Thomas Jefferson is getting around a lot more than he used to these days. No, not the third president. He died in 1826. But the $2 bill which bears his picture is undergoing a surge in popularity and nobody seems really sure why.
The $2 bill, even though it’s as old as the country, has always been America’s forgotten currency. In the FAQs on its Web site, the U.S. Treasury has: “Why did the Treasury Department remove the $2 bill from circulation?” The answer: It hasn’t. To the contrary, reports Reuters, since 2001 demand for the bill has doubled to $122 billion, double what banks were ordering in the previous decade. And demand continues to soar.
Americans are prickly about their money. Any change in their bills and coins is greeted with suspicion. The public balks at proposals to eliminate the penny and do away with the dollar bill in favor of a coin. Indeed, Americans have never really embraced the dollar coin although if the Treasury would quit making them the size of a quarter it might have a shot.
Explanations vary for the newly useful Jefferson: Inflation; the Sacagawea making the public comfortable with offbeat money; immigrants who were used to similar denominations in their homelands.
Reuters offers a fascinating explanation. Strip clubs — and, like you, we’ll have to take Reuters’ word for this — give out $2 bills in change in hopes that they’ll wind up in the dancers’ G-strings and the bartenders’ tip jars. A slightly similar explanation was offered years ago. Racetracks would give out the $2 bill as change in hopes that the bettors would immediately head to the $2 window. Decent folks, the story goes, didn’t want to be seen handling the bill because of their association with a dubious activity like gambling.
Maybe it’s a stretch, but the new interest in the $2 bill seems to have coincided with popular revelations that Jefferson — the man, not the banknote — had a far livelier private life than generally supposed.