Special Event: Show Us Your Junk

August 15, 2014


Attention, $2 bill enthusiasts! On Wednesday, August 20, I’ll be speaking about the $2 bill — specifically its 1976 reissue and redesign — at Show Us Your Junk, an “educational show-and-tell night” at Union Hall in Brooklyn. I’ll discuss the bills pictured here. Admission is five bucks, and the winner of my trivia question will get a 1976 $2 bill, so admission really works out to three bucks if you come armed with $2 bill knowledge. Come say hi if you attend — ideally during intermission (because I’ll have to leave during the second half to go run a karaoke night).

More info:

Union Hall

Brooklyn Brainery

Facebook event page


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$2 Dispatch: The Gate

August 13, 2014

The Gate: Click to enlarge

Location: The Gate, Brooklyn, NY

Date: January 1, 2014

Transaction: Paid for a drink with two $2 bills

It was New Year’s Day, and I was feeling mildly celebratory. I set down two $2 bills for my drink. “$2 bills!!” the bartender exclaimed when she saw them. She said she always keeps $2 bills when she gets them, and she carries them in her wallet. She and her roommate “just decided that it was good luck — always keep a $2 bill in your wallet.”

That’s something I hear from people a lot — always keep a $2 bill in your wallet (“because then you’re never broke,” as a guy put it to me once). Back in February I posted about a bartender at Montero’s who does that too: “I carry one in my wallet for good luck,” he said. 

The above bartender at the Gate said that a friend of hers who worked at a place in Red Hook rejected a customer’s $2 bill because he thought it was fake. Further, he thought all $2 bills weren’t real. I felt a surge of envy upon hearing that — I wanted to be the customer whose $2 bill was rejected. Because even though I support the idea of $2 bills being more commonly circulated, I savor the experience of having them denied. (Here’s an example.)

(Photo taken by Emma Williford on her telephone)

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$2 Dispatch: Antonio’s Pizza

August 8, 2014

Antonio's Pizza deliveryman: Click to enlarge

Location: My apartment doorway, Brooklyn, NY

Date: December 31, 2013

Transaction: Slipped two $2 bills into pizza payment (Antonio’s Pizza)

I’m not ashamed to say that on New Year’s Eve I called for a pizza delivery and watched a VHS tape of Pulp Fiction while the rest of you were out scallywagging around town. (I’ll mention that it was preceded by a very nice New Year’s Eve-ternoon.)

To be festive, I gave the pizza deliveryman two $2 bills instead of just one, since it was New Year’s Eve, and all. He didn’t have a firm grasp of English, so I’ll never know whether he recognized the $2 bills as special. Maybe he thought they were normal. Regardless, continuing the spirit of festivity, I wanted to take his picture with them, which I think just bewildered him. (As you can plainly see, if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s a professional photographer.) Happy New Year to him! 

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$2 Dispatch: Sea Witch Tavern

August 5, 2014

Sea Witch: Click to enlarge

Location: Sea Witch Tavern, Brooklyn, NY

Date: December 28, 2013

Transaction: Paid with a $2 bill

This fuzzy photo of a bartender hard at work was generously taken for me by the owner of the drinking establishment (the blurriness is excusable — I hope — by the time and the means: a shaky cell phone at 3 a.m.). Thank you, Mr. Andy Hawkins, for stepping up to the plate.

The bartender shown, David, no longer works at the Sea Witch. And frankly, I had a hard time remembering his reaction in the first place. So Mr. A. Hawkins stepped up yet again and answered my questions about $2 bills and bar ownership. Whatta champ! 

Two Buckaroo: Do you like getting $2 bills in your bar? 

Andy Hawkins: I like them just fine. They break the monetary monotony. 

TB: Do you put $2 bills in the register or somewhere else? Do you give them to customers as change? 

Hawkins: I let them stay in the cash supply; I don’t take them out of the register. I hope the bartenders notice they aren’t $1 bills — if they don’t, it’s only a $1 mistake. I doubt any customers would complain about getting them unless they’re particularly young and/or stupid.

TB: Any memorable customers who repeatedly use them?

Hawkins: Not that I’ve heard. I’ve seen only three $2 bills since opening two and a half years ago. From the bartenders, you’d almost certainly get a range of responses: from total WTF indifference, to a dissertation on what types of people seem to always pay with X type of bills, the condition of the currency and its relation to the customer’s fashion sense and hygiene.… 

* * * * * * * * * *

There you have it, folks: A rocker-cum-entrepreneur spills about $2 bills. Imagine — a business owner who’s actually willing to circulate $2 bills just like any other denomination! So go right down to the Sea Witch, folks, and buy a clam roll or something with $2 bills in an effort to spread ‘em around. (Thank you, Andy!)


$2 Dispatch: Mousey Brown Salon

July 30, 2014

Mousey Brown Salon: Click to enlarge

Location: Mousey Brown Salon, Brooklyn, NY

Date: December 14, 2013

Transaction: Tipped for a haircut with $2 bills

Do hairstylists like $2 bills? Here was my chance to find out.

Here you see Mel, an ace stylist at a great salon in Williamsburg. After I paid for my haircut with regular old cash, I tipped Mel with exclusively $2 bills. Would she be psyched? Would she be angry? 

“How cool is that?!” she said. “I’ll add them to my collection of $2 bills.”

Her collection of $2 bills? Fantastic. I asked her about it. She said that years ago she worked at a men’s salon in midtown Manhattan, where she regularly received $2 bills from one particular man. She would keep them, and now it’s a collection. 

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$2 Dispatch: Rockwood Music Hall

July 28, 2014

Rockwood Music Hall: Click to enlarge

Location: Rockwood Music Hall, NYC

Date: December 10, 2013

Transaction: Used a $2 bill to buy a drink

At an album release show for the fantastic Marcellus Hall, I slipped a $2 bill into my cash transaction at the back bar. The bartender looked at the bill noticeably, but he didn’t say anything. I hovered. When he came back around, I asked him what he’d done with the $2 bill. He said he’d put it in the register under the tray. I asked if he gets them often. He said one “about every other week.” 

Bartender: “I love $2 bills. I used to collect them. You realize they’re still around….”

Me: “Yep. You’re not fazed—”

Bartender: “Naw. A lot of money passes through here. You see ’em. You see old 50s, you see new 50s. You see the new $100 bills that look like we live in the future. They look like Canadian money.”

Does anyone else out there who works with cash get a $2 bill every other week? I’d sure like to know. (Frankly, I don’t buy it.)

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$2 Dispatch: Revival

July 24, 2014

Revival: Click to enlarge

Location: Revival, New York, NY

Date: December 9, 2013

Transaction: Tipped for drinks with $2 bills and then purchased drinks with $2 bills

As usual, I wanted to see how a bartender would react to $2 bills. This one didn’t seem friendly, and I thought it was unlikely he’d bother reacting to the bill at all. I was right — at first. Then my buddy Stan Killian, excited about the challenge and about my $2 bill project, cooked up a plan to keep spending them there until something happened. And so we did. Here’s Stan’s take on it: 

* * * * * * * * * *

The seasoned bartender at this bar on East 15 St. seemed unmoved by the $2 bill we’d used. So we decided to keep giving him more of them.

Finally, after giving him his fifth (and final) $2 bill, I detected a slight tremble of the lower lip. So I asked, “Do you get $2 bills often?” He said, “Sometimes, but they’re a real pain in the ass,” and I could tell his mood was about to go south as he washed out the beer glasses. “The banks give us a hard time with these things,” he continued.

I explained the reason for giving him multiple $2 bills, the purpose of Heather’s $2 bill-themed website and the mission to increase the circulation of them. He smiled and changed his tone. “I actually keep two $2 bills in my wallet for good luck,” he said, and he showed them to me (above; click to enlarge). 

Suddenly at the far end of the bar, a half-drunk patron fired back, “No, they’re bad luck!” A two-minute debate proceeded surrounding the supernatural qualities of the $2 bill.

Andres Pascual, a good bartender who thinks the $2 bill is a pain in the ass, but keeps them in his wallet for good luck anyway, was friendly enough to pose for Two Buckaroo.

(Photo taken by Stan Killian…sorry about the flash.)

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$2 Dispatch: Botanica

July 18, 2014

Botanica: Click to enlarge

Location: Botanica, New York, NY

Date: December 4, 2014

Transaction: Paid for a drink with a $2 bill

When a bartender starts a conversation about a $2 bill I’ve just spent, I’m virtually guaranteed a friendly good time. In this case, I used one $2 bill among a few $1 bills to pay for a drink and tip while attending Mr. Fine Wine's weekly soul DJ set. 

Mark the bartender (above; click to enlarge): “Someone came in recently and paid for $12 worth of drinks with $2 bills.”

Me: “What did you do with them? Put them in the register?”

Mark: “No, my girlfriend’s friend traded me for them.”

He said that he and his friend think it would be easy to counterfeit the denomination since “no one sees $2 bills.” 

“I know they’re not part of the regular cycle of printing. Every 10 years…?” said Mark, starting with a perceived statement of fact and changing to total speculation. 

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O, Canada! A Note on Canada’s $2 Currencies

July 9, 2014


Hi! It’s been a while — I’ve been taking a brief summer intermission from this site because I went on an actual summer vacation. Guess where? Canada, land of the toonie — the wonderful $2 coin that has circulated in Canada ever since that country stopped printing paper $2 bills in 1996.

But despite 18 years of obscurity, Canadian $2 bills are still legal tender and are rumored to be seen in circulation from time to time. According to CBC News, around 109,271,483 of the notes had not been returned to the Bank of Canada as of 2006. Those notes are probably hoarded in cigar boxes under Canadians’ beds. Still, as with other things one strives to see in Canada (the moose, the red fox, the pile of abandoned lobster traps…), I wanted to see an old paper $2 note in its natural habitat.

Those of you in the United States who never see U.S. $2 bills might naturally wonder: What’s more likely to cross one’s path in a cash transaction — a U.S. $2 bill or a Canadian $2 bill (each in its respective country)? Well, I’m sad to report that I saw not one Canadian $2 note.

But there were plenty of toonies! In fact, I’m carrying one right now, and I’m going to continue doing so. Here it is: 


"The Two Dollar ‘Toonie’ is bi-metallic, having an outer ring of pure nickel, with a center made of a primarily copper alloy. The Loonies and Toonies circulate in Canada as if things had always been this way," writes one numismatist

Check out the photo of the charitable donation box (way above). I love its gimmick of requesting specifically toonies. I took the photo on Prince Edward Island in a little town called Summerside, where I have distant family roots. In retrospect, it’s weird and/or funny that I prioritized taking a photo of that toonie box over photos of the rest of the area, considering I made a point of going there. But as you might expect, I was pretty enthusiastic about the toonie. 


And now, let’s rise and listen to Canadian tenor Edward Patrick Johnson (1878-1959) singing “O Canada”: 


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$2 Dispatch: Kettle of Fish

June 18, 2014

Kettle of Fish: Click to enlarge

Location: Kettle of Fish, New York, NY

Date: December 3, 2013

Transaction: Paid for beers and tipped with $2 bills

I did something here that’s usually considered annoying — that is, spending multiple $2 bills at once (I had to! I was short on other denominations) — but the bartender didn’t have much of a reaction. Also, I couldn’t get his permission to take a photo of him with the $2 bills, as I like to do. But I did get his take on $2 bills in cash transactions at the bar where he works: 

“Every once in a while they pop up…they rear their heads. I like the twos,” he said with a smile.