People are learning the saucy history of the U.S. $2 bill
I never knew that the $2 bill had such a colorful past.
D.G. Sciortino

Some might say that it’s all about the Benjamins. But when we’re speaking in terms of rarity, it’s all about the Toms.

Well, it was at one point. As of 2015, there were more than 1.2 billion Toms, or $2 bills, in circulation, according to

But people still value this bill as something special.


The $2 bill got the nickname of Tom for its portrait of Thomas Jefferson, but the history of the $2 bill is far more interesting than just a nickname.

The first Tom was printed in 1862 along with the other nationalized paper bills.

Picrly - U.S. Government
Picrly - U.S. Government

During that time, most people made less than $15 a month and lots of things cost less than a dollar.

So, the $2 bill didn’t get much use amongst regular folk.

Paying for something with a $2 bill was seen as a sign of a status symbol or something only wealthy Americans could afford to do.

But once the economy recovered after The Great Depression, the $2 bill became a symbol of scandal.

Picryl - U.S. Government
Picryl - U.S. Government

“Politicians used to be known for bribing people for votes, and they would give them a $2 bill, so if you had one it meant that perhaps you’d been bribed by a politician,” said John Bennardo, producer and director of “The $2 Bill Documentary.”

“Prostitution back in the day was $2 for a trick, so if you were spending $2 bills it might get you into trouble with your wife. $2 is the standard bet at a race track, so if you were betting $2 and you won, you might get a bunch of $2 bills back and that would show that you were gambling.”

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The Tom was put out of print by 1966, but not because of its salacious past.

The value of one and two-dollar bills were brought closer together because of inflation. So, the government decided they were done with the $2 bill.

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Eventually, they changed their minds because printing $2 bills were more cost-efficient than printing singles.

Printing a dollar costs about $.05.

It costs the same amount to print a Tom, but you only have to print half as many Toms. So, they brought the $2 bill back into print again in 1976 to celebrate the country’s bicentennial.

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The signing of the Declaration of Independence would be printed on its back.

The new bills looked so striking that the once-maligned $2 bill became something that was treasured.

“The way it looked, it was just so beautiful that people said this is a collector’s item, this is worth something more than $2. I’m going to save this,” Bennardo explained.

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The $2 bill became a keepsake though they are still printed today.

So, why do people consider a Tom to be so rare?

This is because out of the $1.2 trillion in coins and bills in circulation, only .001 percent are Toms.

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Though you can still get yourself some Toms if you give your bank a call, the $2 bill is considered rare when compared to other banknotes.

Fewer Toms are made because they last longer. A $1 bill will last about 18 months before it’s in too poor of a condition to be circulated. But a Tom will last about six years since people save and don’t spend them.

Learn more about the wacky history of the Tom in the video below!

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