When in the Course of Human Events…

My mother is single-handedly trying to reintroduce the two-dollar bill into circulation.[1] I find this to be an admirable goal and do my part to aid this mission as well.  Most people have stopped using cash (unfortunately I usually don’t have any on me), but now that you can hardly find anything for less than a dollar it seems that the two-dollar bill would have increased in popularity.  Many people I encounter in retail settings, however, seem not to realize that the two-dollar bill is in fact still legal tender in this country.

Two_Dollar_BillNow, I admittedly hesitate to use two-dollar bills in vending machines and automatic checkouts, because… well, because I don’t trust machines of any sort, but also because the two-dollar bill is often omitted from lists of bill denominations that are accepted.  Cashiers almost always give me very odd looks when I hand over my two-dollar bills, and I inevitably have to have a conversation with them about the two-dollar bill.  Which I don’t mind; especially when the conversation proceeds to a discussion of Thomas Jefferson.[2] But I don’t even bother using two-dollar bills when the cashier is my age or younger.  You remember the story that circulated the internet a few years back about the guy who tried to buy a seven-layer burrito from Taco Bell with a $2 bill and the manager did not think it was real.  Whether or not this story was exaggerated does not remove the fact that it seems entirely plausible.

Printing of the two-dollar bill decreased in the 1950s and printings thereafter appear to be sporadic, but this still does not seem like sufficient reason for its lack of usage.  It is just a strange custom we have adopted, like our animosity toward the dollar coin.

I love the dollar coin as well.  Again, I rarely use them because I never have cash and machines don’t take them, but every time I receive a flimsy, thinning, dirty one-dollar bill as change, I cringe a little.  It surely does not make sense to have both a coin and a bill worth the same value, so why doesn’t the Federal Reserve just gradually remove the one-dollar bill from circulation?  This not only would increase dollar coin usage, but also increase $2 bill usage for the people who don’t like coinage.

I cannot give you a logical reason why this makes sense to me, or why I don’t care for the one-dollar bill.  It might be due to the time I spent in England, land of the £1 coin[3], or it might be because one-dollar bills are always disturbingly worn, but it doesn’t really matter.  What it comes down to is this: I don’t understand the custom of our monetary usage, and I want to trade one bizarre custom for another.

Who’s with me?


[1] There is also a contingency on Where’s George that is also trying to boost two-dollar bill circulation… so my mother is not alone in her crusade.
[2] Which, sadly, never happens.
[3] They also have a £2 coin, which actually makes the most sense.

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8 thoughts on “When in the Course of Human Events…

  1. Another reason I like the $2 bill: I figure it’s the bill with the lowest amounts of cocaine and disease-causing bacteria. I should really start requesting $2 bills at the bank.

    • I bet $100s have less bacteria on them too… but the only way I could request those from the bank would be if I was trying to rob it.

  2. In over a year of cashiering, I think I’ve been given a $2 bill once. The $1 coins are quite a bit more common. I have some $2 bills at home that I’ve saved since I was a kid… I figured they were too rare to just go spend them… but I guess I could always get more at the bank, huh?

    • Sara, I have a stash of $2 bills, too! I can’t bring myself to spend them either, even though I know I could get more.

      • The revolution won’t happen if we don’t spend them!! Though I think their rarity is more that businesses don’t use them and less that consumers aren’t willing to spend them. According to the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 61 million $2 bills were printed in 2005… so they’re going somewhere…

  3. Oh, and I feel bad giving customers worn, pitiful $1 bills. When I get a really sad-looking one, I take the bill underneath it instead.

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