We recently discovered that the husband of one of Ken’s old friends is obsessed with two dollar bills . Amazingly awesome, right? I had no idea that two dollar bills still existed  (use the two!) and so I swapped some cash for some of his two dollar bills. Turns out, Matt loves using two dollar bills as doing so has helped make the simple process of exchanging money lead to amazing stories, connections, and interactions. Odd, quirky, and inspiring! Talking to him made ME want to start collecting two dollar bills and handing them out to people; taxi drivers, manicurists, coffee shops, you name it!
Matt goes to the bank each week to get his stack of bills for the next week or two. His story about his interest in 2 dollar bills was so touching and elegantly odd (ironic?), that I knew I had to interview him and inspire us all to BRING BACK THE TWO! As Matt likes to say, he does not like to collect twos. He just likes using them.
Random and fascinating, here is the interview with Matt! Enjoy! (I want to start a collection that is so unique and obscure that people find my hobby and collection inspiring and touching!)
When did you become interested in $2 bills?
I started on this path in the summer of 1992 when I was living in San Francisco, working in the financial district (I was at Lehman Brothers at the time) and I discovered that my local bank could supply me with $2s. I was hooked. Subsequently, I cashed all my paychecks in $2s. My mantra is to spread the joy of $2 bills and to make transactions and merchant interactions fun and to spread the happiness of $2 bills throughout our system.
Why did you become interested?
Because everyone I meet ascribes some sort of magic, wish, hope or family nostalgia to $2 bills. I love $2s because I love interacting with people. $2s give me a chance to connect with people, and increase the likelihood that I will hear a story, learn something new or just dialogue with a stranger where I otherwise would have no conversation were I to use more mundane bills in my purchase.
$2s keep me humble and remind me that I have something to learn from everyone, and when I keep that In mind I learn something new every day.
Around the corner from my house is a bodega. I go there nearly every day. And have for years. After a couple years and a few hundred $2 bill fueled transactions, the guy behind the counter, an extra nice neighborhood fixture, originally from Pakistan, stops me before I left the store one Saturday morning and said, “hey, Mr. Two Dollar bill. Why do you use the two’s?” I gave him my schpiel, that everyone loves the $2s. And it brings a smile to people’s faces and nostalgia to their mind.” He tells me I’m wrong and proceeds to give me a history lesson on President Jefferson, the racial and cultural significance of conflict of character that Jefferson’s legacy bears.
I walked out of that interaction, got home and studied up on Jefferson. Than on Jackson (similar character flaws).
I loved $2s even more after my conversation with Mr. Bodega manager. He taught me something and set in motion a mini historical research mission I undertook on our country’s presidents.
Until I stop learning, I won’t stop using $2s. Until I stop giving out $2s I will keep on learning.
Interesting facts about the two dollar bill?
The treasury still prints $2 bills . . .they are pegged at 1% of the US money supply and because $2s don’t circulate widely, they are not printed very often. Most likely you will find 2005 or 2003 vintage $2s that have never before been circulated. I like to think that when I take off the paper band from a pack of $200 of $2 bills from 2005 that I am circulating wishes and good will that has been bottled up for 8 years and have never seen the light of day or never interacted with a human being before.
What are the qualities of a $2 bill that you love so much?
There’s a small grouping of consistent reactions – and it’s the reactions that I love. People reminisce about grandparents giving them a $2 bill, getting one on a special occasion, giving one to a grandchild, making a wish and ascribing some sort of sacred value to this otherwise ordinary currency.
What is the best reaction you have ever received from giving a $2 bill to someone?
A friend’s boyfriend was working at a restaurant and when I gave him a tip in $2s, he started crying and told me a story about how when he first came to America from Turkey he met an elderly woman who gave him a $2 and told him it was for good luck in this country and he still has it to remind him in good and tough times to be hopeful.
Do you feel the same way about a silver dollar coin?
No. I’ve tried coins and people don’t react the same way. Plus they’re heavy. I’ve found that nothing has the magic that $2 bills have.
What is the most common reaction you get?
Telling me a story about receiving or giving one, showing me a special $2 bill they have on them, telling me what they will do with it.
How do you decide when to use a $2 bill versus a normal $1 or $5?
All the time. I don’t decide. It’s all I use. Every week I go to the bank and get hundreds of dollars in $2s and I get to spread smiles and collect stories.
Do you ever save a $2 bill in your wallet (is there an especially special one you love)?
I like getting rid of all of my $2s but I am trying to collect the A through J series so do try to save some.
Are you ever scared that a cash register will not accept a $2 bill?
I’m always a little nervous but to the letter of the law you have to accept it. There’s only been one time that someone has ever refused.
How often do you get $2 bills to carry around?
Every week, usually on Tuesdays (haha – twos-days).
How much per week?
Because you have such a quirky love for something so fun as $2 bills, what else are you into?
Most of my obsessions have a short shelf life, although one other one is taking obscure photo booth photos. I had an exhibition in a few art galleries and some magazines in Taiwan and Shanghai. I even proposed to my wife through a photo book photo.
Thank you, Matt! So if you are wondering how you can spread the two , go to your local bank and order (no cost) a stack of bills and then spend them! Helping circulate the bills through transactions will give people more awareness to the two dollar bill and help spread the joy and smiles associated with the bill. And if not interested in two dollar bills, simply learn from Matt the lesson of learning from others and how interaction with strangers and people brings joy and happiness. Have a great week.