General Question

Sampson's avatar

Why is the 2-dollar bill so rare?

Asked by Sampson (3558points) August 26th, 2009

To me, it makes a lot of sense to have a 2$ bill. It cuts down the 1$ bills you have to carry. We have the 20$ bill, right? It’s the same thought behind that as there is the 2$ bill…

Why is it that these convenient monetary supplements aren’t as common as their counter-part? Why aren’t they as prevalent as they should be?

Inspired by previous thoughts brought on by this web page.

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35 Answers

Dr_C's avatar

i thought they were out of circulation.. a lot of people keep them as “good luck charms”... i’m not sure why but i have 2 in my wallet that i never use…

Resonantscythe's avatar

no longer in print. simple as that. whoever is in charge of this type of thing decided it wasn’t necessary

Anon_Jihad's avatar

Most likely due to the close range between the one and two. The two while convenient for the one carrying bills, it’s not very practical to print, then they already need to print one dollar for necessity’s sake. So it’s just really not cost-effective I reckon.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I know someone with a crapload of them, as collector pieces. for those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, a crapload is more than ten but less than fifty, more than fifty would be a shitload.

babygalll's avatar

Like said above…They no longer print them. I have quite a few that are crisp. I have had them for many years. I gave my nieces and nephews each one on their 2nd birthday. They are neat to have.

Sampson's avatar

@Anon_Jihad Then what’s the point of the 20$ bill? I mean, we have 10$ bills!

@everyone Why should they be out of print???

DominicX's avatar

I’ve wondered that too. Despite what some people are saying here, they do still print them. It’s a common misconception that they’re no longer printed, but they are. Not very many are printed and why, I’m not sure. I have like 6 of them because my grandfather gave them to me; don’t ask me where he got them. He has all kinds of old coins, old jewelry, and weird stuff. I bet some of it is worth more than he thinks.

Sampson's avatar

@DominicX I’d bet that the 6 two-dollar bills you have are worth 12$!!!

avvooooooo's avatar

They are in circulation, they are valid currency. I got one the other day as change. Since I needed the $2 at that point (low on cash) more than I needed something cool to have, I passed it on in my next transaction.

Strauss's avatar

For some reason, the conventional wisdom (way back in the 1960’s) was that the $2 bill was commonly used for payouts at the horse track.

hug_of_war's avatar

I just think the $2 is all kinds of pointlessness.

Sampson's avatar

@hug_of_war Why? It literally amounts to the same usefulness as the 20$ and that is prevalent as all hell.

hiphiphopflipflapflop's avatar
(but then, nowhere does this address WHY it is still circulated but in such low numbers)

drdoombot's avatar

I’ve heard that it is kept in low circulation because nobody uses them. People keep holding onto them as collector’s items, good luck charms and conversation starters.

I guess the Federal Reserve is losing on the $2 bill as currency because no one spends it once they get it.

live_rose's avatar

i dont know but i hate them . . .with a passion

JLeslie's avatar

Twenty years ago when I was in Germany they used $2 bills at the military base I stayed at like it was “normal” no idea if it is still like that one bases outside of the country. I thought it just didn’t catch on, kind of like the $1 coin.

@Sampson your comparison to the $20 bill makes no sense to me. 2 singles equal a $2 bill, but to make $20 you could just have 2 $10’s, but the other possibilities are 4 $5’s, or 1 $10 and 2 $5’s, or 20 singles, and on and on. I don’t think it is the same.

AstroChuck's avatar

I think we should phase out the dollar bills and exclusively adopt the one dollar coin, just as they have in Canada. The federal reserve could print two dollar bills as the smallest note. Goodbye, George.

live_rose's avatar

i hate the coins too Im a cashier and I cant give anyone those 2 dollars or coins as change

markyy's avatar

Maybe they are afraid that when they stop printing them everyone will hold on to them and a huge amount of money ‘disappears’ from the economy (while it hides underneath your mattress). I’m not saying your economy would collapse if that amount of money had to be reprinted in $1 bills, but maybe this is not a good time to screw around ;)

Ps. These bills remind me of this old wives tale (for all you apple freaks out there).

Steve (Jobs) carries around books of two dollar bills. He actually goes to the mint — I guess if you have enough money, and you pay them enough money, they’ll give you your own sheets of money. And they’re funny, because they’re perforated. And so every time you go out with him, instead of paying like a normal person and giving them the cash; he holds out these long rolls of perforated two dollar bills and says, “How much is it? Okay, let’s count down” 2, 4, 6, 8… Okay, I’ll tear right here!” And at this point, the woman or the man behind the register always says, “That’s not real money. We can’t accept that.” And of course, it is real money, it’s just how he presents it.

We were at our mutual friend’s wedding and he was selling two dollar bills off in the corner. And he was making a profit. He was selling these two dollar bills for three dollars to people, and telling them that the two dollar bills weren’t real. That’s part of the trick. People walk away with these wads of money that they’ll never spend. But I spent my two dollar bills on a lot of Starbucks. I needed coffee that didn’t have salt in it, so after I left him, I’d go to Starbucks.


elijah's avatar

A local strip club hands them out as change or when you change in cash for tipping money. They think they are clever but really they are just a pain in the ass because those customers would bring those bills over to where I bartended. I never knew they were rare, I’d always change them in each night. Anyway, most people around here are smart enough to know if someone has $2 bills they hang out at a strip club. No other stores or buisnesses use them, and we couldn’t even give them out as change at our club.

EmpressPixie's avatar

@elijah: I was just about to mention that! A lot of strip clubs use them as change. It is supposed to increase tips.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

Not rare, just unpopular for the reasons listed above. You can get a stack of them if you go to any bank.

@AstroChuck is correct. We should eliminate both the $1 and $2 bills, as they have done in Canada and Europe (no 1 or 2 Euro bills). A dollar bill stays in circulation for around 7 months before it’s too tattered to use. Then the Treasury has to print more and burn the old ones. This is expensive. Coins last for decades.

robmandu's avatar

Lots of misconceptions going on here. For example, $1 bills typically circulate for 21 months.

I was fortunate enough to visit the Western Currency Facility a while back. While there I also learned that the $2 bill is not out of circulation… it’s just not printed every year. What I cannot recall is the exact frequency. They might just print them every other year, or even just once every five years (cannot find a reference :-\).

I know a lot of people will hold on to any $2 bills they receive… give them to grandkids as presents or whatever because of the perception that they are scarce. But from a value perspective, they’re not really collectible as there are simply too many in circulation.

dee1313's avatar

@AstroChuck & @IchtheosaurusRex

I can imagine that the Fed is just waiting for inflation to get high enough to use $1 coins as the normal thing and make the $2 bill the smallest denomination of bills.

Many things still cost $1, which means its more practical to carry around $1 bills than $2 bills. Like vending machines, the dollar menu at fast food restaurants, etc. I wouldn’t want to go to a vending machine with a $2 bill for a $0.65 bag of chips, and have to get $1.35 back in change.

@robmandu My parents gave my sister and I a $2 bill, and I held on to mine until I was 17 or 18. Around that time I had been working at a bank for a while, and had so many in my drawer that I couldn’t get out (not a lot of people ask for them, and I didn’t have enough to sell to the vault).

JLeslie's avatar

People want to get rid of the penny and people fight hard against it, I can’t see the dollar goin anywhere fast. I’m pretty sure I read that the copper in a penny is worth more than a penny, but it is illegal to sell the copper obviously. So it cost us more to make them than they are worth.

sweetteaindahouse's avatar

Don’t compare the $20 bill to the $2 bill. There is a difference of 10 and 1 respectively. A $2 bill is essential. If you buy something that comes out to be $19.58 lets say, you would want to use a $20 bill instead of a $10 and $5 and several other combinations that could be used.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@JLeslie , there is very little copper left in a penny these days. The coins are made almost entirely of zinc, with just a thin coating of copper. It still costs more to produce a penny than the coin is worth, when manufacturing and distribution are taken into account. It doesn’t help that people like me drop them into pickle jars because they clutter up pockets.

JLeslie's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex Thanks for the clarification.

Gundark's avatar

@babygalll two dollar bills are not “out of print”. Currency of all valuations is printed when there is demand, and there isn’t enough demand for $2s to print them frequently. The government can, and will print a new run of $2s when there is sufficient demand, not on some kind of regular schedule.

One thing to remember is that printings aren’t the same as the “series” printed on the bill. The “series” simply reflects the last time the bill was redesigned. So the fact that the most recent $2 bills say “series 2003” doesn’t necessarily mean they haven’t been printed since 2003. $1 bills currently being printed still say “series 2006”, but they are being printed every month.

Though the last redesign of the $2 was in 2003, the most recent printing of them was from July through September of 2006. You can see the printing history on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s web site

As to why they are rare—well, they aren’t. Not really. Nearly 250 million $2 bills were printed during the last run, and there are estimated to be about 750 million of them in circulation, worth about $1.5 billion. That’s less than .2% of the the total currency in circulation, which makes them rare compared to other denominations. But on the whole, with 750 million bills in circulation, I wouldn’t characterize $2 bills as “rare”. You’ll find that reflected in the price if you try to sell them. Currency collectors won’t generally pay anything (well, maybe $2) for them because they aren’t rare. You’ll have to find a real rube on eBay to get more than $2 for a $2 bill. If you really want a stack of $2 bills, don’t pay for them—stop at the bank and ask. A lot of times they will have a stack of them that have been turned in by vendors, and you can buy them for the low price of $2 each.

Regardless of the actual number of them in circulation, $2 seem more rare than they truly are because people don’t like to circulate them, for some of the reasons stated above; lack of room in the cash drawer and so forth. And there are some people that simply hate them, though I’ve never really understood why.

graynett's avatar

2$ is rare what about the $15.00 note I went to the post office to change one and he gave me a $7.00 & an $8.00 note in return. I wanted a $10 & $5

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@AstroChuck The Canadians have a one dollar coin, a two dollar coin, and all of their bills are a different color, so they can tell what they have in their wallet just by looking at the different colors. A Canadian friend told me that he thinks US money is confusing, because its “all green’’ and you have to pull it out of your wallet to look at the numbers to see how much money you have.

proXXi's avatar

The main reason $2 notes are rare (they account for less than 1% of US currency production) is because of the low public demand.

If more citizens and businesses asked banks for more $2 notes the banks would ask the Fed for more and it would simply oblige.

ajsphl's avatar

I just read the wiki about the $2 note. Basically we don’t see them in circulation because banks don’t give them out unless some one specifically asks for them.

oh, pretty much as proXXi just pointed out.

Showme's avatar

Think that the lowest bet at many race-tracks was $2 and many people at the time considered the $2 bill to be unlucky. (during the 40’s and 50’s, worked in a store that sold “Racing Forums” & “Scratch Sheets”)

Brookashley's avatar

You can go to the bank and exchange any note for a $2 bill. My grandpa gave them to us every year until he died and now my grandma give them to us in his memory. All it takes is a little cash and a trip to the bank to acquire one.

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