Lunar New Year 2020: $2 Note Is No Newbie

Opening a red envelope for Lunar New Year to find a crisp $2 Federal Reserve Note (aka the two-dollar bill) feels really special, especially for kids. You just don’t see them that often with a few thousand fewer notes in circulation than the $50.

A fun piece of trivia to share as you catch up with friends and family. Any $2 in this year’s envelopes was printed 2019 or earlier. Why? The Federal Reserve’s print order with the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) for fiscal year 2020 didn’t include any $2 notes.

It’s pretty common.

The Fed’s print order is based on projected cash demand, domestic and international. New cash primarily replaces worn and torn notes that were taken out of circulation. People tend to think the $2 is rare and hang on to them. They spend more common denominations instead, like the $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. In other words, $2s aren’t used often so the Federal Reserve orders them every 2–4 years rather than annually.

$2 Federal Reserve Note
The $2 note features a portrait of Thomas Jefferson on the front and vignette of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

Don’t worry, though; there are plenty of crisp notes available for The Year of the Rat, the first animal in the Chinese zodiac. The Fed’s fiscal year 2019 order with the BEP included enough $2 notes to meet demand for several years. And any genuine $2 issued 1976 or later is legal tender (meaning you can use it for your cash purchases).

If you happen to stumble across an older $2, hang onto it. On June 25, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized issuance of the $2 denominations in “bills of credit” for the defense of the country, so the $2 is actually nine days older than the United States of America. It was out of circulation for a while, then reintroduced in 1976 to commemorate Thomas Jefferson’s birth.

Will you be giving red envelopes this Lunar New Year? An amount with the number eight is said to be the luckiest, bringing prosperity to the recipient. Whatever you do, avoid the number four, which is bad luck according to Chinese numerology.

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The Federal Reserve Board of Governors approved and submitted its fiscal year 2020 order for approximately 5.2 billion Federal Reserve notes, valued at $146.4 billion, to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BEP) on August 6, 2019.

The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the management of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco or of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.