Got a $2 bill burning a hole in your pocket or wallet? Think it may be worth more than what’s printed on the front? You may be right, if you’re lucky.

According to the U.S. Currency Auctions (USCA) website, certain $2 bills can fetch $4,500 and up on the collectibles market. Most of the truly valuable $2 bills were printed between 1862 and 1928. However, some more modern bills—ones that were printed within the last 30 years—may also fetch a pretty penny if you’re lucky enough to have the right bill tucked away.

A brief history

The first two-dollar bills were issued and printed in 1862 by the federal government and featured a portrait of the first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton. However, that changed in 1869, when the government redesigned the bill and replaced Hamilton with Thomas Jefferson.

In 1966, production of the $2 U.S. Note was phased out, and the denomination was discontinued for a decade. To celebrate the United States’ bicentennial in 1976, a special $2 Federal Reserve note was re-introduced. The new design still featured Jefferson’s portrait on the face, but changed the vignette on the back from Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s estate in Virginia, to a vignette of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

Throughout history, $2 notes were never widely circulated, and many people believed they were unlucky, used for corrupt acts, or were simply awkward to use in everyday cash transactions. According to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) in the Department of the Treasury, the bills were often returned to the Treasury with their corners torn off, rendering them unfit for circulation.

How rare is it to own a $2 bill?

While $2 bills are considered uncommon, they are generally not considered to be rare. For example, of the $54 billion in currency that circulated in 2022, only $3 billion of that comprised $2 bills. In other words, $2 bills account for less than 0.001% of all currency in circulation at any given time. While $2 bills are the rarest currency produced in the United States, at least 95% of them are only worth face value.

According to Heritage Auctions, one of the largest auction houses in the world, most people are weirdly obsessed with hanging on to $2 bills. Americans mistakenly believe $2 bills are scarce because they aren’t commonly found in circulation. And, if they do happen to receive one during a cash transaction, most people tuck them away as cool mementos, thinking if they hold onto them, they’ll significantly increase in value. However, very few have any special collector value.

Is a $2 bill worth $5,000?

It can be if it’s extremely rare. There are three key factors that set $2 bills apart: serial numbers, when the note was printed, and the bill’s condition.

The serial number is the big deal. Any unique or “fancy” serial numbers, such as those that feature special numbers or letters, or feature codes that are either all the same digit or are listed in ascending order, such as “8888888888” or “12345678910” would far exceed face value.

The note’s age, or print date, is also important. Collectors consider “older” bills—anything over 100 years old—as rare. Bills from 1862 to 1918 are much rarer and therefore, much more valuable, than ones printed since 1920. However, there are significant exceptions:

  • Circulated notes from 1890 generally range in value from $550 to $2,500, although an uncirculated note could be worth $4,500 or more.
  • A $2 note from 1862 ranges in value from $500 to more than $2,800. An uncirculated 1869 note could fetch $3,800 or more.
  • $2 bills that were minted and printed prior to 1976 are much more likely to be worth more than face value, although values can range anywhere from $2.25 on up, depending on the individual bill’s date, condition and circulation status.
  • Certain uncirculated bills from 1995 from the premium Federal Reserve set of 12 are currently valued at $500 or more. If you have an uncirculated $2 bill from the 2003 premium Federal Reserve set of 12, you could get $900 or more.

The final major factor in value is the bill’s condition. Any $2 bill that’s ripped, torn or crumpled is worth much less than any bill in pristine condition. Serious collectors often go through a process called grading to verify and preserve a bill’s condition. Independent third parties, such as Paper Money Guaranty (PMG) and Professional Coin Grading Service (PCGS), use a standard 70-point numerical scale that’s universally accepted by collectors across the globe to certify a note’s condition. Since grading can cost $25 to $35 or more per note, depending on its rarity, grading is usually reserved for selling valuable notes at auction.

Do pawn shops buy $2 bills?

Pawn shops will only buy two-dollar bills if they are valuable, so be sure to do some research first to determine the potential value of your particular bill.

Check the bill’s series date and condition. Older series dates and uncirculated bills tend to fetch higher prices from collectors. Also, crisp, clean bills that are in good condition and free from damage can help you negotiate a better price.

Just keep in mind no matter how much your $2 bill is worth to a collector, it still only spends for $2, so if you use it to buy merchandise, shop wisely.

At Gene’s Jewelry & Pawn, we specialize in offering you the best prices for your items, including rare coins and unique currency. For more than 30 years, we have provided our customers with the high level of service they deserve. Visit one of our locations in North Charleston, Moncks Corner or Goose Creek, SC, today.