The Secret Life of Money

wheresgeorge.jpgMoney is a funny thing, so when I got a dollar bill at a coffee kiosk (corner of 60th Street and Madison Avenue in Manhattan) this morning I didn’t think much about it until I saw a pink inked stamp that told me to TRACK THIS BILL AT WWW.WHERESGEORGE.COM.

I dutifully (when money talks, I listen) plugged in the serial number and series number and found that my dollar was registered last year in ALABAMA!

Seems my George W. gets around. It first surfaced on the world wide web after being received from Peoples Bank on Highway 157 in Cullman, AL on April 17, 2006, and was registered again on the site the following month (May 4 to be precise) in Huntsville, AL.

WheresGeorge.com has a wiki entry that explains that “As of April 15, 2007, Where’s George? is currently tracking over 103 million bills totaling over 573 million dollars.” Now, that’s a WOW!

It goes on to explain:

To increase the chance of having a bill reported, some users (called “Georgers”) write or stamp text on the bills encouraging bill finders to visit http://www.wheresgeorge.com and track the bill’s travels. However, the site does not encourage the defacement of U.S. Currency.

At first I didn’t believe the claim, but a quick Google search revealed sites that sell the WheresGeorge.com stamp (example), so I guess it is popular.

Wait a minute…isn’t it a illegal to deface currency? Yahoo! Answers says yes but echoes the same point, “Their ‘disclaimer’ says – Where’s George? does not encourage the defacement of U.S. Currency.” (source) WheresGeorge.com clarifies in their website’s FAQs, “The law defines ‘illegal’ defacement as defacement that renders bills unfit to be re-issued.” (source)

I guess it it can’t be all that illegal if the New York State Banking Department lists WheresGeorge.com on their website, right?

Anyway, WheresGeorge.com offers you a nifty URL to track your bill as it journeys around the world: http://www.wheresgeorge.com/report.php?key=15e9632cd70c0e06751f1b6956d4ffb55657bafe97267dc1

There’s even a super short video that spoofs WheresGeorge.com you may want to check out at iFilm (video).

Coincidentally, I spent the imprinted bill at lunch, so let’s see what happens next…

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