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The E-Sylum: Volume 25, Number 38, September 18, 2022, Article 27

TIME TO START PAYING WITH $2 BILLS

CNN Business published a topical article on $2 bills yesterday, including nice quotes from ANS Curator Jesse Kraft. Thanks to Aaron Oppenheim and Tom Sheehan for passing this along. -Editor

  handful of two dollar bills

Inflation has made it hard to buy much with a buck these days.

$1 pizza has disappeared. Dollar stores aren't dollar stores anymore.

So wouldn't it make more sense to start paying with $2 bills instead?

If you had a $2 bill, perfect, said Heather McCabe, a writer and $2 bill evangelist who runs the blog Two Buckaroo chronicling her spending with twos and other people's reactions. It's a very useful thing to pay for a small amount.

Yet the $2 note is the unloved child of paper currency.

It's considered a curiosity to some and scorned by others in the United States. The myths around the $2 bill — nicknamed Tom by fans because it features Thomas Jefferson's portrait on the front — are endless. Many Americans think $2 bills are rare, are not printed anymore or have gone out of circulation.

Wrong.

The Treasury Department's Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) will print up to 204 million $2 bills this year, based on an annual order from the Federal Reserve System. There were 1.4 billion $2 bills in circulation in 2020, according to the latest data from the Federal Reserve.

BEP doesn't have to request new $2 bills each year, like it does for other bills. That's because $2 bills are used so infrequently and last longer in circulation. The Fed orders them every few years and works down the inventory.

Many Americans have pretty dubious assumptions about the $2 bill. Nothing happened to the $2 bill. It's still being made. It's being circulated, McCabe said. Americans misunderstand their own currency to the extent they don't use it.

There's no rational reason why $2 bills aren't as popular as other bills, said Paolo Pasquariello, a professor of finance at the University of Michigan. But people exhibit a preference for multiples of 1 and 5, he said.

Another reason $2 bills never took off: Cash registers, invented in the late 1800s, were never designed with a place to hold them, so cashiers didn't know where to stash them.

There wasn't an alteration of cash registers for $2 bills, said Heather McCabe. The infrastructure of paying for things didn't change. There was not an adjustment of how people work with that bill.

If cash registers had a familiar slot for $2 bills, the bill would be more popular, she argued.

I've never heard the "Tom" nickname before. Is that a new one? The article goes on to discuss $2 subculture and notes a couple cases I was unaware of - U-2 pilots and Clemson football fans. -Editor

But there are people who swear by $2 bills. In fact, communities and subcultures have developed around them.

US Air Force pilots who fly U-2 spy planes always keep a $2 bill in their flight suits.

  Clemson fan 'Tiger Two' $2 bill
A Clemson Tiger Two

Since the 1970s, fans of Clemson University's Tigers football team have paid and tipped with $2 bills -— Tiger Twos — in other cities' restaurants, bars, shops and hotels. The tradition started as a way to prove to Georgia Tech in Atlanta that it would benefit the city to schedule games against Clemson.

There is a degree of popularity to them. There is a sense of excitement, said Jesse Kraft, a curator at the American Numismatic Society. But as far as putting them back into circulation, that's the key that's missing.

Kraft is a proponent of adopting $2 bills more widely.

He notes that it's about half as expensive for the Treasury to print a $2 bill than higher denominations, which come with costlier security features on the paper. It's also more efficient to print $2 bills than $1 bills because the Treasury can print twice as much for the same amount of money and requires less storage.

John Bennardo, who made a 2015 film about $2 bills called The Two Dollar Bill Documentary, has made it his mission to educate people and enlighten them and start using $2 bills in their life.

To read the complete article, see:
Why it's time to start paying with $2 bills (https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/17/business/2-dollar-bill-history/index.html)

To read the earlier E-Sylum articles, see:
THE TWO DOLLAR BILL DOCUMENTARY (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n36a19.html)
SCREENING THE TWO DOLLAR BILL DOCUMENTARY (https://www.coinbooks.org/esylum_v19n37a11.html)
LIVING THE TWO DOLLAR BILL LIFESTYLE (https://www.coinbooks.org/v21/esylum_v21n08a37.html)

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Wayne Homren, Editor

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The Numismatic Bibliomania Society is a non-profit organization promoting numismatic literature. See our web site at coinbooks.org.

To submit items for publication in The E-Sylum, write to the Editor at this address: whomren@gmail.com

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