Big Bucks

5000fI picked up a copy of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye at the library this week.

Later, as I opened it up to read, I noted it still had the old “sign out” card in a pocket inside the front cover. The second  name on the list was that of my first grade teacher with a due date of June 1956. Now, some 57 years later I get around to reading it.

While there is little mention of dragons slain or grails quested in the book, it is clear that things have changed  a bit since this book was written. After having to Google a couple of automobile makes I had never heard of, (only a few Jowett-Jupiters  back in my neighborhood) my interest peaked with the story’s arrival of a five thousand dollar bill. Marlow receives one in the mail from a client/friend and comments  about it, ending with the statement that there were only about a thousand left in circulation.

Consulting the wise sage Google, I found that, as of May 30, 2009 there were only 342 of these bills that had not been destroyed after being officially discontinued on July 14, 1969. (Hey, I did find one for sale in Chicago for only $69,000.)

I’m sure that had I been rich enough to have had one back then, I would have probably  driven my Jowett-Jupiter  to the automatic car wash and shoved the bill into slot (as I did with a $20 one time) and been  inundated  with 19,976 quarters in change. However, my real interest was in how Chandler came up with the data on the bill’s circulation to began with. One would hope that there had been a recent magazine or newspaper article featuring high denomination bills that he had remembered. Researching this in the late 40’s or early 50’s would have been a chore at best, requiring much more than picking up my iPad and typing in “$5000 bill”. . . which, incidentally, took less time than reading this sentence.

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