Most people have never seen a two-dollar bill because they were never widely circulated in the U.S. economy. Since the United States first printed two-dollar bills in 1862, it never found favor with the American public. Early two-dollar bills were almost twice the size of today's two-dollar bills and are known as "large size" bills. In 1928, the Treasury Department reduced the size of paper currency to the standard size it is today. Although most bills are not incredibly rare, a few two-dollar bills are more valuable than others.
History of the Two-Dollar Bill
Since the beginning, there have been several different types of two-dollar bills. These include Legal Tender Notes, National Banknotes, Silver Certificates, Treasury or Coin Notes, and Federal Reserve Bank Notes. Large size notes carried ornate designs and had various portraits of presidents, war heroes, inventors, and allegorical figures of liberty. Some of the more popular and collectible notes are the Lazy Deuce (Series 1875) and the Educational Notes (Series 1896).
Retailers and banks did not prefer the two-dollar note since there was not a standard spot for it in cash registers and teller drawers. In the 1920s, it was considered a jinx to receive a two-dollar note. It was not allowed in some casinos and racetracks. Even today, some retailers refuse to accept them because they think they are counterfeit or "play money."
The United States issued red seal two-dollar Legal Tender Notes between 1928 and 1966 (Series 1965). The front of the bill features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Charles Bert. The back of the note features Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello, engraved by Joachim C. Benzing. In 1963, the Treasury Department added the motto "IN GOD WE TRUST" to the back of the note and placed it over the engraving of Monticello.
The treasury seal found on the note is bright red. In 1928 it was located on the left side of the note and moved to the right side of the note beginning with Series of 1953. Small size two-dollar notes were first issued in 1928 when the United States was still on the gold standard. There were still gold certificates and silver certificates still in circulation. These silver certificates had a blue treasury seal to differentiate them from other types of bills issued by the United States government.
Beginning in 1975 (Series 1976), two-dollar Federal Reserve Notes were issued, and the treasury seal was changed to green to differentiate from the Legal Tender Notes previously issued. The front of the note remains the same, with the ornate scrolling in the multiple counters located throughout the face of the bill. However, the reverse was changed to the vignette of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Collecting Modern-Day Two Dollar Bills
The two-dollar bill has a short series to collect. A type collection of each small size notes issued since 1928 would consist of one note of each of the following series:
- 1928 to 1928-G
- 1953 to 1953-C
- 1963 to 1963-A
- 2003 to 2003-A
Since the two-dollar note was never popular with the United States public, it was never widely collected either. Therefore, the printing runs are short compared to other denominations like the one-dollar and five-dollar notes. However, the printing runs ranged between 2 million and 146 million bills. This, by no means, makes them rare or scarce, the exception being small production runs of star notes.
Every time the design or signature changed on a bill, a new series would be issued. Another popular way of collecting two-dollar bills is to obtain one bill from each series and sub-series. For example, in the Series of 1953, there were four sub-series. The 1953 series began with the plain 1953, followed by the 1953-A, 1953-B, and the 1953-C, for a total of four bills in all. The series usually indicates the first year that the design was produced.
Advanced collectors will also want to obtain an example of each series with a star in the serial number. These are almost always extremely small production runs and will carry a premium over and above the regular issue series.
Since all notes issued by the Treasury Department of the United States carry a unique serial number, every note must be accounted for. Beginning in 1910, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing director J. T. Ralph authorized special notes to be printed with a star at the end of the serial number. These notes were to be substituted if a note was misprinted or otherwise defective.
Therefore, these replacement notes are significantly rarer than standard production run notes. Depending upon the series, star notes can be worth a modest premium over non-star notes. However, there are certain series and signature combinations of star notes that are extremely rare and values ranging up to $20,000 for the Series 1928-B with Woods-Mills signatures.
Value of a Red Seal Two Dollar Bill
Although many people are not familiar with the two-dollar bill, and they are unusual, most of them are not extremely rare and do not carry a high value. However, there are a few series whose star notes command a premium. The main determination of value depends upon the series (year and signatures) and if the serial number has a star in it.
Series of 1928 to 1928-G, Red Seal Right Side
|1928-B ★||$20,000||Very Rare|
Series of 1953 to 1953-C, Red Seal Left Side
Series of 1963 to 1963-A, Red Seal Left Side