Paper Money

Filmmaker explores $2 FRNs in new movie

What is it that makes the $2 Federal Reserve note so fascinating to collectors and noncollectors alike?

That’s exactly the question filmmaker John Bennardo of Delray Beach, Fla., wanted to answer.

He’s currently in the editing stage of a film on the subject and hopes it will be ready for a Nov. 1, 2014, release.

Bennardo said he plans to make DVDs available for sale and is looking at schedules of upcoming film festivals to enter his film. He is also planning for an eBook for the iPad.

The spark

More than a year ago, Bennardo was looking at nearly a dozen $2 FRNs he keeps in a desk drawer. He thought to himself that “there’s something” about these notes. That’s when he decided to make his Two Dollar Bill documentary.

“It’s my journey to understand the power of the $2 bill,” Bennardo said. “It’s the forgotten son of paper currency.”

Bennardo is owner of Immaginé Productions, a full service video production company.

Since asking himself the question, he has filmed many interviews on the topic of people’s fascination with or loathing of the $2 FRNs.

Hours of interviews

He’s filmed interviews with:

  • A group of supporters at Clemson University in Clemson, S.C., who stamp orange tiger paws on $2 notes and spend them at away games.
  • A blogger who writes about her experiences with using $2 FRNS and the reactions of bartenders, hair stylists and others when she presents her payments or tips.
  • Several paper money dealers who talk about collectors’ fascination with the $2 denomination.
  • A collector who focuses on $2 notes that have flown aboard spaceships.
  • A former stripper who explained why $2 notes and strippers in Texas are nearly synonymous with a certain strip club.
  • A group of gun owners in Virginia who have used the $2 FRNs to call attention to their Second Amendment rights.
  • A group in Michigan who used $2 FRNs in 2013 to start a conversation about reforming the laws about the use of medical marijuana.
  • He also filmed interviews with dealers in attendance at the Florida United Numismatists Summer Convention in July 2013.

One of the latest interviews he’s conducted included officials at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing’s Fort Worth, Texas, facility.

He said he was able to film “hours of footage — it was amazing. We had access to every stage of production,” he said.

Kickstarter funding

He said he raised money to begin the project on Kickstarter, an online crowd funding website. He raised $18,489, eclipsing his goal of $18,200.

In his Kickstarter explanation of the film, he writes that most people have come in contact with $2 FRNs and “believe them to be unique collector’s items, so they save them. The thinking is that they’re extremely rare, that they’re good luck, or that they’re more valuable than they actually are.”

“When cashiers get them, there’s always a reaction. When special interest groups want to draw attention to themselves, they’ll start a campaign to spend them,” he writes. “Basically they’re treated as anything but the normal pieces of paper currency that they are.”

$2 history

The U.S. federal government has produced the $2 denomination since the 1860s, beginning with $2 legal tender (United States) notes featuring a portrait of Alexander Hamilton for the first issues. Other types of large- and small-size $2 notes have featured portraits of other individuals.

But once production of small-size Federal Reserve notes began with Series 1976 notes, a portrait of Thomas Jefferson has “owned” the face of all $2 notes. Since then the Jefferson portrait has been paired with a scene from John Trumbull’s painting, The Singing of the Declaration of Independence.

To obtain more information about the documentary, visit www.2dollarbillmovie.com.


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