Shot in a dozen states over the course of a year, The Two Dollar Bill Documentary was a passion project for its Director, John Bennardo, when he decided to learn more about the small stack of $2 bills he had stashed in his desk drawer. Little did he realize how much his film would grow conceptually; what started out as a history lesson with some small anecdotes and hidden camera uses of the bill became a thoroughly comprehensive story whose content was as inspirational as it was informative.
The project was legitimized when Bennardo was given permission to film the production of two dollar bills at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas. Soon after, the film was mentioned in a New York Times article about the revitalization of the $2 bill. The article caught the attention of several individuals with various stories related to the $2 bill. They in turn contacted Bennardo to be a part of the film. How could he leave out Treasury employees involved in the re-issue of the $2 bill in 1976? Or, stories of the $2 bill on NASA space missions? The scope of the project grew, and Bennardo wanted to document all of it.
The project then took a full year for editing, with the most difficult task becoming how to weave all the fascinating information into a cohesive narrative. For that, Bennardo turned to his own personal story, supplemented by research data provided by interviewee Erik Mintz, to frame the film. The result is a stirring success: The Two Dollar Bill Documentary is a fun, entertaining and informative look at a piece of currency that is so much more than meets the eye. Audiences have come away surprised, not only at how the film exceeded expectations, but how much information they learned from the film. Bennardo is confident that the film will invigorate awareness and use of the denomination—or at least will have people searching for their own stashed bills for another look.
Everyone has had a two dollar bill before, right? Most people believe they're out of print, good or bad luck, or are a rare commodity. But in this comprehensive documentary, all aspects of the "deuce" are explored - from its history to the many superstitions surrounding it; from its use by special interest groups to the way it's perceived by consumers and vendors. The film even looks at the bill's popularity at adult establishments, its visits to outer space and the subculture of users that cherish the bill. Take a fun and entertaining journey that will open your eyes about a truly unique piece of currency.
When a child’s tooth falls out, the odd, quirky $2 bill is usually called on as the best gift from the Tooth Fairy. But aren’t they hard to come by? When a young boy’s father tries to find the perfect $2 bill for this occasion, he begins a journey that enlightens him about the denomination most people know nothing about.
The quest starts with confirmation that urban legends about the $2 bill—one involving a Taco Bell manager and another about a man who got arrested for using them at a Best Buy—are real. A meeting with a blogger who documents reactions to $2 bills reveals that people are fascinated when they see one because of the misconception that they’re rare or aren’t printed anymore.
Not so! At a visit to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas, we learn how they’re made, how often, and we see the 2013 Series being printed firsthand. The “intaglio” print design is prominent on the twos, which have a rich history dating back to the thousands of “broken-bank” twos made before the Civil War. The history lesson takes us through the red-seal Monticello bills, which were discontinued in 1966, and then to the re-issue in 1976, which was so beautiful that people thought it a collector’s item. The bill was hoarded, passed onto to future generations, or held for good luck.
The bill has been considered a novelty and treated this way since 1976, but the misconceptions surrounding it have made for some touching stories about the ways it connects people. Furthermore, consumers and vendors who employ the bill (including strip clubs) find it to be an effective tool for engagement. Even special interest groups use the bill to create awareness about their message. Clemson University, whose alumni stamp twos with tiger paws before bowl games, are an example.
Some believe the $2 bill to be good luck, including astronauts who have taken them onto numerous space missions. Others, however, believe the bill to be cursed. A superstition expert shows us how the Illuminati may have placed hidden symbols and messages on the deuce, as well as the ways you can remove the curse.
Other misconceptions about the bill include the idea that it is worth more than two dollars. Visits with collectors and currency experts show this not to be true, but there are some cases when the bill has added value. Even at two dollars though, there is a large subculture of people who cherish the bill, and its uses in society are grossly underestimated. One powerful story about a widow from the September 11 tragedy shows this emphatically.
With all this knowledge, will one father gift his 7-year old a $2 bill from the Tooth Fairy, or is there a better way for him to receive it? After a memorable journey to document the bill, the decision has been made very clear.
When I first began this project, centered around my curiosities about a piece of currency that I never wanted to spend, I thought it would be a small film with little interest. What I learned though, is just how important the $2 bill is, and just how many people treated it with the same reverence and curiosities that I did.
Nearly everyone I came in contact with about the film had a $2 bill story to share - they pulled one out of their wallet or purse or told a touching story about how they got it. When news of the film's production reached the public, I quickly got interview requests for newspapers and radio programs. I was on to something.
The film quickly grew in scope, and I found myself traveling across the country - from south Florida to Portland, Oregon—to document all of the material. By the time the editing process began, it had become a difficult task to work all of the amazing content into the film. After two years of work, I am extremely proud of the final product, which will give audiences that same nostalgic feeling they get whenever they think about or look at their own $2 bills.
My thought process has changed dramatically since I first decided to make this documentary. The two dollar bill is an important part of our nation's economic landscape; it is misunderstood by the public, yet when used, it can do amazing things to connect people. I now know that this is a film that has a large built-in audience, and with a topic (money) that couldn't be more universal, it is the kind of film that will continue to attract attention wherever it plays.
The fact that I was able to thoroughly document the story of this remarkable piece of Americana, combined with how I was able to share my own passions and experiences with the $2 bill, have made this the most satisfying project I have ever created. The true reward comes now: being able to share the film with as many people as possible... and watching them pull out their own $2 bills for another look at them once they've seen the film.
The Director of Manufacturing at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth, Texas, Ms. Williams explains how frequently $2 bills are produced, who decides how many to make and when, and she explains the process of how $2 bills are made.
Erik is an MIT graduate who, after an inspiring encounter with a $2 bill in one of his graduate classes, began a year-long research project on the currency. His findings are an integral part of the film’s structure. Soon after, Erik joined the project as an Associate Producer.
An expert on the paranormal and well versed in superstition lore, Mr. Nickell shares some of the origins of how the $2 bill was perceived as bad luck. He highlights hidden symbols of the Illuminati on the back of the bill and explains some of the ways the “curse” can be removed.
Mr. Jurek has always admired the $2 bill and the United States space program. His collection of $2 bills that have been on Mercury, Gemini and Apollo missions is impressive. He profiles his collection and shares the incredible stories of why the astronauts carried them aboard.
Ms. Gschaar has perhaps the most fascinating and touching story in the film. After losing her husband in the tragedy of September 11, it was a $2 bill that gave her the closure she needed to accept his death. Hers is a powerful story about the ways a $2 bill connects people.
Mr. Bart is the CEO of ExecutiveCurrency.com and a published expert on paper currency errors. Since $2 bills are more scarce than other denominations, errors on them make them more valuable. Bart has some of the more amazing $2 errors and shares them in the film.
Johnny is the owner of the very successful Casa Diablo, an adult entertainment establishment in Portland, Oregon. It’s a club made famous by their use of $2 bills, which Diablo discusses. He also explains why his special “red ring” two dollar bills got him in some local trouble.
Dr. Noll is an accomplished historian whose specialization is in the financial and monetary history of the U.S. Government. As such, he was a perfect fit to share facts and insight into the history of the $2 bill from its 19th century designs through the reissue in 1976.
You know him as the Ben in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, but nowadays, Mr. Cohen oversees The Stamp Stampede, whose aim is to eliminate money from politics. Stamping messages on paper currency is the thing, but Cohen explains how much more effective it is to use a $2 bill.
The Vice President of PCGS Currency—which authenticates & grades collectible monies, Ms. Kessler shares a wealth of information about why twos are perceived as valuable, and the several circumstances that would in fact make them worth more than $2.
An esteemed author, professor and media commentator, Dr. Watson’s passion for the American presidency is his greatest attribute. So there was little doubt that he would be the one to talk about the president synonomous with the $2 bill: Thomas Jefferson.
These two gentlemen have stories about the $2 bill that seem hard to believe. Yet both tales are true. Each encountered managers at popular national franchises who did not believe that $2 bills were real. What happened next is the stuff urban legends are made of.