The Forgotten Two Dollar Bill

When you look inside your wallet, you might find a $1, $5, $10, $20, even a $50 or $100, but you almost never see a $2 bill with a picture of Thomas Jefferson on the front. The $2 bill has had an unfortunate history in the US economy, but it is perfectly legal.
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In 1862, the federal government printed the first nationalized paper bills. The only bills that were printed were $1 and $2. Nationalized coins were in circulation for at least the last sixty years. So the federal government wasn’t sure how the public would react to the first use of paper money.
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Before the turn of the 20th century, the average worker earned $15 a month. Inflation slowly lowered the value of paper money, but then the Great Depression plunged the economy into chaos. Most items cost a lot and most people didn’t have much money. Paper money was rarely used. So having $2 bills was considered a luxury that only the wealthy could afford. It was even known as a “shadow” bill used for shady deals: gambling, prostitution and “under the table” dealings.
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After the economy recovered, $2 bills were rarely printed, as the federal government began printing many new $5, $10, and $20 bills between 1928 and 1950. So the lone $2 bill got lost in the shuffle.
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By 1966, the federal government didn’t know what to do with the bill, so it stopped printing it altogether. However, they returned to circulation in 1976. However, the average consumer began to keep them as collector’s items. A few years ago, I remember receiving a new $2 bill for Christmas from my uncle in a special leather case. He gave the same gift to the whole family. Everyone was surprised, we asked how much he paid. “Two one dollar bills,” he said.
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A common misconception is that the $2 bill is no longer in circulation. However, this is not the case as the official Bureau of Records lists the $2 bill as one of the US Small Denominations. Today, millions of these bills are being reprinted in circulation. However, people still balk when handed a $2 bill of change; they think they were given a collector’s item that’s worth more money, or it could be some new novelty that the government has started printing.
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Although $2 bills are scarce, they are perfectly legal to use when purchasing something. But if you’re stopped because the cashier thinks the bill is fake, you’re now prepared to talk about his history.