No, Your $2 Bills Are Not Worth $20,000

No, Your $2 Bills Are Not Worth $20,000

If you've been anywhere near Facebook this week you've probably already seen that your old Canadian $2 bills are now magically worth $20,000. Hooray, we're all rich! Or at least everyone who held on to a few of those classic reddish-orange notes. Except, like so many things on the Internet these days, the story is too good to be true.

The headline on the MTL Blog story from Monday reads "Old $2 Bills Are Now Worth $20,000." It has been shared more than 165,000 times on Facebook and been viewed by more than 1.3 million people. Too bad the headline is not true.

The story is essentially a repost of a Buzz Bonin story from January, which is itself a repost of a widely-published story from 2012 about a single rare $2 bill that was expected to fetch as much as $20,000 at auction in Toronto.

Except the single, exceedingly rare bill did not sell for $20,000. It sold for $10,000, plus commission, according to Jared Stapleton, owner of the Toronto Coin Expo.

"Ya, they're resurrecting the sale," said Stapleton, who has been hit with a deluge of calls this week from people hoping to get rich quick with their $2 bills. Many have been disappointed to find that there are only a handful of known copies of the rare version of the bill that is the basis for the viral story.

Adding insult to injury, Stapleton said that even if you were to find another one of these rare bills, it would actually be worth less than the last one sold at auction. Put simply: the more there are the less they're worth.

The bill in question is so valuable because it has the signatures of the wrong officials on it. The 1986 $2 bills with the AUG, AUH and AUJ serial numbers should have the signatures of Bank of Canada governor Gerald Bouey and deputy governor John Crow, but some instead have the signatures of incoming Bank of Canada governor John Crow and deputy governor Gordon Thiessen.

Stapleton said that it's likely that some of the old sheets of paper made it into the new printing, leading to the mistake.

It's a strange event like this that often leads to valuable bills and the $2 note in question is far from the most valuable. Aside from older bills like the set of 1935 $1000 bills that just sold last month for $175,000 or the 1878 $2 bill that went for $45,000 at the same auction, there are some other rare bills like the incorrectly-signed $2 note that you might actually find in your wallet.

Between 1995 and 1998 the Bank of Canada experimented with plastic money via a print run of 100,000 $5 bills using new "Luminus" paper. The Bank told nobody and removed the bills from circulation when they were done testing.

But one woman in Saint John, N.B., had a habit of keeping crisp-looking bills whenever she cashed a cheque. Years later her son realized what they had, Stapleton said. Last year the bill was sold at auction in Toronto for $20,000 plus commission.

So yes, this stuff happens, but no, it's not likely to happen to you. Though Stapleton said that doesn't mean you shouldn't look.

"I think it's exciting," he said. "A common person can be sitting on a small little treasure."

That said, a quick look on eBay reveals that most old $2 bills sell for, well, around $2.

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