me out?
Why aren’t two-dollar bills in circulation any longer?
The Department of the Treasury receives questions similar to this quite
Here’s what they answer:
“The $2 bill remains one of our circulating currency denominations.
According to B.E.P. statistics, 590,720,000 Series 1976 $2 bills were
printed and as of December 31, 2012 there was $2.1 billion in circulation
“In circulation” means that they have not been returned to be shredded.
They were first printed in 1862 in the large size (approximately 7.4218 ×
3.125 inches) – as were all other denominations – called “horse blankets”.
In 1929 all currency was reduced in size to the current 6.14 × 2.61 inches
In the 20th Century 2-dollar bills were printed in 1929 (1928 Series A
through G), 1953 (Series A, B and C), 1963 (the last of which were printed
in 1966), in 1976 for the bi-centennial, and in 1995 (Atlanta Federal
Reserve Bank only).
All bills printed prior to 1976 are considered collectables and may cost
more than $2.00.
However, except for “First Day of Issue” bills, all bills printed in 1976
and later are worth face value only – $2.00.
You may see some offered for higher prices if they have repeating serial
numbers – like 12341234 or serial numbers with all the same numbers,
The bi-centennial bills were released on April 13, 1976.
Many people immediately took some to the Post Office, purchased a
first-class stamp (13 cents), affixed it to the bill and had the stamp
These are referred to as “First Day of Issue” bills and may cost more than
To my knowledge, none of the bills printed after 1976 have been so treated.
Since the year 2000 2-dollar bills have been printed three times: Series
2003 (for the Minneapolis FRB), Series 2003A and Series 2009 (for all
Series 2009 are the newest twos and they were printed between April and
August of 2012.
UPDATE: The Federal Reserve District of Atlanta ordered the printing of
19.84 million 2-dollar bills in November of 2013. They are Series 2013.
12.8 million more were printed in June of 2014 for the Dallas FRB. New York
and Dallas FRB’s had more printed in January of 2015. The latest twos were
printed in July 2016.
They are still being printed from September to December 2015 and January to
A while back I was buying a whole “strap” (100 bills) and selling brand new
bills in serial order for face value.
I had a woman ask me three questions: are they legal? Why have I never seen
any? and “How much do they cost?”
MYTHS about 2-dollar bills:
1. Businesses never request them because “no one ever asks for them.”
Obviously untrue because I ask my bank for them quite regularly. I know
several other people who also ask for them.
2. There’s no place for them in the cash register/drawer.
Most cash drawers have five places for bills: for 1’s, 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, and
20’s. However, 1’s are usually put where the 2’s are supposed to go and more
1’s – or rolled coins – are put where the 1’s are supposed to go.
So, the 2’s are put underneath the drawer and not pulled out until the
drawer is balanced at the end of each shift.
When I leave them for tips, the response usually is “Neat! I save these!”
or “Neat! I give them to my children/nieces/nephews/grandchildren and they
Many people have never seen any and interesting situations occur because of
that. Go to snopes.com and read the article “Taco Hell” for one.
Briefly, a man bought a burrito late at night and wanted to pay with a
2-dollar bill. The clerk gave it to the manager and, after looking at it,
the manager gave it back and asked the man to leave or he would call the
police. The only other bill the man had was a $50 and the manager didn’t
want to make change for a $1.04 purchase that late at night.
There is a good article on line entitled “Use the 2”
If this article has whetted your “appetite” for more info, go to
http://www.uspapermoney.info/. There you will find MORE THAN YOU EVER WANTED
TO KNOW about US Currency – including dates the currency was printed.
Why do I like 2-dollar bills?
Few people have ever seen them.
They sit in bank vaults unused for years.
One-dollar bills wear out after about six years of usage.
For the same reasons I prefer one-dollar coins.
Plus, I don’t have to carry around so many one-dollar bills.
“Two Dollar Bil” Munsil
PS – Update: In August and September 2019 50 million Series 2017A were printed along with over a million star notes.
Very funny stuff about $2 bills. I spent them all the time in Metro Detroit, along with what I figure are quite a number of fans of the bills. Amazing at times that people ask me where I get them – The Bank. And most times when I do get them from the bank, they are brand new crisps twos, which are very hard to spend, since they stick together.