All about the $2 Bill

Each  year, the United States Treasury receives many letters from the public wondering why $2 bills are no longer in circulation.  The answer? They are!  The history of the $2 bill is rather long and inconsistent but interesting nonetheless. Decades have passed without any of these bills being printed, making it easy to see why some people might not even know they still exist in circulation.

In 1862, the first $2 bills began rolling off the presses.  Alexander Hamilton was featured on the front until 1869, when it was redesigned to feature Thomas Jefferson instead.  Soon afterwards people began referring to the $2 bill as a “Tom.”

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As with most paper currency at this time, the $2 bill was a much larger size than we see today, measuring 89× 79 mm.  In 1928  all United States Currency was changed to its current size.

The $2 bills issued in 1928 were called United States Notes, but still featured Thomas Jefferson on the obverse.

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After the 1928 issues, $2 bills were not produced again until 1953.  Because they were not the most popular bill in circulation, they printed fewer of them.  This caused people to begin hoarding them, making them even more scarce!

In 1963, the words “In God We Trust” were added to the reverse, right above the image of Monticello.  They continued to print this version until 1966 when it was discontinued.

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On April 13, 1976, the $2 bill was reintroduced to help commemorate the country’s bicentennial and as a way to cut down on costs.  The theory was that the Treasury could print half as many $1 bills by issuing them as $2 instead.  This could have saved the Treasury $26 million at the time.  In reality, a lot of people really liked the 1976 notes and chose to save them as collectors pieces as opposed to spending them.

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Today, $2 bills are growing in popularity, although many people still see them as simply a collectors piece.  This mindset has led to the $2 bill becoming the rarest current denomination of US Currency.  Only 1% of US currency in circulation is the $2 bill.

Low circulation numbers have given the $2 bill another unique purpose. Bank tellers often place a $2 bill in their till, at the bottom of their stack of $1 bills.  They keep the serial number of the $2 recorded, and should a robbery ever occur, they can use that serial number to track the suspect.

Although not the most popular of bills to spend, the $2 bill has certainly been popular to save and collect and has served several important purposes over the years.  We have a large variety of $2 bills or “Toms” listed in our eBay store for you to peruse. Consider adding some to your collection today!

 

 

The Prominent Americans Stamp Series

Between 1965 and 1978, as part of their regularly issued series the Postal Service issued the Prominent Americans series. You can probably guess the faces on the stamps based on the name of the series: famous Americans like Thomas Jefferson, Frank Lloyd Wright, Albert Einstein, and John F. Kennedy are just a few examples of the well-known figures featured on the stamps.

The Prominent Americans Series came after the Liberty issue which featured prominent patriotic figures and locations. The Americans Series emerged from a desire for more modernity in stamp options.

Despite being one series, the stamps had a number of different font and image styles to keep things fresh.

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The original Washington stamp design with the “dirty face”.

The series was not without its own complications: the 5 cent Washington stamp had more shading than necessary on his face, making it look unshaven or dirty. Later issues of Washington had a lighter, cleaned up face.

But despite that the series was popular in emphasizing patriotic, American themes in the world of philately. Looking at each individual stamp emphasizes the individuality of each important character in American history…Even if that individuality meant having an unshaven face.

A Brief History of the Cameo

The cameo is one of the most popular pieces of jewelry in history. But what exactly is a cameo, and how did it come to be so popular?

The history of the cameo goes way back. Cameos owe their origins to petroglyphs, figures carved into rock that recorded events and gave information as far back as 15,000 BC.

An example of an intaglio piece, showing Neptune and Amphitrite riding a sea horse.

An example of an intaglio piece, showing Neptune and Amphitrite riding a sea horse.

The intaglio, the reverse of a cameo in which the piece is carved below the surface, actually came before the cameo, when the intaglio was used in ancient times to seal papers or mark property.

There are disagreements on when the first cameo was made, however. Research suggests dates anywhere from six BC to 300 BC.

No matter what the right date, experts agree that the first cameos were made in Alexandria, Egypt, where people used them to convey a moral or declare a statement of faith or loyalty. Some of the earliest cameos were made of hard stones like agate and sardonyx (a stone like onyx, but with shades of red instead of black) before the use of more modern materials like gems, coral, and shells. People in cultures outside of Egypt soon came to love the cameo, too.

Contrary to what modern readers might expect, women were not the original cameo wearers and only started wearing them as a symbol of status during the Elizabethan era (1558-1603). This is also when the ruins of Pompeii rose in tourism and status-conscious women bought souvenir shell and lava cameos as evidence for their trip.

A charming cameo ring.

A charming cameo ring.

A cherub band playing accordions and a flapper wearing eyeglasses, smoking a cigarette, and holding a liquor bottle are just two rare cameo styles that have sold for huge amounts in auction.

Many famous figures popularized the cameo in their time. Napoleon himself wore a cameo to his wedding and created a Paris school to teach the art of cameo carving. Thomas Jefferson’s dining room fireplace mantel was inset with Josiah Wedgewood cameo plaques. Catherine the Great ordered all of glass maker John Tassie’s less expensive cameo models in triplicate. Queen Victoria not only created a greater wave of cameo popularity but also popularized the cameo with the woman’s profile carved in sea shell, creating the theme we’re most familiar with today. When she went into mourning after Prince Albert’s death, she wore black cameos until she died.

In the mid-Victorian period, cameo habilles came into being. These habilles featured carved women wearing their own tiny Caraglio_Cameo_of_Barbara_Radziwiłłdiamonds on necklaces, earrings or brooches, adding significant value to the pieces. This style gained popularity and can still be found in production today.

Today mass production means more easy access to cameos now that a modern carving machine makes them ultrasonically.

However, as you can guess, there is an easy-to-see difference between machine-made cameos and those made by hand. Today, only a select number of tradesmen specialize in cameo carving. The craft takes years of dedication to perfect.