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Hand them something strange

What U.S. legal tender coins and paper currency could be spent and possibly spark enough interest to encourage a new numismatist?


Over the past several months, I have aggressively spent $2 Federal Reserve Notes when paying for purchases. This causes the cashier to pay a bit more attention than usual, mostly because they don’t have an established slot in their till for the $2s.

Some cashiers put them in the large-denomination bin and others put them below the drawer. I often hear a comment such as, “I haven’t seen one of these for a while.”

From past experience, I am confident that some of these notes will end up being bought out of the till by the cashier or a manager. My barber tells me, for instance, that he sets aside and saves all the half dollar and $1 coins and the $2 notes he receives.

When I spend the golden dollar coins, people have less of a reaction because they see them often enough for them not to be worthy of comment. However, when I spend Kennedy half dollars, which have not been struck for circulation since 2001, they generate as much interest as paying with the $2 notes. I get a lot of comments such as, “It’s been a long time since I saw one of these.”

When the 2018 Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore quarter was released as Michigan’s contribution to the America the Beautiful series, I made sure to hand out lots of them far and wide – and asked the recipients if they had already seen them. That drew a lot of interest, as that is my home state, and almost no one had seen one yet (sadly, most of the general public weren’t even aware that it had been released).

As the American and world economy moves toward greater usage of electronic payments instead of coins and paper currency, the opportunities to interest a budding numismatist by the change in their pocket or the bills in their wallet are diminishing. But the prospects are not zero. Also, it can be a lot of fun for the person paying out the interesting coins and currency, as well as for the people receiving them.

The next time you are getting some spending cash from a bank or credit union teller (sorry, you can’t do this with an ATM), ask them if they have any $2 Federal Reserve Notes or rolls of half dollars that you can take off their hands. Then, go have fun spending them.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2017 Exemplary Service and 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He was also honored by the Numismatic Literary Guild in 2017 and 2016 for the Best Dealer-Published Magazine/Newspaper and for Best Radio Report. He is the communications officer of Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes “Liberty’s Outlook,” a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects. Past newsletter issues can be viewed at Some of his radio commentaries titled “Things You ‘Know’ That Just Aren’t So, And Important News You Need To Know” can be heard at 8:45 a.m. Wednesday and Friday mornings on 1320-AM WILS in Lansing (which streams live and becomes part of the audio and text archives posted at

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News Express. >> Subscribe today

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