$2 Dispatch: Las Vegas Street Musician

April 24, 2014

Dean Burke: Click to enlarge

Location: A footbridge between two casinos on the Las Vegas Strip

Date: October 19, 2013

Transaction: Gave a $2 bill to a street musician

This is Dean Burke, aka Pappy. He plays accordion around Las Vegas. I stopped on a footbridge to watch him busk, and I gave him a $2 bill, visible in the folds of his instrument in the above photo. He nodded and smiled at the bill as if it were any other denomination of donation — but putting it on display atop his accordion seemed like an action he might not have performed with other bills. Other denominations, after all, were in a vessel at his feet.

He proudly told me to look him up because he’d been in the local paper. Sure enough, here’s a piece about how he serenades hospital patients with his accordion.

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“Money Laundering” — Two-Dollar-Bill-Themed Artwork

April 22, 2014

Money Laundering: Click to enlarge

Here we have “Money Laundering” by Wisconsin artist Mark Cullen. Click to enlarge it — it’s too small here to really take in.

The image seems perfectly appropriate for showing on Two Buckaroo, does it not? But why did the artist focus exclusively on $2 bills? What does the $2 bill mean to him? I asked him about it, and he charmingly called the $2 bill a “galvanizing oddity” — perfectly put.

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Two Buckaroo: What kinds of art do you make?

Mark Cullen: I draw and paint, but I mostly make prints. I carve linoleum blocks and utilize milk jugs and other discarded plastics to make drypoint etchings. I’m trying to get back into bookmaking, so the printmaking lends itself to the marriage of text and illustrations. Monotype and collagraph pop up from time to time for variety, as do collage and three-dimensional works.

TB: Why did you choose to depict $2 bills in “Money Laundering”? 

MC: The image is one of the interior illustrations of an artists’ book I’m working on, The Electric Boy. The source material is a concise biography of a carnival huckster working during the time when electricity was still a novelty. Circus sideshows exploited the mysteries of the new technology, and this boy was paid to deliver shocks to spectators from his booth. He was falsely purported to have stood too close to an electrical transformer when it suddenly exploded. Anyone who shakes hands with the Electric Boy gets an electrical jolt from the energy that permanently courses through him. Surreptitiously, and unbeknownst to the crowd of onlookers, he was merely wired to a battery. To make extra money, he submitted samples of his “special blood” for a $2 note.

TB: What are your impressions of the $2 bill?

MC: Jefferson was a polymath; he’s one of my favorite founding fathers. But he seems less iconic than Washington or Lincoln, so perhaps that’s why the $2 bill is less well-known. It’s a bit of an oddity. 

On a certain level, the metric system seems to eschew the number two. Ones, fives, and tens jibe better with that orderly system, but viewed in this context, the number two sticks out. It doesn’t blend in as well, and so it forces us to contemplate its nature or its significance. Twins. Snake eyes. Peace sign. Pair. Deuce. A dynamic duo.

TB: Do you have any $2 bills, and do you ever spend $2 bills?

MC: I have an older one somewhere from the mid-twentieth century.  My grandmother gave it to me. It became weathered from repeatedly stuffing it into an antique plastic milk truck bank. I never spent it, but every now and then, I would gingerly retrieve it from the confines of the green and white vault of pennies and small change. It was folded into a tiny rectangle. It always gave me a thrill to unfold it and gaze upon it. 

This trip down memory lane has me thinking that I need to get a bunch of $2 notes to spend. No doubt other folks have memories and impressions that would be stirred upon receiving this galvanizing oddity.

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Mark Cullen will be a featured artist on Gallery Night in Madison, Wisconsin, on May 2 at the venue Absolutely Art.

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$2 Dispatch: Mermaids Casino

April 18, 2014

Mermaid's Casino: Click to enlarge

Location: Mermaids Casino, Las Vegas, NV

Date: October 19, 2013

Transaction: Tipped with a $2 bill

This is Marsha, holding the $2 bill with which I tipped her at one of the casino bars on Fremont Street. Marsha said that when she gets $2 bills, she puts them all in the tip jar, not in the register.

She said that when the bills “first came out,” she would put them on her bulletin board and her kids would steal them. “That’s how old I am,” she said, regarding the advent of the bills — unaware that they were originally issued in 1862. Wow — she must really be old! 

This exchange illustrates a common misconception — that the $2 bills was first made in 1976. In fact, it just hadn’t been produced for about 10 years and was simply brought back into circulation (with a new design on its reverse side, to boot). It’s clear that many Americans aren’t aware, even now, that it was a resurrection of a preexisting denomination of their own country’s currency. 

Fascinating.

And since we’re talking “resurrection,” happy Good Friday, Easter and/or Passover!

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On the Radio

April 16, 2014

Yesterday was a date of note — and not just because of the IRS tax-filing deadline.

Last week a radio producer who happens to be an advocate of $2 bills wanted to produce a fun money-related story to run on Tax Day, and he contacted me about being interviewed. What great visibility for the $2 bill — of course I said yes. It was a great time. (And a great cause!)

If you want to hear the radio interview, click here for the archived version. The program is “The Morning Show” on BYU Radio, and it aired live yesterday. There’s a mention of $2 bills in the intro; the segment starts at about 31:00; and I kick in around 36:00 talking about Two Buckaroo and $2 bills. The station’s website describes it like so (I fixed a few glaring errors): 

FUNNY MONEY

People hate pennies but keep $2 bills in their jewelry boxes. Some forms of currency just have mystical meaning to us. Grandmas give $2 bills as gifts. Some businesses refuse to take $2 bills as payment because they’re a hassle. Heather McCabe — author of the blog www.twobuckaroo.com — wants people to “revitalize the $2 bill through everyday use.” She’s on a mission to disabuse people of the misconception that $2 bills are out of print. “When $2 bills become as common as two $1 bills, my work will be done,” says McCabe.

I hoped the host would ask me whether I pay my taxes in $2 bills or received my tax refund in $2 bills. Alas, no.

After the interview, my Aunt Kathy wrote to me: “I was going through some of Grandma’s things recently and found 15 brand-new $2 bills. Only one of these is pre-1976 — it’s 1953, but I don’t think it’s a silver certificate, and it’s not brand-new. I’ve had them with her stuff but didn’t realize how many were there.” She scanned these:

Grandma's $2 Bills: Click to enlarge

How nice it is to find out that my grandmother, who passed away years ago, valued $2 bills.

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Happy $2 Bill Bicentennial Reissue Anniversary!

April 13, 2014

1976 $2 Bill: Click to enlarge

Today is a special day in the history of the $2 bill. Take a close look at the photo above (click to enlarge). The date stamped on the bill is April 13 — 38 years ago. That makes today the anniversary of the $2 bill’s reissue in a nifty redesigned, bicentennial format after a decade of not being produced. 

On that day in 1976, you could take your brand-new $2 bill to the post office to be stamped with a postage stamp and the day’s date. I’m happy to have one of those in my possession (the one pictured here). You can see in the photo where the postage stamp was peeled off. Yahoo had a piece about it a few days ago. Right on! A rare attempt to educate the public about the $2 bill.

On that note (no pun intended), here’s something sorta of sweet and charming: I came across a young lady’s online list of things she wants to accomplish, and it includes "Own a $2 bill" (click on the tab “Done” to see it). (The list also adorably includes “See a fox”; “Sleep in a graveyard”; and “Experience an earthquake.”)

Happy $2 bill bicentennial reissue day!

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$2 Dispatch: Freddy’s Bar (Englishman Edition)

April 10, 2014

Freddy's: Click to enlarge

Location: Freddy’s Bar, Brooklyn, NY

Date: October 14, 2013

Transaction: Paid with a $2 bill

Who is this ruddy gentleman? It’s none other than Englishman Matt Kimmett, bartender and partial owner of Freddy’s (click to enlarge).

“Ah, a $2 bill!” he said happily upon seeing the noticeable piece of currency.

I mention his Englishness not simply to distinguish him from another bartender there whom I featured in January, but because of this interesting comment, which he correlated to receiving $2 bills at his job in the U.S.:

“When I was tending bar in England, if someone was spending Scottish money, I would switch it out for English money, and I would keep it. But it was still legal tender!”

That does seem to mirror what American bartenders often do with $2 bills. That is to say: Though legal tender, the $2 bill is usually treated as something unconventional, so employes choose to save it, or to swap it out with two $1 bills in the tip jar, rather than keep it moving in circulation.

Apparently, this bar gets a decent share of them, and our mirthful bartender here wondered where they were winding up.

“I’ve figured it out. M.K. [another of the bar’s owners] keeps them — I figured out why they keep disappearing. Because M.K. switches them out. So every time somebody spends a $2 bill, it goes in the house pot, in the basement. And then there are $2 bills in the house money. Yeah…he likes to save $2 bills.”

Tip your bartender, ladies and gentlemen! Preferably in $2 bills.

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$2 Dispatch: The Trash Bar

April 8, 2014

Trash Bar: Click to enlarge

Location: The Trash Bar, Brooklyn, NY

Date: October 13, 2013

Transaction: Tipped with a $2 bill, then later paid with three $2 bills (shown above)

If tipping with a $2 bill makes a bartender happy, then imagine what paying with three $2 bills does. The bartender seen here, lucky for me, was one of those who enjoys the $2.

“I get them a lot more often now,” she said. (More often than when? I’d like to know.)

When I paid with three $2 bills, the bartender removed $6 from the tip bucket and put in the three $2 bills with which I’d paid. She didn’t want to put them into the bar’s cash circulation (which puts her in the majority of bartenders with whom I’ve spoken).

“I would not give a $2 bill to a customer,” she said. But she accumulates them. “The guy at the deli tries to buy them from me. I’ll never spend ’em. I leave ’em at home. I don’t know why. I feel like it’s almost a jinx to spend them.”

(Photo: J. Cropcho)

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Two Buckaroo in the Times! Plus: You Love $2 Bills

April 3, 2014

image

Hello to everyone visiting this site thanks to its coverage in The New York Times ("Two Dollar Bill Is Oddity, but Some Love the Tender," April 1, 2014). The story was the most e-mailed piece in yesterday’s Times Metro section, and now it’s at number four. Excitement! A gal dreams of winding up in the paper of record, but when it actually happens, it’s a surreal feeling — getting that kind of honor and visibility.

Reporter Chadwick Moore did a swell job, and I’ll soon feature some of his excellent $2 bill material that didn’t make it into the Times story. For anyone who wants to know more about Two Buckaroo’s intention and inception, I direct you to the explanatory inaugural entry, here.

My inbox was resplendent with correspondence from readers yesterday. Hearing about how highly you value the $2 bill warms my heart. So, with permission, I’d like to share snippets of a few letters:

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Living in Israel I have not seen a two dollar bill in a long, long time. If possible I would like to send you a ten dollar bill in return for five two dollar bills.

Thanks,
B.
Israel 

 

Hi, Heather,
I happened to be perusing The New York Times this morning and noticed the discussion about you striving to revive the use of $2 bills (which I used to collect). I am enchanted by the $2-bill mission.
Benay Bubar
New York City

 

Dear Heather, 
I loved the NYTimes article. 
Quick question: Where can I get a steady supply of $2 bills in the NY area? I love them too. I live in Ethiopia and use them for tips in the USA all the time — taxi drivers, hotel maids, luggage carriers. 

Thank you!
Rick Hodes, MD
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

 

Heather,
I found you through the recent New York Times article.

Since 1976 I have been spending $2 bills and usually have some in my pocket at all times. I say CONGRATULATIONS! and THANK YOU! for getting the twos out there.

I would like our government to save lots of taxpayer money by gradually eliminating the $1 bill and forcing people to use the $1 coin AND $2 bill. Not to mention the 50¢ piece…I use half dollars whenever possible.

They say it’s becoming a cashless society, but I routinely ask for $500 in halves, $500 in dollar coins, or $100 in twos and try to spend those when cash is expedient and when not fixated on earning points through credit cards. So, for example, if a purchase is $6.34, I would give a $5 and a $2, or a $5, dollar coin, and half dollar. Or, if it was a $7.34 purchase, I might give four $2s.

In all my years (59) I’ve only seen two or three people actually spend a $2 bill. I’ve just been trying to do my part to get the $2, $1 coin, and 50¢ out there in circulation.

We need more people like us to do that, and your blog will help spread the word. I like your descriptions of the reactions; several of them are very similar to reactions I’ve seen.

Good luck!
Henry Taves
New Hampshire

 

Hi Heather,

I read the New York Times story today with great interest and am happy to know there are others who share my fascination with this currency.

My secret is to buy packs of 100 uncirculated $2 bills, which adds even more amazement and curiosity on the part of the receiver. The serial numbers are in sequential order and add to the receiver’s excitement.

My favorite recent story is when I took my 90-year-old father-in-law to a local Greek restaurant. I did not realize he had been going there and giving $2 bills to the coat-check lady. When we walked in, the beautiful lady rushes from behind the desk and gives him a big hug and kiss! I asked him what was going on, and he said, “Your $2 bill trick really works!” She went on to say that she saves all of the $2s.

I’m also recognized by tollbooth attendants! Two of the attendants remembered me: “Hey, it’s the $2 bill man.” Even the bellman at my favorite hotel in Rome looks forward to getting more $2 bills. 

My secret where I get the new bills!

Regards,
Richard Carrier
New York City

 

Hi Heather!  
A friend came across your site and forwarded it to me. I’ve been ordering $2,000 worth of $2’s from my bank for YEEAAAARS!! And then going around and paying for everything with them.

I try to urge people to spend them so it gets them out there more, and I try to avoid spending them in big, commercial-type places where they just end up back in the bank. I always have enough to sell/trade; cabbies in particular LOVE to buy them off you (no profit, just proliferation). I’ve been trying to spread the $2 for almost 20 years, and I’ve brought a smile out for almost every two.

I tried to pay my company’s monthly rent ($13,350) in $2’s about seven years ago. Rolled into my landlord’s office with a suitcase handcuffed to my wrist on the first of the month, popped it open, and started counting it out on his desk. He didn’t take it after much deliberation — he said he would end up just taking it down to the bank and I would have to reorder them. So I ended up spending a lot of $2’s for quite some time! 

My favorite thing to do: Watch an employee trying to figure out which slot in the cash register to put the deuce in…and then finally throwing it under the entire tray! Very perverse enjoyment…but very, very satisfying.

I wrote to the government a few years back asking them to print more, as well as distribute them in ATMs (although that’s probably more up to the banks).

Anyway, glad to know you’re out there. Love your site! Rock and roll, Heather!  Glad the deuce is getting action!!
 
Morgan Lang
New York City

 

Keep the letters coming! This stuff is great. And thanks again for all the enthusiastic words. We will return soon to our regularly scheduled documentation of $2 bill spending!


Heather
heather@twobuckaroo.com

$2 Dispatch: Hank’s Saloon

April 1, 2014

Hank's Saloon: Click to enlarge

Location: Hank’s Saloon, Brooklyn, NY

Date: October 11, 2013

Transaction: Tipped with a $2 bill

Hank’s Saloon is so dark that I didn’t know whether the king of inconspicuous bills would even be noticed, but bartender Dan Kajeckas smiled when I tipped him with the $2 bill seen here.

“I love ’em,” he said. “I keep ’em.”

A bartender who loves $2 bills is the bartender for me. Moreover, I’ve found that bartenders who declare their love of $2 bills are usually: (1) good-natured, and (2) unreserved in discussing why they love $2 bills.

So I asked Dan more. His reply:

"I like $2 bills and have all my life. I was a total nerd as a kid and collected coins and paper money (among other things).

"I’ve never had a two that was worth more than $2, but I like having them and seeing them, maybe just for the little break in routine. I never put them in the register but immediately swap ones from my tip jar. And I never spend them. Thus, they quietly pile up in a drawer at home. I’ll probably give them to any future progeny I may have, or a nephew. 

"I don’t have any customers who routinely pay with twos. When someone does, just seeing them on the bar is so unusual that our eyes meet with some kind of complicity in the moment. There’s either an apology or amusement, with and without words. And I always smile."

Thanks, Dan!

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$2 Dispatch: Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar

March 28, 2014

Ray's Happy Birthday Bar: Click to enlarge

Location: Ray’s Happy Birthday Bar, Philadelphia, PA

Date: October 5, 2013

Transaction: Paid for a drink with a $2 bill

The bartender at this fantastic 75-year-old South Philly bar seemed a bit stern, to the extent that I was hesitant to even order a drink, much less conduct a cash transaction with offbeat currency. But when I paid with a $2 bill (above; click to enlarge), he smiled at it, smiled at me, and appeared to put it in the register (rare!).

A little while later, I asked him to break a $20 bill. In my change was the $2 bill I’d given him. He grinned knowingly at me. But he never uttered a word.

Ray's Happy Birthday Bar: Click to enlarge

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