From 1964: The $2 bill making a comeback
By Sylvia Porter
The $2 bill, among the most maligned and rarest denominations of paper currency, is on the way back. The U.S. Treasury is launching a major campaign to revive and circulate the $2 bill as potentially the most useful of any denomination in use today.
Next time you buy something, note the amount you lay on the counter. Chances are it’s $1.49 or $1.75 or $1.98 — rather than less than a dollar.
“In the modern economy,” says U.S. Treasurer Mrs. Kathryn O’Hay Granahan, “and especially in retail trade, so many items are prices at a dollar and a fraction that it just makes more common sense to give one bill than to use two one-dollar bills.”
But common sense is not the most important reason for the Treasury’s move. The main reason is printing expense. It costs one cent to print either a $1 or $2 bill. So obviously printing costs would be cut in half for every $2 bill printed in place of a one. That can mount into big-time money, considering the fact that the Treasury prints 4.6 million $1 bills every day and the life-span of the $1 bill is only 18 months.
Saving on printing
As an illustration, just by withdrawing 500 million $1 bills – a fraction of the number now circulating – and printing 250 million $2 bills to take their place, printing costs would be reduced in one-shot by $2,500,000. “That’s a tidy sum,” says economy-minded Mrs. Granahan, “even in this age of $100 billion budgets.”
The big problems are, of course, convincing the nation of the $2 bill’s usefulness and exploding the superstition surrounding it as of today. Whenever a military base floods a town with $2 bills to dramatize the stimulating impact of the base on the local economy, the bills invariably disappear within days into bank vaults, Presumably to remove the “hex,” some people even tear off the corners of the bills (a Federal offense, incidentally).
But actually, the Treasury’s tests show that most of us are not superstitious and most of us would welcome back the $2 bill. The fact is, says the Treasury, that each’ of us says,
“I’m not superstitious, but everybody else is.” Banks which today “rubber band” $2 bills do so in deference to just a few superstitious customers. “But for every person out of 100 who might turn in a $2 bill to the teller in exchange for two $1 bills, the other 99 will probably keep them and delight in their use.”
As for the argument that the $2 bill looks too much like the $1, that’s ridiculous, the Treasury retorts. The $2 bill’s portrait of Thomas Jefferson is as different from the $1 bill’s George Washington as the $5’s Lincoln is from the $10’s Hamilton. In Mrs. Granahan’s opinion. the $2 bill is “one of our most attractive pieces of currency.” In Canada, the $2 bill is among the most popular and widely circulated of all denominations.
Admittedly, before the Treasury’s “concerted effort to circulate the $2 bill among the general public” can succeed, we’ll have to become accustomed to using them in a routine way. In the Treasury’s words “People behind cash registers across the country will not only have to get used to receiving the $2 bill, but, more important, get in the habit of giving it back as change. Bank tellers will have to get used to the idea of giving $2 bills in change instead of the $1 and the $5.”
Few in circulation
Today in the US, there are only a picayune 52 million $2 bills in circulation compared with more than 1.7 billion of the $1 bills. Most of these $2 bills are just sitting in banks, tied up in rubber bands – and this denomination is truly a rarity in most areas.
But the Treasury is only waiting for a nod from the nation’s banks and citizens to move into full-scale production.
And budget considerations aside, comments Mrs. Granahan, “Next to a dog on a leash, the $2 bill is about the easiest way to begin a conversation.”