The United States first printed two-dollar bills as large size (approx. 7-3/8" by 3-1/8") Legal Tender Notes in 1862. The federal Bureau of Engraving and Printing did not produce these notes. The National Bank Note Company engraved both the faceplates and the backplates for the series. Alexander Hamilton is featured on the face while the back features a series of ornate scrolls with the denomination "2" prominently displayed in each corner.
The center of the backplate features two concentric circles of 2's, inclosing the redemption statement of "This note is a LEGAL TENDER for all debts public and private except duties on imports and interest on the public debt and is receivable in payment of all LOANS made to the United States."
History of the Two-Dollar Bill
In the 1920s, receiving a two-dollar bill was considered a jinx. Many casinos and racetracks forbade them being paid out for wagering. As American industry increased, some local factories paid their employees in two-dollar bills so that they would be spent locally to illustrate to local merchants the importance of their industry.
Over the years, the United States Treasury Department changed the design sporadically. One of the most popular early issues is known as the "Lazy Deuce" design of the 1875 National Banknote issues. The front of the bill features a large ornate two on its side placed prominently in the upper right-hand corner. The other popular issue was the series of 1896 "Educational Notes" silver certificates. These notes featured a series of Victorian-era goddesses (Commerce and Manufacture) surrounded by ornate artwork, architecture, and other designs of the Victorian era.
The Treasury Department started issuing small size (6.14" by 2.6") two-dollar bills in 1928. The face features a more traditional layout with the portrait of Thomas Jefferson in the center. The back of the note has Jefferson's home, Monticello, surrounded by ornate scrollwork and ten different statements of the denomination. Several small changes were made to the design over the years. The Treasury Department halted production in 1963.
The Department of the Treasury revived the two-dollar bill for the Bicentennial of the United States beginning in 1974. The face of the dollar bill stayed basically the same as earlier small-size notes. However, the back of the two-dollar note was redesigned and featured a panoramic vignette of the Declaration of Independence, 1776 based on the famous painting by John Trumbull.
Throughout history, the two-dollar bill has been the plague of the American banking system. These bills never widely circulated and were never accepted by the American public. Most cash drawers don't even have a spot for them in the cash tray. However, there are a few banknote collectors that specialize in collecting two-dollar bills.
Determining the Value of a Two-Dollar Bill
Just like coins, several factors determine the value of a two-dollar bill. The main two factors are rarity and demand. Most two-dollar bills have very low printages because they were not very popular with the American public and did not circulate widely. However, most people think that a two-dollar bill is valuable and tend to save them. Therefore, there is a large supply of well-preserved two-dollar bills.
Conversely, two-dollar bills are not popular among banknote collectors. Therefore, the demand is low while there is an ample supply to meet the banknote collector requirements. Additional premiums are carried on banknotes that have a star in the serial numbers. Finally, the Treasury officer signatures and issuing Federal Reserve branches are taken into consideration when valuing a two-dollar bill.
How Much Is a Two-Dollar Bill Worth?
Most large size two-dollar bills issued from 1862 through 1918, are highly collectible and are worth at least $100 in well-circulated condition. Uncirculated large size notes are worth at least $500 and can go up to $10,000 or more.
Small size two-dollar notes are more common and fall into the following categories:
|Average Small Size Two-Dollar Bill Values|
|1976-Today||Face Value||$5 - $10|
Collecting Two-Dollar Notes
Assembling a collection of two-dollar notes is very obtainable for the beginning collector. Start by acquiring a current issue issued between 1976 and today. These include the series 1976, 1995, 2003, 2003A, 2009, and 2013. Collecting one from each of these series is obtainable even on a modest budget.
However, these modern issues are usually not found in circulation. Stores and other retailers typically deposit them in the bank and do not request additional two-dollar notes. Mostly this is because there is not a slot for them in the standard cash drawer and a register. Therefore, you will probably have to purchase them from a coin dealer or at a local coin and currency show.
Next, obtain the early issue small series notes from each of the series. This includes 1928, 1953, and 1963. Within each one of the series are sub-series that range from A through G.
Intermediate and advanced collectors will try to assemble a collection of large size two-dollar notes beginning with the series of 1862. Given the rarity and demand for these notes, a collecting budget of sizable means may be required.