No one knows how long a $2 bill remains in circulation
The United States $2 bill is a current denomination of U.S. currency. Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson is featured on the obverse of the note. The painting The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull is featured on the reverse. The design on the obverse (excluding the elements of a Federal Reserve Note) is the oldest design of current U.S. currency, having been adopted in 1929; the reverse is the second oldest design, having been adopted in 1976.
In spite of its relatively low value amongst denominations of U.S. currency, the two-dollar bill is one of the most rarely seen in circulation and actual use. They are almost never given as change for commercial transactions, and thus consumers rarely have them on hand. Production of the note is quite low; approximately 1% of all notes currently produced are $2 bills. This comparative scarcity in circulation has led to an overall lack of public knowledge of the $2 bill and has also inspired urban legends and folk beliefs concerning it.
Throughout the $2 bill's pre-1928 life as a large-sized note, it was issued as a United States Note, Silver Certificate, Treasury or "Coin" Note, and a Federal Reserve Bank Note. When U.S. currency was changed to its current size, the $2 bill was issued only as a United States Note. After United States Notes were discontinued, the $2 bill later began to be issued as a Federal Reserve Note.
The denomination of two dollars was first used by the United States federal government in July 1862. The denomination was continuously used until 1966 when the only class of U.S. currency it was then assigned to, United States Notes, began to be discontinued. The $2 bill initially wasn't reassigned to the Federal Reserve Note class of United States currency and was thus discontinued; the Treasury Department cited the $2 bill's low use and unpopularity as the reason for not resuming use of the denomination. In 1976 use of the two-dollar denomination was resumed as part of the United States bicentennial ($2.00 is equal to two hundred cents) and the two-dollar bill was finally assigned as a Federal Reserve Note, with a new design on the back featuring John Trumbull's depiction of the drafting of the United States Declaration of Independence replacing the previous design of Monticello. It has remained a current denomination since then, although the vast majority of $2 bills in circulation today are from the 1976 series, with newer bills being inserted into the money supply as needed.
Today, two-dollar bills are not frequently reissued in a new series like other denominations which are printed according to demand. When the Federal Reserve Banking System runs low on its current supply of $2 bills, it will submit an order to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which will then print more. Demand for $2 bills is low enough that one printing can last for many years.
Though some cash registers accommodate it, its slot is often used for things like checks and rolls of coins. Some vending machines accommodate it, and self-checkout lanes have been known to do so, even if the fact is not stated on the label. Although they usually are not handed out arbitrarily, two-dollar bills can often be found at banks by request. Two-dollar bills are also appropriately given as change at the gift shop of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate.
Two-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in green straps of 100 bills ($200). They are often packaged in bundles (10 straps/1000 bills equaling $2000) for large shipments, like all other denominations of U.S. currency.
The perceived rarity of a $2 bill can be attributed to its low printing numbers that sharply dropped beginning in the late 1950s when the $2 bill was a United States Note and recently the sporadic printings of still relatively low numbers as a Federal Reserve Note. Lack of public knowledge of the $2 bill further contributes to its perceived rarity. This perceived rarity can lead to a greater tendency to hoard any $2 bills encountered and thus decrease their circulation.
After United States currency was changed to its current size, the two-dollar bill, unlike other denominations, was only assigned to one class of currency, the United States Note. United States Notes had a legal statutory limit of $346,861,016. This was not a significant amount of money, even at the time. The bulk of this amount was assigned to the $5 United States Note. From 1929-1957 (from Series of 1928 to Series 1953), the $2 bill on average was printed in quantities of 50 million notes per series with only several variances to this number. From 1957 onwards, $2 bill production figures steadily decreased from 18 million notes in Series 1953A to just 3.2 million notes in its final printing, Series 1963A, which ended in 1966. By contrast, an average of 125 million per series of $5 United States Notes were printed from 1929-1957; the final Series 1963 printing of the $5 United States Note included 67.2 million notes.
When the current note was first issued in 1976, it was met with general curiosity, and was seen as a collectible, not as a piece of regularly circulating currency, which the Treasury intended it to be. The main reason it failed to circulate was that businesses never really requested them as part of their normal operations to give back out in change. This failure is linked to the gradual disappearance of the former $2 United States Notes.
Supplies of the Series 1976 $2 bill were allowed to dwindle until August 1996 when another series finally began to be printed; this series, however, was only printed for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Once again, in October 2003, the $2 bill was printed for only the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis after supplies dwindled . A Series 2003A was also issued starting in 2006, with larger numbers and for multiple Federal Reserve Banks, due to an increase in demand for supplies of the note.
Today, there is a common misconception that the $2 bill is no longer in circulation. According to the Treasury, they "receive many letters asking why the $2 bill is no longer in circulation". In response, the Treasury states: "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 February 28, 1999, there was $1,166,091,458 worth of $2 bills in circulation worldwide." However, "in circulation" does not necessarily mean that the notes are actively circulated, only that this is the amount that hasn't been redeemed for shredding. The Treasury states that the best way for the $2 bill to circulate is if businesses use them as they would any other denomination.
The most significant evidence of the $2 bill's reawakening would be that, in 2005 alone, 61 million $2 bills were printed by the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing. This is more than twice the number of $2 bills that were printed annually between 1990 and 2001.
Many banks stocking $2 bills will not use them except upon specific request by the customer, and even then, may cause a delay with a trip to the vault. Another factor in the bill's rarity is the outright refusal of some commercial banks to reorder them at all.
Large Size Notes
(≈ 7.4218 x 3.125 in ≅ 189 x 79 mm)
- July 1862: The first $2 bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note (United States Note) with a portrait of Alexander Hamilton; the portrait of Hamilton used was a profile view and is unlike the portrait used currently for the $10 bill.
- 1869: The $2 United States Note was redesigned with the now familiar portrait of Thomas Jefferson to the left and a vignette of the United States Capitol in the center of the obverse. This note also featured green tinting on the top and left side of the obverse. Although this note is technically a United States Note, TREASURY NOTE appeared on it instead of UNITED STATES NOTE.
- 1874: The Series of 1869 United States Note was revised. Changes on the obverse included removing the green tinting, adding a red floral design around WASHINGTON D.C., and changing the term TREASURY NOTE to UNITED STATES NOTE. The reverse was completely redesigned. This note was also issued as Series of 1875 and 1878.
- 1880: The red floral design around WASHINGTON D.C. on the United States Note was removed. This note was also issued as Series of 1917.
- 1886: The first $2 Silver Certificate with a portrait of United States Civil War General Winfield Scott Hancock on the left of the obverse was issued.
- 1890: Two-dollar Treasury or "Coin Notes" were issued for government purchases of silver bullion from the silver mining industry. The reverse featured large wording of TWO in the center and a numeral 2 to the right surrounded by an ornate design that occupied almost the entire note.
- 1891: A new $2 Silver Certificate was issued with a portrait of U.S. Treasury Secretary William Windom in the center of the obverse.
- 1891: The reverse of the Series of 1890 Treasury Note was redesigned because the treasury felt that it was too "busy" which would make it too easy to counterfeit. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
- 1896: The famous "Educational Series" Silver Certificate was issued. The entire obverse of the note was covered in artwork with an allegorical figure of science presenting steam and electricity to commerce and manufacture. The reverse of the note featured portraits of Robert Fulton and Samuel F. B. Morse surrounded by an ornate design that occupied almost the entire note.
- 1899: The $2 Silver Certificate was redesigned with a small portrait of George Washington surrounded by allegorical figures representing agriculture and mechanics.
- 1918: The only large-sized, Federal Reserve Note-like $2 bill was issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note. Each note was an obligation of the issuing Federal Reserve Bank and could only be redeemed at the corresponding bank. The obverse of the note featured a border-less portrait of Thomas Jefferson to left and wording in the entire center. The reverse featured a World War I battleship.
Small Size Notes
(6.14 × 2.61 in ≅ 156 × 66 mm)
- 1929: When all U.S. currency was changed to its current size, the $2 bill was kept only as a United States Note. The obverse featured a cropped version of Thomas Jefferson's portrait that had been on previous $2 bills. The reverse featured Jefferson's home, the Monticello. The note's seal and serial numbers were red. The Series of 1928 $2 bill featured the treasury seal superimposed by the United States Note obligation to the left and a large gray TWO to the right.
- 1953: The $2 bill received design changes analogous to the $5 United States Note. The treasury seal was made smaller and moved to the right side of the bill; it was superimposed over the gray word TWO. The United States Note obligation now became superimposed over a gray numeral 2. The reverse remained unchanged.
- 1963: The final change to $2 United States Notes came in when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse over the Monticello. And, because dollar bills were soon to no longer be redeemable in silver, WILL PAY TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND was removed from the obverse. These $2 bills were officially discontinued in August of 1966.
- 1976: The Treasury Department reintroduced the $2 bill as a cost-saving measure. As part of the United States Bicentennial celebration, the note was redesigned and issued as a Federal Reserve Note. The obverse featured the same portrait of Jefferson, a green instead of red seal and serial numbers, and an engraved rendition of John Trumbull's The Declaration of Independence on the reverse. First day issues of the new bicentennial $2 bills could be taken to a post office and stamped with the date "APR 13 1976". In all, 590,720,000 notes from Series 1976 were printed.
- 1996 and 1997: 153,600,000 bills were printed as Series 1995 for the Federal Reserve District of Atlanta.
- 2004: 121,600,000 of the newest $2 bills, Series 2003, were printed for the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Both of these issues have the same design as the Series 1976 $2 bill.
- July to September 2006: A new issue of Series 2003A $2 bills was printed for all 12 Federal Reserve Banks. In all, 220,800,000 notes were printed.
There are currently no plans to redesign the $2 bill.
Collectible $2 bills
Most Current $2 bills Are Not Collectible
Current $2 bills, which are Federal Reserve Notes, are not commonly encountered in circulation but are too common to hold additional value. All small-sized $2 United States Notes with a red seal and older large size notes are obsolete and are collectibles. The only $2 Federal Reserve Notes that are collectibles are special products consisting of notes not put into circulation and are sold through the B.E.P; also, Series 1976 $2 bills with a canceled stamp are collectibles.
In addition, current United States currency, regardless of its denomination, can be considered collectible if:
- There is an interesting pattern in the serial number
- There is a star in the serial number (Star note)
- The bill were to have some sort of an error, such as an ink spill, missing the third printing (which includes the serial number and the seal), improper cutting, mismatched numbers, etc.
In recent years, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing has sold a variety of two-dollar bill products. All of these $2 bill products have been made up of special issues of star notes.
Some of these products have been based on extremely limited printings of the $2 bill that also, unlike regular circulation issues, were printed for all 12 Federal Reserve Districts instead of just one. However, there is no real significance of these $2 bills having all 12 Federal Reserve Banks' features printed on them as they were never released to any Federal Reserve Bank. In celebration of the new millennium, the B.E.P. printed 9,999 Series 1995 $2 bills that began with a "2000" in the serial number (e.g. K20000886*) for each Federal Reserve District. In 2005, 16,000 $2 bills from each of the 12 Federal Reserve Districts were sold and had a low serial (i.e. L00000001* through L00016000*). Premium Federal Reserve Sets were also sold for both of these series and consisted of $2 bills from all 12 Federal Reserve Banks with matching serial numbers.
Another product sold by the B.E.P. was the "$2 Evolutions" Set. Ironically, "Evolutions" sets sold by the B.E.P. showcase new designs recently introduced, but the $2 hasn't had any modern design changes. The set instead consists of a regular circulation issue Series 2003 $2 bill and a star note with a matching low serial number.
Another item for sale by the B.E.P. is the "$2 Independence Note". It is simply a star note from Series 1995.
Most of these premium products all sold out quickly after they went on sale to the public, but the Series 1995 Independence Note is still offered for sale by the B.E.P.
Uncut Currency Sheets
Uncut currency sheets are also available from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Some of the recent $2 uncut sheets from Series 1995 and Series 2003 have indeed been collectibles as they come from special non-circulation printings. Most of the Series 1995 $2 uncut sheets had a higher suffix letter in the serial number than regular circulation $2 bills. Uncut $2 sheets from Series 2003 were printed for the Boston (A), Atlanta (F), Chicago (G), Minneapolis (I), and Dallas (K) Federal Reserve Districts despite the fact that notes from the Minneapolis district were the only ones released for circulation. All two dollar bills are now printed in the BEP facility in Fort Worth, Texas.
Uncut sheets of $2 bills are available in various sizes. A 32-subject sheet, which is the original size sheet that the notes are printed on, is available. Other sheet sizes available have been cut from the original 32-subject sheet. These include half (16-note), quarter (8-note), and eighth (4-note) sheets for $2 bills. All these uncut sheets cost more than their respective face values.