Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On?

There it was, in the grass right beside the road. Cash. A bill that, even at first glance, was obviously larger than a one, a five, or even a ten.

Maybe some of you take your daily walks in the kind of neighborhoods where people go around with so many hundred-dollar bills in their pockets that they're likely to lose one every now and then. That doesn't happen where I live.

Oh, it's a nice neighborhood, a wooded, hilly area on the edge of town where the deer consider front-yard flower beds a place to go for lunch and where walkers are more likely to encounter mountain lions than muggers. Still, people don't scatter cash around with reckless abandon. The most money I've ever found during a walk was a ten-dollar bill, and I felt guilty about that.

So seeing what looked like a hundred-dollar bill in the ditch was the most exciting thing that had happened to me that day. (True, it was only 7:15 in the morning, but still.) Until I picked it up and realized it wasn't a hundred-dollar bill.

It was a million-dollar bill. It looked reasonably real, too, with the funky shaded color of new U.S. currency, official-looking seals and signatures in the right places, and an appropriately offset picture of our 19th president, Rutherford B. Hayes.

I might have gotten a lot more excited, except I happen to know that the government of the United States doesn't print million-dollar bills. The largest denomination that's been printed since 1969 is the hundred. The few remaining $500, $1,000, $5,000 and $10,000 bills that might still be around are taken out of circulation whenever they show up. These are still legal tender, though, so if you happen to find one in a ditch be sure to check it out carefully.

Fake or not, I stuck this one in my pocket to take home. Without my reading glasses, I couldn't make out the two scroll-like areas on the back that were filled with teeny, tiny printing.

Actually, reading glasses weren't enough. It took a magnifying glass. I learned that the "million dollar question" was whether I had a prayer of getting into heaven. The answer was no, unless I would repent and turn from sin—said sin being specified as lying, stealing, blasphemy, and adultery.

This inspiring little diatribe raised several questions. First, since meanness, violence, and murder weren't listed, are those behaviors okay? Or, even with the teeny, tiny print, was there just not enough room to list them?

Second, if I'm walking along minding my own business, and I pick up a fake million-dollar bill that's lying by the road, does that make me a thief?

Third, if a religious organization prints fake million-dollar bills, hoping to entice people into picking them up, isn't that more than a little bit like lying? Wouldn't it also qualify as leading people into temptation?

Fourth, is it really a great idea, once you have people's attention with a fake million-dollar bill, to print your message so small that they have to use a magnifying glass to read it?

And finally, why pick on Rutherford B. Hayes? The man never got a chance to be on our genuine currency. Using his image on a fake is only adding insult to injury. Maybe his descendants should sue. They might get a settlement. It might even be paid in million-dollar bills.

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Categories: Just For Fun, Money Matters | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Not Worth the Paper It’s Printed On?

  1. Val

    What a find!
    We, too, have a million dollar bill. But ours features Lady Liberty and it clearly states (without a magnifying glass) “it’s sole purpose is to promte special events and good times.” The back of the bill looks like a billboard for a bank.
    Our bill hangs on the fridge as a reminder of a goal…a chance to see that number have real meaning.

  2. Kathleen

    Great idea, Val, to have your million-dollar bill on the fridge. I don’t think I’d put mine up, though. The dire warnings about my chances in the afterlife aren’t exactly the kind of affirmations I’d want to see every day.

  3. Sara

    What about the littering?? You were not a theif, but a good steward of the land.

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