MONEY NOBODY WANTS
Five dollars will buy you some fun at your local banks. Just ask any teller for two $2 bills and one Susan B. Anthony $1 coin, shift tongue into cheek, and see what happens.Skip to next paragraph
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"Oh, wow!" was the answer I got, followed by a pause, and then, "OK." She left her window and walked to the far end of the teller cages. In a few minutes she returned with the offbeat currency in hand.
"The only way we get these," she says, "is that occasionally someone shoves them at us and says, 'Get rid of this! Give me real money!' Personally," she confesses, "I like the $1 coins for laughs. If I buy something for, say $1.85, I hand over two Susan B. Anthony coins. They stare at them and say, 'What's this?'"
Around the corner at a savings and loan association, I pushed one of my crisp the young man behind the glass reached for the silvery-looking coins.
"Nobody wants 'em," he commented laconically. "They look too much like quarters.People are afraid to give out one and lose 75 cents. The bank gave us 25 before Christmas in case people wanted to give them as presents. It's March and I've still got 16."
The cooperative bank down the street had neither $2 bills nor $1 coins.
At the final stop on my bank sortie, the teller grimaced and sold me two more those! The Federal Reserve Bank doesn't issue either anymore. The only ones we get are from people who turn them in. But we do have one man who comes in here twice a week and buys up all the $2 bills and $1 coins we have. I don't know why."
At the restaurant where I bought my $2.05 lunch, the cashier did a double take when I paid out two $1 coins and a nickel. "Oh!" she exclaimed, "I'm going to buy these for my grandchildren!"
On the turnpike toll booth, the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin elicited only a mock groan and, "Oh, one of those! I only see one about once a month."
So what does it prove?
* That the $2 bill, issued in 1976 during America's Bicentennial celebration, and the Susan B. Anthony $1 coin, launched with equal fanfare in 1979, are still out there -- even though the public initially gave a peremptory thumbs-down on this economy move.
* That both are available -- if you ask for them. They are negotiable, though not redeemed with wild enthusiasm. They are current, though scarce as dragons' teeth.
* That to bank tellers and commercial cashiers, they are just a bother.
* That because orders from commercial banks to the Federal Reserve System for these new demoninations peaked only two or three months after they appeared and were promptly proclaimed a monetary flop by the press, few Americans have seen more than a few, and many have never seen either.
* That banks are not ordering the $2 bill and $1 coin, because their customers don't want them. But if they don't hand them out routinely, their customers have no opportunity to become accustomed to them.
* That what sounded like a bright bureaucratic idea to save between $20 million and $24 million a year in minting and printing costs has been hard to sell to the American public, mainly because people resist changing their currency habits.
Canada's $2 bill circulates there almost as heavily as its $1 bill. But the Treasury in Washington hasn't had an order from Federal Reserve Banks for a two-spot in two years. Production of them stopped in 1978.
"by popular lack of demand," explains Harry R. Clements, director of the Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing, "the Federal Reserve System is not using them for circulation."
When deuces do show up, the Fed's 25 member banks quietly retire them to their vaults. Of 500 million printed, about 250 million are now in storage. The government estimates that many of the remaining 250 million, rather than passing from hand to hand, are stashed away by serious collectors and hoarded by others just as a curiosity.