1976 Two Dollar Bill: The Ultimate Collector’s Guide
The 1976 Series two dollar bill marked the return for the denomination after a ten-year absence in circulation, reintroduced in hopes of becoming a cost-saving measure for the United States Treasury.
However, despite the record number of two dollar bills printed in 1976 (over a half billion!), the bill was and remains the most marginalized and underutilized Federal Reserve Note in circulation – never gaining a heavy circulation foothold or putting any sort of dent into production numbers for other bills in the United States paper money cache.
n March 1862, the first two dollar bill was issued as a Legal Tender Note bearing the portrait of Alexander Hamilton. Seven years later, Hamilton’s portrait was replaced with that of Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States.
The two dollar bill was a large-sized note until sizing was standardized starting with the 1929 Series, and it was issued as a United States Note, National Bank Note, silver certificate, Coin Note and Federal Reserve Bank Note with various portrait cameos on the obverse and designs on the reverse.
From 1929 to 1966, the bill was set as a United States Note (and United States Note only) with Thomas Jefferson’s portrait centering the obverse.
The bill was discontinued in 1966 due to poor circulation along with the United States Note of the five dollar bill.
Both remain legal tender to this day.
Nine years passed before Secretary of the Treasury William E. Simon announced the rebirth of the two dollar bill in a press conference on November 3rd, 1975.
The hope was that the new two dollar bill, complete with the same obverse and a redesigned reverse, would gain traction in circulation and reduce need for one dollar bills and five dollar bills.
However, this didn’t happen.
The new Federal Reserve Note’s mass printing at all twelve Federal Reserve banks led to an initial spike in circulation, but that dropped dramatically as a lot of first-issue bills were hoarded by collectors.
This, coupled with a lack of public demand, made the 1976 two dollar bill more of a failed experiment and a well-issued oddity than anything else.
The two dollar bill remains in circulation to this day since its reissue in 1976, but accounts for just under one percent of the overall circulation imprint in the United States.
Mints: Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Richmond, Atlanta, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Kansas City, Dallas, San Francisco
Total Produced: 590,720,000
Weight: 1 g
Width: 156 mm
Height: 66.3 mm
Composition: 0.750 cotton, 0.250 linen
Designer: Multiple designers and appropriated designs
Obverse Features: The overall design of the obverse of the 1976 two dollar bill was unchanged from its 1928 incarnation.
The standard geometrically wild web-patterned edging is present on the obverse with a curly number 2 in all four corners of the bill.
The 2’s in the bottom corners are smaller and have the phrase “TWO DOLLARS” superimposed over them.
The same phrasing can be found to the right and left of the bigger 2’s within the edging.
These are framed by an ornate inner border with shaded circles portending and giving depth.
Centering the bill is a portrait of Thomas Jefferson.
His last name is printed in a small ribbon at the bottom of the oval portrait.
Four black 1’s corner the inner area of the bill.
The phrase “THIS NOTE IS LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS, PUBLIC AND PRIVATE” can be found to the left of Jefferson’s portrait right under the ornate bordering.
Beneath will be the symbol of the particular Federal Reserve Bank from which the bill was issued, followed by a green serial number and the signature of the Treasurer of the United States.
To the right of Jefferson’s portrait (in vertical order) lies another green serial number, the phrase “WASHINGTON, DC,” a green Treasury seal with the word “TWO” in elongated, patterned lettering behind it, followed by the signature of the Treasury Secretary of the United States.
“SERIES 1976” can be found in small print in the space between Jefferson’s portrait and the Treasury Secretary’s signature.
Reverse Features: The reverse of the 1976 two dollar bill functions as the bill’s primary design change for its reissue, with the vast center of the reverse containing an engraving of the painting Declaration of Independence by John Turnbull.
This is the bill’s most striking and awe-inspiring feature, as the engraving on near-mint versions of the bill pops with a faithful clarity to its painting original that is sorely lacking in some other Federal Reserve Notes in United States history.
It’s a true marvel to behold.
As with the obverse, four 2’s corner the geometric edging of the bill with the two at the top larger than the two at the bottom.
The word “TWO” can be found in the edging at both ends of the reverse, vertically positioned so you have to turn the bill width-wise to read them.
There are four ribbons with phrasing which line the inner border of the reverse.
Above the painting, separated in three chunks of ribbon is the phrase “THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.”
“TWO DOLLARS” is printed twice in two ribbons in the bottom left and bottom right corners of the painting, while a small ribbon with the phrase “IN GOD WE TRUST” can be found in the center of the inner border beneath the painting.
Underneath that is the name of the painting, “DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE,” along with the date of the Declaration’s signing, “1776.”
A small tracking number can usually be found to the bottom right of the painting in the white space between the engraving and the border.
Errors and Variations
The most important and valuable variation of the 1976 two dollar bill has nothing to do with the actual minting of the note, and more to do with the gumption of collectors who received the bills on their first day of issue (April 13, 1976).
First-day issues could be taken to a local post office and stamped with a commemorative, official “APR 13 1976” red stamp.
The stamp is usually a basic two-circle design. In the inner smaller circle is the aforementioned date stamp.
The city and state in which the bill was stamped lies within the space between the larger circle and the inner circle, along with the branch identifier.
As for 1976 two dollar bill errors, the most valuable on the market has mismatching serial numbers on the obverse of the note.
The one that surfaced at Stack’s Bowers Galleries’ United States paper money auction was from the New York Federal Reserve Bank, and it had just a one-digit difference between the two serials.
This bill was graded as a Choice Uncirculated (64) and is currently valued at anywhere between $500 and $700.
Grading and Condition Issues
While there isn’t a pronounced value spike between 1976 two dollar bills in differing conditions, collectors will likely only pay for 1976 Series two dollar bills in either Extremely Fine (grade 40-45) or Uncirculated to Choice Uncirculated (grade 50-70) condition.
For a 1976 two dollar bill to be graded this high, stamped or otherwise, some very particular parameters need to be met.
For Extremely Fine circulated bills, up to 3 vertical folds are permitted.
The folds cannot be heavy enough as to have compromised the overall heft of the bill.
There may be several small bends from handling, but these bends must not be too apparent upon first viewing.
Good color quality and paper quality is a must.
At the top of the spectrum, Gem Uncirculated (65-70) bills will be nearly flawless with no visual distractions or folds.
The centering needs to be within 75% of perfect, while the colors and paper quality need to pop with original luster and strong embossing.
A crisp, near-mint 1976 two dollar bill is worth anywhere from face value to 50% above face value ($3.00).
The aforementioned stamped 1976 two dollar bills auction for about double face value ($4.00) or more if the city which stamped it has an interesting or unusual name.
The extremely large amount of 1976 two dollar bills printed means there are still plenty of bills out there in pristine condition, leading to a pretty hard and fixed cap on their current value.
Rampant hoarding when the bills were first released has led to more and more near-mint 1976 Series bills coming out of the woodwork year by year, leading numismatic specialists to believe that a value spike isn’t anywhere close to imminent.
So, while there’s a ton of historic value to the 1976 two dollar bill, the monetary trade value doesn’t match its overall significance.