The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 19, Number 36, September 4, 2016, Article 19


Documentary filmmaker John Bennardo has created a new film about the two dollar bill. Interviewees include the Director of Manufacturing at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas, dealer Fred Bart, historian Dr. Franklin Noll, and ice cream baron Ben Cohen, among others. Here is some information from the film's web site. -Editor

The Two Dollar Bill Documentary

Shot in a dozen states over the course of a year, The Two Dollar Bill Documentary was a passion project for its Director, John Bennardo, when he decided to learn more about the small stack of $2 bills he had stashed in his desk drawer. Little did he realize how much his film would grow conceptually; what started out as a history lesson with some small anecdotes and hidden camera uses of the bill became a thoroughly comprehensive story whose content was as inspirational as it was informative.

The project was legitimized when Bennardo was given permission to film the production of two dollar bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas. Soon after, the film was mentioned in a New York Times article about the revitalization of the $2 bill. The article caught the attention of several individuals with various stories related to the $2 bill. They in turn contacted Bennardo to be a part of the film. How could he leave out Treasury employees involved in the re-issue of the $2 bill in 1976? Or, stories of the $2 bill on NASA space missions? The scope of the project grew, and Bennardo wanted to document all of it.

Printing two dollar bills The project then took a full year for editing, with the most difficult task becoming how to weave all the fascinating information into a cohesive narrative. For that, Bennardo turned to his own personal story, supplemented by research data provided by interviewee Erik Mintz, to frame the film. The result is a stirring success: The Two Dollar Bill Documentary is a fun, entertaining and informative look at a piece of currency that is so much more than meets the eye. Audiences have come away surprised, not only at how the film exceeded expectations, but how much information they learned from the film. Bennardo is confident that the film will invigorate awareness and use of the denomination—or at least will have people searching for their own stashed bills for another look.

Synopsis When a child’s tooth falls out, the odd, quirky $2 bill is usually called on as the best gift from the Tooth Fairy. But aren’t they hard to come by? When a young boy’s father tries to find the perfect $2 bill for this occasion, he begins a journey that enlightens him about the denomination most people know nothing about.

The quest starts with confirmation that urban legends about the $2 bill—one involving a Taco Bell manager and another about a man who got arrested for using them at a Best Buy—are real. A meeting with a blogger who documents reactions to $2 bills reveals that people are fascinated when they see one because of the misconception that they’re rare or aren’t printed anymore.

Not so! At a visit to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas, we learn how they’re made, how often, and we see the 2013 Series being printed firsthand. The “intaglio” print design is prominent on the twos, which have a rich history dating back to the thousands of “broken-bank” twos made before the Civil War. The history lesson takes us through the red-seal Monticello bills, which were discontinued in 1966, and then to the re-issue in 1976, which was so beautiful that people thought it a collector’s item. The bill was hoarded, passed onto to future generations, or held for good luck.

The bill has been considered a novelty and treated this way since 1976, but the misconceptions surrounding it have made for some touching stories about the ways it connects people. Furthermore, consumers and vendors who employ the bill (including strip clubs) find it to be an effective tool for engagement. Even special interest groups use the bill to create awareness about their message. Clemson University, whose alumni stamp twos with tiger paws before bowl games, are an example.

Some believe the $2 bill to be good luck, including astronauts who have taken them onto numerous space missions. Others, however, believe the bill to be cursed. A superstition expert shows us how the Illuminati may have placed hidden symbols and messages on the deuce, as well as the ways you can remove the curse.

Beat Ohio State two dollar bills Other misconceptions about the bill include the idea that it is worth more than two dollars. Visits with collectors and currency experts show this not to be true, but there are some cases when the bill has added value. Even at two dollars though, there is a large subculture of people who cherish the bill, and its uses in society are grossly underestimated. One powerful story about a widow from the September 11 tragedy shows this emphatically.

With all this knowledge, will one father gift his 7-year old a $2 bill from the Tooth Fairy, or is there a better way for him to receive it? After a memorable journey to document the bill, the decision has been made very clear.

The next screening is scheduled for Columbus, IN October 28-30. Scheduling a screening at an upcoming coin convention could be a great idea for show planners. CoinWeek had an article about the project back in 2013, but I don't believe we've covered it before in The E-Sylum. -Editor

Filming two dollar bill documentary

To read the complete CoinWeek article, see:

For more information, see:

Wayne Homren, Editor

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