Saturday, January 16, 2010

Bills – The Good Kind

I love the two dollar bill.  I was first really introduced to it a few years ago when I was helping out a friend of mine at a film retail shop.  My friend, who was also the owner, regularly stocked two dollar bills into his three cash register tills.  He liked two dollar bills, and he included this denomination in his orders for bills from the bank.  Since he was a regular merchant at this bank, they always gave him crisp, new two dollar bills.


I began to look at them and also see the reactions in people’s faces when they were given some two dollar bills in amongst their change, and they were always those of surprise and a little puzzlement. 

The circulations of two dollar bills is not large, and yet, there is an immense number of two dollars bills out there.  We know this because the Federal Reserve prints millions of them each printing, and a low number of those make it back for shredding.  Because of the low visibility in circulation, people tend to hoard them[1] thinking that there is some value in collecting them.

After working at my friend’s company for a while, I also began to make trips to the bank and order a few hundred dollars of the two dollar denomination.  Usually, banks have two or three hundred dollars of them on hand, and they are usually well-worn bills.  I would then especially enjoy paying for items in various rural locations, such as a wagon café in the middle of farmland that I used to frequent, or a store in the middle of the dessert when I was traveling.

People would usually say, “Oh, my son Johnny is going to love these.”  It’s fun.  And because I like this denomination, I also enjoy the feeling that I am playing my part to keep two dollars bills in demand at banks, in circulation and in people’s awareness.

One peripheral activity that I occasionally engage in is enterting the serial number of any bills that I have (all denominations) into   This is a total geeky thing to do, but once you enter the serial number into the website, the system tracks that bill for years, and you occasionally get hits on those bills when other people subsequently enter those same bills.  One of my bills has traveled from Burbank to Studio City, to Long Beach, to Los Angeles to New York.  The website gives the days and times for each of a specific bill’s entries.

The unstated premise here, I suppose, is that I am somehow fascinated with how any specific object that is passed among people moves over time.  Within an hour, a two dollar bill that I spend near my home could be on a plane heading for Maine.  My, what a bill might see in a day!