Counterfeit $1 million bill

A man tried to change a US$1 million bill at a Pittsburgh convenience grocery store this week. Problem is, the biggest bill in circulation is a $100. After the cashier pointed out that the bill was obviously fake and refused to return it to him, the man became very angry. He was nabbed by police but refuses to give his name. From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
The largest bill ever printed is the $100,000 gold certificate, which was made in 1934 and 1935, and used only for transactions between Federal Reserve banks.

The $1 million bill seized Saturday might have originated from a Dallas-based ministry, which last year distributed thousands of religious pamphlets with a picture of the bogus bill, police said.

Ethan Persoff says, "The bogus million dollar bill you're describing is also notable for having Reagan's face on it. I found one on a bridge a year or so ago." Link

 Ee Images Forumuploads Millionbill UPDATE: BB reader Robert points out, "It sounds like there are different types of bogus $1,000,000 bills floating around. If you do a Google image search for "million dollar bill," you see lots of variants on this theme. (Including the Statute of Liberty, Grover Cleveland, and Santa Clause)." The bill in question supposedly featured a portrait of Grover Cleveland, not Ronald Reagan, according to the original article you linked to. It was probably this one: Link


  1. Because most convenience stores have change for a million dollars just lying around. Or was he buying a LOT of condoms, Slurpees, and candy bars?

    Why Grover Cleveland??

  2. Giant/Eagle isn’t a convenience store. It’s a full-sized/full-service grocery store.

    And that Reagan note that Ethan posted about? I’ve seen one of them as well, but the only thing it has to do with the story is the denomination (of the note, not the church). ;o)

  3. PHOS (#4), Thanks for the correction on Giant/Eagle. The Reagan note is relevant because police say that the counterfeit bill “might have originated from a Dallas-based ministry” and the Reagan note Ethan posted is also a religious tract.

  4. “distributed thousands of religious pamphlets with a picture of the bogus bill”

    Makes sense, since the serial number of the pictured bill is “JN 316RU4GOD“.

  5. I would call that “fake,” not counterfeit. The latter implies intentional duplicity on the maker’s part.

  6. There generally are cracked out people in the Jan-niggle grocery stores here in Pittsburgh. I can’t imagine what state of mind someone has to be in, in order to try to cash an obviously fake note. At a grocery store. And *then* inviting cops to be involved. Not a good idea.

    Did anyone see the fake bills that protesters were giving out a few years ago, with Dubya’s face on ’em? I got a picture around somewhere…

  7. @ David in reply #6:

    I’ve been seeing this half-dollar-glued-to-the-floor type of religious come on for over twenty five years.

    First time I was fooled, the image was of half of a US$20 note…the leaflet was exactly the same size as a US note and folded in half. The 3 other faces on the folded tract had the Jeebus info.

    I’m pretty sure this idea is nothing more than a mass marketing thing…churches can buy them by the box-full and have their own info printed on them. Churches subscribe to these things just like they subscribe to church news fillers that contain those pithy statements they put on their letter signs on the church’s front lawn.

    Ahhh, what a racket!

  8. What’s wrong with that? I’ve got some $2 bills. I don’t spend them — they’re rare — but they’re legal currency.

  9. @PHOS (#14)… Thanks for that info. I like the idea of these marketing gimmicks that are easily customizable with any cult’s contact info.

  10. #16 posted by Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator , October 10, 2007 11:29 AM:
    What’s wrong with that? I’ve got some $2 bills. I don’t spend them — they’re rare — but they’re legal currency.

    You can actually go to the bank and ask for a stack of these. The last time my friend and I went to Vegas, he asked for $200 in $2 bills to use as tip. It was just a fun thing to do.

  11. Cpt Tim @18: Yeah, we get the same thing with Scottish £5 notes. Fully legal in the whole of the UK, but rare enough that the more south you go, the more likely that a shop-keeper will balk when handed one.

  12. Yeah, those Reagan bills are perfect for paying for illegal arms for Iran so that you can fund you own little drug war in Central America…

    Reagan has always stood for “style” over substance, so he’s a natch for counterfeit. The move to put him on the $10 bill could really help to devalue U.S. currency even more…

    Religious zealots use of this tactic is not surprising, seeing as so many are willing to shit all over Bill Watterson’s copyrighted images in the mad rush to put “Calvin praying obsequiously to the big obnoxious cross” all over every pickup truck in the red states.

    Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

  13. Thanks, Cpt. Tim. That was astoundingly ignorant of them. Do you suppose the same thing happens with Sacajawea dollars?

  14. I use $2 bills for all my purchases – I’ve tried different currencies. Public transportation here in SF doesn’t accept the $2 bills, and while caltrain gives $1 coins as change, the BART doesn’t accept them.

    I get a lot of trouble in some chain-stores when I give $2 bills, parking attendants and taxis generally never accept them. I have had someone threaten to call the police, and when I asked them to do so, they told me they didn’t want my business, and wouldn’t accept my credit card. I’ve been asked to sign them by waiters, and a lot of people are horrified that I’m trying to spend such a rare commodity.

    You can get the $2 bills in sheets of $2000, and then cut them and bind them into a tearaway booklet (this is totally legal)- unfortunately a lot of people think you’ve printed them up yourself, and are counterfitting.. Even the police.

    I can’t imagine too many people would be taken in by a $1MM bill, as my $2 are so circumspect these days.

  15. @DAVID PESCOVITZ (#17):

    The first half of the serial number (JN 316) is most likely in reference to the bible passage, John 3:16.

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

  16. Teresa: Over at snopes theres the tale of the taco bell version of the story, theres an extra section linked at the bottom where snopes readers chime in. The dollar coins have also been a source of contention. One reader wrote in saying that they had to get a supervisor to use the dollar coin at a toll booth.

    Phikus: Right-on.

  17. a cool extra tidbit from wikipedia:

    “Steve Wozniak has been known to pay for services using $2 notes from a “pad” of money—he buys uncut sheets of bills from the U.S. Treasury and has them bound into booklets with removable, perforated “pages”

    That would be awesome. someone should mass produce those, i’d pay an extra dollar or two for such a cool tipbook.

  18. Our city gets the worst PR… Every time it’s Pittsburgh in the dateline, you can be sure it’s some bonehead doing something like this.

  19. Why am I not surprised that a good number of the people commenting didn’t even read _the first sentence_ of the article linked, and instead went off on RR as if his picture was on the bill.

    Why let facts get in the way of an opportunity to spout ignorant venom, after all?

  20. I’m not sure what you’re referring to KORPO,

    a good number of people commenting pointed out that it WASN’T reagans face on the bill as suggested on the BB post.

    only then did the (ignorant?) RR bashing begin.

  21. “You can get the $2 bills in sheets of $2000…”

    Hmm…That would be one damned big sheet, about 111.3 sq. ft. Don’t know of any intaglio presses that print on substrate that large, but I could be out of the loop.

    I thought US notes came in sheets of 32, maximum?

  22. Cpt. Tim, unfortunately the uncut sheets cost a lot more than face value. IE: $90 for a 32-note sheet of $2 bills; a $26 premium. They’re intended for collectors.

    Check it out:

    Woz’s tipping book is awesome, and I’d love to do it if I was rich. But I suspect the people receiving the tips would rather have 50% higher tips. ;-)

    (Oh, and yes, the Bureau of Printing and Engraving’s web site is Very classy.)

  23. Our local smoke shop has one of these too. I encourage people to hold onto these: our current government is working hard to see to it that, before long, they’ll actually be worth one million $US.

  24. Isn’t it obvious. I’m surprised no one’s figured it out yet. The man is obviously from a parallel universe where Ronald Reagan repealed the 22nd amendment to run for a third term. More than 20 years later, inflation is rampant and everyone is unemployed. Americans are prohibited from migrating to other countries and some this man found a way to get out.
    It also confirms my theory that there is a black hole in Pittsburgh no matter which parallel universe you are in.
    I’m sure other commenter’s who, like me, have seen the truth will continue this thrilling tale below.

  25. In most places, you should give the bank some lead time for $2s, since they don’t usually carry a lot. One exception is in Charlottesville, Virginia; Monticello routinely gives them out as part of the change (or did, the last time I paid to go), and the banks generally have no trouble giving out a hundred dollars or so.

    When I was working at a restaurant in town, it regularly went through a couple grand in $1s over the course of a weekend. One surprisingly busy Saturday night, we ran so low on $1s we would have been out by the end of the night shift. Since I happened to have (from odd alone knows what whim) a hundred bucks in Susan-Bs and two hundred in $2s lying about at home, I brought them in to trade them to the night shift cashier for some large bills, so he could use my oddities for making change. This resulted in some fun for him and the five hundred customers that shift. Some of the customers hadn’t encountered them before either; however, they were generally willing to take his (and the other customers’) assurances that they were legal tender… especially when he offered to let them get their three or four dollars of change all in quarters instead.

    While the $100 is the largest currently in active circulation, bills up to the $10000 were active at one point. Ebay currently has at least some Five Hundred and Thousand dollar notes up in the collectibles.

  26. There are £1 Million and £100 Million banknotes in the UK.

    They’re only used within the banks (specifically to maintain parity with the banks in Scotland and Northern Ireland that print their own notes), but they do indeed exist.

    Given the current exchange rate, they’re worth quite a bit more than $1,000,000 :-)

  27. The largest currency note in circulation is as mentioned: the $100 note.Notes of any larger valuations are no longer available from the Federal Reserve System, the Dept. of the Treasury, or the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Denominations of $500, $1000, $5000 and $10,000 were still in circulation until officially withdrawn in 1969 (although the last of these bills were actually printed in 1945).
    These bills are still valid as legal tender in the United States, although since they’re worth more than their face value to collectors, they’re either in private hands (likely in safe deposit boxes) or in the inventory of private numismatic dealers and collectors. Banks are instructed that in the (unlikely) event of receiving one for deposit, they are to forward these notes to their local Federal Reserve bank for destruction.
    FYI – the portraits on these notes:
    $500: William McKinley
    $1,000: Grover Cleveland
    $5,000: James Madison
    $10,000: Salmon P. Chase

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