Have you ever read your money? This isn’t a diatribe about hidden Masonic messages. I’m talking about the things that regular folx like you and I write on our money. As some one who’s handled tons of cash as a result of various career choices (bank teller, cashier, small business owner) I’ve always been fascinated with the messages people choose to circulate on currency.
When I was running a spoken word non-profit, many performers would write “poetry bux” on the money they received from their gigs so that the bar owners and venues would know for a fact that having poets brought in revenue. I’ve seen political messages from both sides of the aisle (and most fringe groups) written on money, pro- and anti-religion statements, girls phone numbers, notes to friends, jokes, and much more. But the post-Treasury markings that have kept my attention for a number of years now are the Where’s George? stamps.
You’ve probably noticed this question on your currency at some point, and even if you haven’t it’s all but guaranteed such a marked bill has passed through your hands at some point. As of this writing 116,639,865 bills worth $642,183,120 have been marked with that question (or similar ones) and entered into a database at WheresGeorge.com in order for people to loosely “track” their bills and see exactly where their money ends up. Although sometimes tedious, tracking where the actual bills you spend go in the future (or seeing where they’ve been in the past) can also be fascinating.
Personally, I’ve entered 3,402 bills worth $48,853 into the system. Of these, 436 have been entered into the system by someone else after the bill left my hands. These “hits” have come from more than 38 different states and 4 foreign countries (Germany, Mexico, United Kingdom, and Vietnam). One of $5 bill has been entered into the system six times since I spent it in Gilroy on April 30, 2006. In the year since then it’s only traveled an additional 504 miles, but I’ve had bills with 3,000 mile plus journeys that criss-crossed their way across America.
What does this all mean? Nothing really. But it’s kind of cool on a dreary winter today like today to get an email letting me know that a dollar bill I spent on vacation in Las Vegas two years ago was spent at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City sometime last night.