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This 2-dollar bill tells the American story

I'm a bit of a currency naturalist:  I round bills up, mark them, and release them back into the wild.  That even goes for two dollar bills, which many Americans believe are no longer made (they are; in fact, series 2013 is in print now).  Because the two is in such low circulation, if you ask for them at the bank like I do, you will see some very old, very well-preserved currency.

Only on a two did I have much of a chance of finding this story.  Everything I know for a fact comes from that very bill, which I have pictured here.  A two from series 1976, in fairly crisp condition, with a note scrawled across it in black ink.  The handwriting crosses over dark portions of the bill's design, there's at least one word crossed out, and it's not very legible in the first place, but this is what I think it reads:

"To the [Checkers or Cheeses or Russo or something] Deli
Congrats on Year #1
Best of Luck For the Future"
[squiggle or signature]

Where is, or was, this deli?  When did it open?  The fact that this bill is in circulation leads one to believe that it has since closed; is that true?  How long was it open, and why did it close?  Who wrote the note on this bill?  Who decided to spend it?

The bill itself provides no further clues.  The back is unmarked, depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence over the very small "In God We Trust," almost as if in deference to Jefferson's likely distaste for this new America motto.  While the bill is decades old, it's been barely used, so it's not easy to guess how long ago it was written upon.  There are no tack holes or tape marks to suggest that it was ever displayed.

My guess?  This mild-mannered bill was presented in the last 5-10 years, and the business was another victim of the Great Recession which is still playing out for millions of people who can't find work or restructure debt that they didn't understand when they took it on in the first place.

Not only does this bill tell of our most recent economic crisis, it also speaks to our relationship with money.  The wishes for success given with this bill almost certainly carried with them the assumption that the talisman itself would be retained, not spent.  It's similar to never letting one's purse or wallet be emptied of cash.  Like draws like, so this bill was placed as a seed to grow more of the same.

There is no doubt that money, like coat hangars, tends to multiply when left undisturbed.  But I wonder if there are better ways to use money to confer success upon a new business.  Businesses do not make money by sitting on all that they have; they create cash flow, spending in the hopes that more will return than went out.  Money through growth, in the form of things like stock prices and compound interest, comes much later on in a business' life cycle.

Maybe we need to align how we make our wishes with how money behaves in the economy.  "To the [name obscured] Deli," we might write, "spend this bill, and may many more just like it come to you in return."

If I have my druthers, this post will go viral and someone will come forward who knows the real story of this deli and this two dollar bill.

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Terence P Ward is a business writer and journalist who blogs under the rather cumbersome moniker of True Pagan Warrior.  He can generally be found at home, tending to his gardens and the many demands of his cats; in the alternative, follow TPW on Facebook. 


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