There are several interesting theories about why the $2 bill never really caught on. The first involves an urban legend focused on rigging long-ago political elections. Apparently, the going rate for buying a citizen’s vote was $2, so being in possession of a $2 bill was thought to have a negative connotation that its owner may have accepted a bribe. Similarly, in the 1920s, the going rate for “ladies of the evening” was $2, adding another layer of infamy to the innocent reserve note.
Finally, the word “deuce” is an old-timey nickname for the devil, leading many recipients to believe that a $2 bill would bring bad luck to its owner. To ward off an unfortunate fate, folks would tear off a corner of the notes to neutralize the stigma, leading to a raft of mutilated bills being culled from circulation as damaged. With the public rightly or wrongly shunning the bills, the government needed to recover the cost of printing them so it leaned on a captive audience: the military. For decades, the “Tom” was stuffed into armed forces’ pay envelopes and circulated around military bases.