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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/10344/why-i-pay-with-two-dollar-bills/

Why I Pay with Two-Dollar Bills

July 24, 2009 by

I recently decided that I am going to pay for as many things as is practicable using only two-dollar bills. I will now attempt to explain my purely symbolic gesture and the reactions I have received so far. FULL ARTICLE


Joe July 24, 2009 at 8:09 am

Very clever!

And why not ask for $2 bills? With all this price inflation going on, we’ll need to switch to higher denominations of currency anyways!

KMcC July 24, 2009 at 8:24 am

what a superb idea – I wish you every success

Jindrich Vavruska July 24, 2009 at 8:33 am

Actually, googling what you suggest in the article shows the article itself in the top 3 links, but within the top ten is also this interesting one:


So, just be careful what you say to the question “why do you pay with two’s?” because you could easily be misunderstood.

Otherwise, a very nice article. Thank you.

Troy July 24, 2009 at 8:34 am

Clever idea…I will get my twos today. If enough of us do this, it could receive national attention.

mushindo July 24, 2009 at 8:41 am

Mr Armstrong

come on, admit it: after reading the link posted by J Vavrushka, are you not just a teeny little bit jealous that it wasn’t you who got arrested?

Justin P July 24, 2009 at 9:11 am

I twittered this article with links @ #Fed and #Mises. If we can get some retweets, who knows what could happen.

Excellent idea, I’m going to my bank this weekend for twos.

Jacob July 24, 2009 at 9:34 am

I think that is an excellent idea.

To express the same frustration with current policy, I had devised a similar idea.

Because each bill is signed by a Treasury sectary, my plan revolved around the signature of the Treasury Secretary that appears on every bill.

I thought if people only accepted bills with the signature of John Snow or earlier, we could send the message that we object to the printing being done under Paulson and Geithner.

Most people of an Austrian persuasion expect the money supply to explode after a period of deflation. When it does, all of the new money will be signed by Paulson or Geithner.

A market could be set up – immediately – which trades Paulson/Geithner’s for Snow/Previous. The exchange rate could have a slight differential now, say $1.10 P/G for $1.00 Snow. As the printing presses get cranked up, that could expand to $10.00 P/G for $1.00 Snow.

If enough people participated, this scheme could yield an accurate valuation of the two kinds of dollars.

The effects could be:
1. The preservation of a viable currency for local trade. (Obviously “official” commerce would have to continue to value all dollars equally.)

2. The justifiable infamy for the two Secy. Treasurys who have perpetrated dollar debasement (the most).

3. Since banks would have to honor all dollars, they would be stuck with dollars nobody wants. (Poetic justice.)

4. Tipping a bad waiter would cost much less if you save some P’s and G’s.

Thanks for your post!

Doug July 24, 2009 at 9:37 am

Since they are not widely used, I cannot imagine anyone trying to counterfeit the $2 bill.

Some dude July 24, 2009 at 9:38 am

That kind of behavior is called “eccentric” in polite company.

Mac July 24, 2009 at 9:45 am

Briggs, you are one clever ingenious innovator.

I wish ya luck and will check in on this every once and a while!


Nick July 24, 2009 at 9:59 am

Count me in on the scheme.

Possible unintended consequence: Fed starts printing more $2 bills to keep up with the increases demand for them?

Jonathan Finegold Catalán July 24, 2009 at 10:00 am

Has anybody heard of the story of the man who used a two dollar bill to buy food at a fast food restaurant? I don’t remember where I originally read this, or heard this, but the case is that he goes into a McDonalds or something similar and decides to pay with a two dollar bill (maybe he bough a cup of coffee or something, I don’t remember). It turns out that the cashier had never seen that before, and thinks the bill is counterfeit and says that he cannot accept a two-dollar bill because it is not a real bill. The customer and the cashier go back and forth, and ultimately the cashier calls his manager out.

Much to the customer’s disbelief the manager believes it is a counterfeit bill, as well. Now they go back and forth. By this time, the only reason the customer is still there is due to principle. But, ultimately the manager threatens to call the police if the customer does not leave the store (the manager says that he can no longer accept any of that customer’s money, because the customer tried to “steal” from the restaurant).

So, because the customer refuses to budget the manager calls the police. The police officer comes over and asks what the deal is. The manager says that the customer was trying to pay with fake money, and so the police officer asks to take a look at the fake money. The customer hands over the two-dollar bill, and the police officer looks over at the manager with a look of total disbelief. He says, “… this is a real bill.”

I thought it was pretty funny when I first read it.

greg July 24, 2009 at 10:06 am

You should have started collecting two dollar bills prior to 1976. The value of uncirculated can range from $8 on up. A much better return than gold over the same period.

I understand you were not even a thought in your mother’s eyes prior to 1976, but the point I am trying to make is if you are going to make a statement, make it a smart one.

Tabor July 24, 2009 at 10:37 am

I have been doing this for years; my mother started the trend. We are known around town as the “two dollar people”.

I have gotten the “this is counterfeit” response many times. Once, at the local PetCo, the cashier checked every single two with the counterfeit pen to make sure they were real (and it was a $60 purchase).

I’ve even sold one for $3 one time, because the other person thought they were no longer printed. Now, that’s a great profit opportunity.

I’m glad I’m no longer the only one! But be prepared for stupidity. There’s a lot of it out there

Matt July 24, 2009 at 10:38 am

Great Idea to put into practice.
A truly great way to have people become educated
and realize how they are being ripped off by non other than the ones they think are NOT ripping them off. I will join the education process.

Shay July 24, 2009 at 11:04 am

Another reply could be “pretty soon, these two-dollar bills will be worth as little as one-dollar bills”. Your experiment reminds me of Steve Wozniak’s hilarious shenanigans with perforated sheets of two-dollar bills.

Lucas M. Engelhardt July 24, 2009 at 11:07 am

Actually, I considered doing something similar with the new Presidental Dollar Coins that the US Mint is putting out. Not quite as odd, but it would start to drive home the fact that we’re turning the dollar into “small change”.

That and I could just use ones with Andrew Jackson on them…

Bill Greene July 24, 2009 at 11:23 am

This is a pretty good idea. I think combined with a handout — a pamphlet on the Fed, or even a business-card-sized info card with ‘Google “why pay with two-dollar bills’” printed on it — this could really take off as an educational campaign. (might want to also include “YES This $2 Bill Is Legal Tender!”)

And I’ll bet if it got big enough, the Fed would start to panic a little, if for no other reason than they don’t print many two-dollar bills! :-)

David Spellman July 24, 2009 at 11:24 am

Enjoy the $2 bill while you can. Pretty soon we will be using the $100,000 bill featuring Woodrow Wilson. How prescient that the president who signed the Federal Reserve Act is already on the denomination we will need as the result of his malfeasance!

Heather July 24, 2009 at 11:54 am

You need to get a stamp made for them, something to direct people here. That’d be easier than printing pamphlets.

Sarah July 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm

Tragically, I had to educate a librarian about a $2 bill last year at closing time as I tried to pay off my (ahem) late fees. I honestly had nothing else in my purse with which to un-freeze my library account. After a good five-minutes’ reassurance, my pointing out the hallmarks of the FR’s stamps of ownership of that $2 note, she reluctantly took the bill as payment, and stapled a note to it with my name and phone number, and ditched it under the ‘normal’ cash tray, probably a gesture of assigning the responsibility for such a thing to the next librarian. Truly, ‘passing the buck’.

I was then, and am still, more embarrassed for the sake of her ignorance than for my having brought those books back late. It was not the time, but would certainly have been a good place to discuss the true validity of that note. Now is an ever better time, and I think our local Farmer’s Markets will be my place.

Thank you for the thought-provoking idea!

prettyskin July 24, 2009 at 1:21 pm

This may very well create an onset of hoarding $2 bills with opportunists towing along with unrealistic profit schemes. Just saying.

DrStrangeChange July 24, 2009 at 1:29 pm

I also use twos regularly. I’m sympathetic to many of the authors reasons and points, but I wish he had mentioned that $2 bills were the last to be printed as United States Notes rather than Federal Reserve Notes. I’m very curious as to what all of you Mises regulars think about the history and issuing authority of United States Notes. It’ll make things interesting when the Abraham Lincoln pres. dollar coin comes out…(if we still have dollars at all by then)…

Coury D July 24, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Great idea Briggs!

I went straight to the bank for lunch after I read this. When I traded two $20′s for 20 $2′s, the lady supervising the clerk asked “Geez, what is it with the rush for two-dollar bills?” I asked, “Have you been getting a bunch of people coming in today for twos?”, “One other person did, and our other branches have called us asking for twos because they’ve run out.”

This made me give me a nice big grin. There is an army of misesians even in Boulder, CO, going out and doing the exact same thing after they read this article.

I’m going to make a custom stamp to slap against all my two-dollar bills, “Google this: ‘Why pay with two-dollar bills?’ — mises.org”

masocc July 24, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Nice idea, and nice article.

However, I think you’d get your point across to more people if you SUCCINCTLY summarized your rationale. This particular article is a little rambling, and not quite to the point. Nowhere does it actually explain *why* the printing of trillions is disastrous, or even that it’s happening. Mises might understand this inherently, but the general public does not.

Matt Houseward July 24, 2009 at 2:32 pm

I went to Ted’s Montana Grill in Naperville, IL, a couple of years ago. I bought two beers for probably $8, and gave the bartender a $20 bill. She gave me 6 $2 bills in return. I don’t even think the cash register had $1 bills. I was really confused until I went to tip the bartender. The smallest bill in my hand was a $2 bill. What else was she going to get?

Art July 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm

Clever idea! It also helps illustrate Gresham’s Law in a perverse sort of way. Why do people hoard $2 bills? They are scarce, and therefore perceived as “good” money as compared to other bills.

Briggs Armstrong July 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Courtney D,

That is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing your story with everyone. Keep us updated about the $2 shortage in your area.

Everyone else, please don’t hesitate to post your experiences with this experiment on this blog. I love finding out how it is going.

DrStrangeChange July 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

If you really wanted to drive home the point the Mises institute is trying to make, you would buy everything you could with half dollars and hoard all of the silver ones you get when you order them from the bank. Or better yet, try to sell them at current market prices to the people who listen to you when you explain that half dollars contained silver longer than any other circulating American coin, and why. Just sayin’…

Jon Bostwick July 24, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Just don’t get arrested for it.


Tyler S July 24, 2009 at 4:17 pm

This is a cool idea. Whenever possible, I like to pay with $1 coins, half dollars, and other less-common forms of “money”.

I can also say, as a former bank teller, that $2 bills are very uncommon for banks to have. The most we would ever have at a branch is maybe $20 worth. We also would not give out things like $2 bills and $1 coins unless specifically asked, and when we accumulated enough we would package them and send them back to the Fed. I’m not sure what happened after we sent them to the Fed. They were/are probably sent to bigger banks or where there is a demand for this sort of thing.

Gaurav Ahuja July 24, 2009 at 6:05 pm

This is a great idea in the guerrilla fight for liberty to borrow a phrase from the chairman of the Mises Institute. I am glad to read that Boulder seems to have a good amount of people who seem to be Austro-libertarians. I suppose that directly had something to do with Dr. Woods’s recent lecture in Boulder, Colorado. This shows that we can all help the cause of human liberty.

fred July 24, 2009 at 8:31 pm

perfect idea,

my twice a week large coffee (starbucks), w/ my own mug runs $1.99. They can keep the penny.

Bruce Koerber July 24, 2009 at 10:33 pm

I keep two dollar bills in my pocket, folded inside my Mises money clip. In honor of my parents I give these two dollar bills to individuals who are poor or down on their luck. I only give to those who are poor or needy but without addictions.

When I go to the bank to get the two dollar bills I run into the same problem. Also I get asked the same question about ‘why?’

I enjoyed very much everything about your plan, Briggs, and I hope others will join your effort.

Shay July 25, 2009 at 4:57 am

“I’m going to make a custom stamp to slap against all my two-dollar bills”

Placing such things on bills is probably not such a good idea. Perhaps you could just include an informational slip along with it, in the same shape as the bill.

Paul July 25, 2009 at 1:15 pm

I tried this at my local bank branch yesterday and the teller was, “uh, I think I only have one… do you want me to ask the manager if we have more?” I said sure. She asked the manager, and the manager reacted with genuine surprise.

I made a withdraw of $50, all in $2′s, because 25 2′s is all they had in the bank. The teller was giggling and saying, “we don’t get that request very often.”

Like Briggs, I said, “I just prefer them. And if you want to know why you can Google ‘why I prefer two-dollar bills’”. The teller smiled and said she probably would. It was all in good fun.

Funny thing is, about 5 of the $2 FRN’s I got were from the 1976 series. Something tells me they’ve been sitting around for awhile… or because of the recent economic troubles maybe somebody broke out all of the saved twos from a petty cash fund.

I’m kind of expecting someone questioning the authenticity of the notes when I spend them.

Ball July 25, 2009 at 3:38 pm

The best part of a $2 bill is Jefferson’s expression, as if to say “are you really using this as money?”

Timothy July 25, 2009 at 5:07 pm

I thought this was a wonderful idea, so I made a special trip to my Los Angeles bank this afternoon to withdraw $40 in two dollar bills. The teller didn’t miss a beat, but I could sense she wasn’t used to the request because she accidentally brought out $80 of bills at first.

Bearing in mind Gresham’s Law, my wife and I were reluctant to spend them, so we simply stashed them in our safe deposit box, knowing they may appreciate in value for all the reasons mentioned in these comments, all the more so if many of them are removed from circulation at once.

However, on the way home I passed a lemonade stand run by my neighbor’s 11-year-old kid and his friend: $1 a cup. I grabbed a single two-dollar bill that I’d been keeping as a souvenir and bought two cups of lemonade. The kids freaked out: “a two-dollar bill!” “I’ve never seen one of those before.”

“That’s the best kind of dollar bill,” I volunteered. “It’s got Thomas Jefferson on it. You don’t see many of those.”

“Take it upstairs, take it upstairs!” cried my neighbor’s son, and the friend rushed to the house with the $2 as if it was intrinsically more valuable than the rest of the currency on the table… which of course it was.

DrStrangeChange July 25, 2009 at 6:09 pm

Since no one has stated it plainly, I will. You will always be able to get more $2 bills from financial institutions as long as current laws are in place (how long?). I would worry more about running out of coins, i.e. Gresham’s law for real. If they don’t have any in the whole place, ask to speak to the head teller or teller supervisor and tell them you would like them to order some for you. They may give you a minimum of as high as $2000, hopefully not. But if they just say “we can’t get them”, and they might, talk to the branch manager and tell them you will kindly take your business elsewhere. They are regulated to provide certain services for us because they get certain privileges with money creation, remember?

C July 25, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Great idea.

As long as we are at it, be sure to write “Destroyer” over Hamilton’s name on every $10 bill you encounter.

Send a message that will raise awareness for everyone who handles the bills.

Jindrich Vavruska July 26, 2009 at 4:02 am

Hello, the more I think about it, I would like to have some $2 bills, too. Could anybody mail me some? I could pay back via moneybookers.com or by mail in higher denomination.


Jindrich Vavruska July 26, 2009 at 4:13 am

Referring to the $2-bill fast food incident mentioned by Jonathan:


quite funny and none was arrested ;)


Stephen Grossman July 26, 2009 at 10:13 am

Take your protest one step further. Pay with $3 bills. Tell people that the Fed counterfeits money and, by gosh, you will too.

DollarCrisis.Wik.is July 26, 2009 at 10:35 am

I think masocc (above) has a good point. While I agree this is good fun, and boy do we need it, the article doesn’t quickly make it inviting for outsiders to understand our rationale. In many respects, our weakness, as a group, is that we look like fanatics and we lose credibility due to our passion and apparent radical nature.

How do we express ourselves in a way that invites others into light and hopefully serious inquiry? I often times reflect if we are simply isolating ourselves (it’s not a good idea for me to isolate myself relative to my concerns for my family welfare and overall life ambitions) versus educating and offering alternatives that others will get behind.

Timothy July 26, 2009 at 11:23 am

To those who are concerned that this article and the Mises site are inappropriate for lay users, I suggest that the truth has nothing to fear from open debate. Several years ago I was completely unaware of the Austrian viewpoint and my political beliefs were quite vague. It was by stumbling across LRC and this site and reading for my own interest that I discovered a whole tradition of thought that I wish I’d known about earlier. Let’s not underestimate the curiosity of our fellow humam beings.

David July 26, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Get a stamp made that says “Audit the Fed” and stamp that on each bill…

Miraj Patel July 26, 2009 at 8:48 pm

That is a great idea, especially since it is so unique- props for thinking of that

John A Bennett N July 26, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Read your $2 bill crusade and apart from enjoying the humor and economic good sense, I have a new found sentiment for the one I have stashed away 9° North of the Equator at 79°32’10.36″W. Before it was just an oddity and now a conversation piece; and who knows, as the bill loses its monetary value it will gains in educational value.

Brendan Doran July 27, 2009 at 6:03 am

As an alternative to a simple gold standard, what about mixed baskets of commodities; a precious metals basket (gold, silver, palladium, platinum ), an energy basket (nuclear, oil, NG, coal), and perhaps even food/water basket ? The last one is not a joke in much of the world. Or for water – even the American West.

Faustiesblog July 27, 2009 at 9:55 am


It might backfire if the government decides that Jefferson is getting too much attention – then plans a face transplant for the next scheduled batch of $2s.

Should that happen, I hope sufficient numbers of people will have read your article and will launch a determined protest.

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