The United States two-dollar bill ($2) is a current denomination of U.S. currency. Former U.S. President Thomas Jefferson is featured on the obverse of the note. The painting The Declaration of Independence by John Trumbull is featured on the reverse. The design on the obverse (excluding the elements of a Federal Reserve Note) is the oldest of all current U.S. currency having been adopted in 1929; the reverse is the second oldest design having been adopted in 1976.
In spite of its relatively low value among denominations of U.S. currency, the two-dollar bill is one of the most rarely-seen in circulation and actual use. They are almost never given as change for commercial transactions, and thus consumers rarely have them on hand. Indeed, many cash register drawers have slots for ones, fives, tens, and twenties, but not twos. Production of the note is quite low; approximately 1% of all notes currently produced are $2 bills. This comparative scarcity in circulation has led to an overall lack of public knowledge of the $2 bill and has also inspired urban legends and folk beliefs concerning it. (See below.)
Throughout the $2 bill's pre-1928 life as a large-sized note, it was issued as a United States Note, Silver Certificate, Treasury or "Coin" Note, and a Federal Reserve Bank Note. When U.S. currency was changed to its current size, the $2 bill was issued only as a United States Note. After United States Notes were discontinued, the $2 bill later began to be issued as a Federal Reserve Note.
The denomination of two dollars was first used by the United States federal government in July 1862. The denomination was continuously used until 1966 when the only class of U.S. currency it was then assigned to, United States Notes, began to be discontinued. The $2 bill initially wasn't reassigned to the Federal Reserve Note class of United States currency and was thus discontinued; the Treasury Department cited the $2 bill's low use and unpopularity as the reason for not resuming use of the denomination. In 1976 use of the two-dollar denomination was resumed and the two-dollar bill was finally assigned as a Federal Reserve Note. It has remained a current denomination since then.
Today, two-dollar bills are not frequently reissued in a new series like other denominations which are printed according to demand. When the Federal Reserve Banking System runs low on its current supply of $2 bills, it will submit an order to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which will then print more. Demand for $2 bills is low enough that one printing can last for many years.
Though some cash registers accommodate it, its slot is often used for things like checks and rolls of coins. Few vending machines accommodate it, but self-checkout lanes have been known to do so, even if the fact is not stated on the label. Although they usually are not handed out arbitrarily, two-dollar bills can often be found at banks by request. Two-dollar bills are also appropriately given as change at the gift shop of Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's Virginia estate.
Two-dollar bills are delivered by Federal Reserve Banks in green straps of 100 bills ($200). They are often packaged in bundles (10 straps/1000 bills equaling $2000) for large shipments, like all other denominations of U.S. currency.
Large size notes history
(approximately 7.4218 × 3.125 inch / 189 × 79 mm)
- July 1862: The first $2 bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note (United States Note) with a portrait of Alexander Hamilton; the portrait of Hamilton used was a profile view and is unlike the portrait used currently for the $10 bill.
- 1869: The $2 United States Note was redesigned with the now familiar portrait of Thomas Jefferson to the left and a vignette of the United States Capitol in the center of the obverse. This note also featured green tinting on the top and left side of the obverse. Although this note is technically a United States Note, TREASURY NOTE appeared on it instead of UNITED STATES NOTE.
- 1874: The Series of 1869 United States Note was revised. Changes on the obverse included removing the green tinting, adding a red floral design around WASHINGTON D.C., and changing the term TREASURY NOTE to UNITED STATES NOTE. The reverse was completely redesigned. This note was also issued as Series of 1875 and 1878.
- 1880: The red floral design around WASHINGTON D.C. on the United States Note was removed. This note was also issued as Series of 1917.
- 1886: The first $2 Silver Certificate with a portrait of United States Civil War General Winfield Scott Hancock on the left of the obverse was issued.
- 1890: Two-dollar Treasury or "Coin Notes" were issued for government purchases of silver bullion from the silver mining industry. The reverse featured large wording of TWO in the center and a numeral 2 to the right surrounded by an ornate design that occupied almost the entire note.
- 1891: A new $2 Silver Certificate was issued with a portrait of U.S. Treasury Secretary William Windom in the center of the obverse.
- 1891: The reverse of the Series of 1890 Treasury Note was redesigned because the treasury felt that it was too "busy" which would make it too easy to counterfeit. More open space was incorporated into the new design.
- 1896: The famous "Educational Series" Silver Certificate was issued. The entire obverse of the note was covered in artwork with an allegorical figure of science presenting steam and electricity to commerce and manufacture. The reverse of the note featured portraits of Robert Fulton and Samuel F. B. Morse surrounded by an ornate design that occupied almost the entire note.
- 1899: The $2 Silver Certificate was redesigned with a small portrait of George Washington surrounded by allegorical figures representing agriculture and mechanics.
- 1918: The only large-sized, Federal Reserve Note-like $2 bill was issued as a Federal Reserve Bank Note. Each note was an obligation of the issuing Federal Reserve Bank and could only be redeemed at the corresponding bank. The obverse of the note featured a border-less portrait of Thomas Jefferson to left and wording in the entire center. The reverse featured a World War I battleship.
Small size notes history
(6.14 × 2.61 in ? 156 × 66 mm)
In 1929, when all U.S. currency was changed to its current size, the $2 bill was kept only as a United States Note. The obverse featured a cropped version of Thomas Jefferson's portrait that had been on previous $2 bills. The reverse featured Jefferson's home, the Monticello. The note's seal and serial numbers were red. The Series of 1928 $2 bill featured the treasury seal superimposed by the United States Note obligation to the left and a large gray TWO to the right.
In 1953 the $2 bill received design changes analogous to the $5 United States Note. The treasury seal was made smaller and moved to the right side of the bill; it was superimposed over the gray word TWO. The United States Note obligation now became superimposed over a gray numeral 2. The reverse remained unchanged.
The final change to $2 United States Notes came in 1963 when the motto IN GOD WE TRUST was added to the reverse over the Monticello. And, because dollar bills were soon to no longer be redeemable in silver, WILL PAY TO THE BEARER ON DEMAND was removed from the obverse. These $2 bills were officially discontinued in August of 1966.
In 1976, the Treasury Department reintroduced the $2 bill as a cost-saving measure. As part of the United States Bicentennial celebration, the note was redesigned and issued as a Federal Reserve Note. The obverse featured the same portrait of Jefferson, a green instead of red seal and serial numbers, and an engraved rendition of John Trumbull's The Declaration of Independence on the reverse. It is commonly thought that the picture on the back of the bill is the Signing of the Declaration of Independence but it is not. It could be of the Committee of Five (that wrote the Declaration of Independence) submitting it to the Second Continental Congress. It is also thought the painting is a combination of the submission of the document and the signing (neither event occurred on July 4, 1776.) First day issues of the new bicentennial $2 bills could be taken to a post office and stamped with the date "APR 13 1976". In all, 590,720,000 notes from Series 1976 were printed.
In 1996 and 1997, 153,600,000 bills were printed as Series 1995 for the Federal Reserve District of Atlanta. In 2004, 121,600,000 of the newest $2 bills, Series 2003, were printed for the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank. Both of these issues have the same design as the Series 1976 $2 bill.
A new issue of Series 2003A $2 bills was printed from July to September 2006, for all 12 Federal Reserve Banks.
There are currently no plans to redesign the $2 bill.