A Family of $2 Bills

I married into a family of seven Toms. My father-in-law, two brothers-in-law, two nephews, one son of a nephew, and a husband of a cousin, all named Tom. It’s fitting then, that my daughter will soon marry Thomas Beck Martin. Toms are ubiquitous in our family so it seems strange to me that a $2 bill is somewhat rare…and that $2 bills are referred to by collectors as Toms. (Tom Jefferson graces the front of the bill)

John Bennardo, producer and director of a film called “The $2 Bill Documentary,” says that when the $2 bill was first printed in 1862, “…our country did not have much wealth, and a lot of things cost less than a dollar. So the $2 bill really didn’t have much of a practical use.”

It became the perfect note for some rather nefarious purposes. “Politicians used to be known for bribing people for votes, and they would give them a $2 bill, so if you had one it meant that perhaps you’d been bribed by a politician,” Bennardo says. “Prostitution back in the day was $2 for a trick, so if you were spending $2 bills it might get you into trouble with your wife. $2 is the standard bet at a race track, so if you were betting $2 and you won, you might get a bunch of $2 bills back and that would show that you were gambling.”

The Tom got kind of a dirty rep, and over the years as inflation brought the value of the single and the two closer together it became even less necessary. Folks didn’t see much use for poor ol’ Tom, and in 1966 the government decided to stop making it. Ten years went by with no twos.

In 1976, the Treasury decided it would take another shot at the $2 bill. It would order the Bureau to print a special bill for the country’s bicentennial, with a big picture of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the back.

My brother-in-law, Tom Achey, came of age during the Nixon, Ford, and Carter administrations. He still has the same haircut from 1976. And something else from 1976 that he recovered just last week.

He went to buy cigarettes at a local store and was handed change. As he walked out, he glanced down at a $2 bill. There was writing on it.

Debbie            Summit         268-0642


He looked closer and saw the year, 1976. It looked like his writing. Tom had met a pretty blonde in 1976, and asked for her name and phone number and street address. He married her. Forty years later, they still are married and live in the same town in New Jersey.

Debbie Achey told her husband that it was a sign, that it was meant to be, that they met in 1976 aided by a note scribbled by Tom on a Tom, a note that somehow found it’s way back home after forty years. Tom had a simpler answer, “God is telling me it’s ok to smoke.”

Tom saw his wife to be forty years ago and wrote her name on a $2 post-it-note. Like a homing pigeon returning to roost, one of a billion two dollar bills in circulation returned to Tom who had scribbled “Debbie   Summit   268-0642”

What happened to Summit? The house on a dirt road without an address number, only a street name, was later given the number 60, and a paved road now fronts the home of Debbie Mason Achey’s youth. Debbie’s mom sold the home a couple of days ago to a nice couple with a boy. His name is Mason.

And now Mason will roam the same halls of 60 Summit Drive which holds 45 years of memory for a family of Mason’s, many called Tom. And the patriarch, Thom Mason, looking down knowingly, perhaps planted the $2 bill, and the kid named Mason. It makes one stop and think…and pay attention to the currency of your life.

One response to “A Family of $2 Bills”

  1. Great story, Brent. Can’t believe that two dollar bill came back to Tom Achey. Love all your stories. Look forward to
    next one. You are a great writer.

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