Dirty Money

December 28, 2008

I handle money all day long at my job and it strikes me how worn a lot of money is, especially singles.  They feel and look more like threadbare cloth than the crisp pieces of paper we (or I) imagine in the abstract.

That begs the question of how money got this way, and you would think that it’s a function of circulation, but actually I also get to see how people store their money and I’m constantly amazed by the high percentage of people (of all classes and genders) who crumple their money up into multiple little wads they dig out of wallets or purses or clips. 

I’m not sure why this seems so bizarre to me, but it does, and sometimes I stare as a customer gradually unwads their cash and thumbs through it and offers me the right amount.  Why do people do this to their money?  Is it some kind of ambivalence about having money (unlikely) or some kind of hoarding impulse?  Anyway, it’s fascinating.  I don’t have any grand ideas here, I’m just wondering how you keep your money (and why).  Mine, when I have it, is folded once in a wallet also filled with receipts.  No particular order.

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3 Responses to “Dirty Money”

  1. AdamFeldmeth Says:

    I recall seeing a program on the paper dollar. They test each batch before sending into circulation on this machine that is ninety some years old. Taking a single bill out of the batch this machine “works” the bill to test the paper’s strength. The standard bills we carry in our wallets can withstand a hundred and fifty folds on the same crease before beginning to fray, rip, and tear from common everyday usage.


  2. About 80% of the time they my bills face the same way, flat, in denominational order. When I’m in a busy situation, I’ll place the the bills any which way, and usually there’s a time (like waiting for purchases to be rung up) when I put them in order and straighten dog-eared corners (if necessary). If I receive a stack of new bills and I have older ones in the same denomination, I’ll interleave them, only because new bills tend to stick together. This system expedites the removal of the correct amount most quickly, and results in the least amount of change. This may sound a little OCD, but it’s also the most efficient.

    When I was living up in Seattle, Gus Van Sant did a visiting artist gig and showed an early short film, The Discipline of DE, by William Burroughs.

    This was a life changing event, and has influenced the everything from my system for organizing computer files to the way I wipe my ass.

  3. Will Says:

    I keep mine folded once, small bills on the outside. Of course
    it’s easier when the different bills are different sizes and colors.
    Going back to America, I found the money strange to deal with,
    and the smell of it always throws me. People here, though, often
    keep their bills straight and crisp, so long wallets are common.
    Koreans have a lot of respect for it, too. A friend tore up a 1,000
    won note (worth about a dollar) and his Korean friends were
    horrified. Then again, he once paid for his time in an internet cafe
    with a laminated 1,000 won note and the owner found it really
    funny.

    Also, not to belabor the point, but American bills are actually
    cloth. If they were printed on paper they wouldn’t last nearly
    as long.


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