Tennessee man jailed for using old $50 bill

David Melson writes that police arrested and jailed a man Friday for using real money.

A clerk at Quik Mart, South Cannon Boulevard, notified police after the marker used to detect counterfeit bills didn't check as real. "The front side of the bill was off center and it didn't feel like a normal bill, it did look to be counterfeit," officer Brock Horner said in his report.

This is the state that just made it possible to sue teachers who tell children how human reproduction works. It's hardly surprising the authorities there don't know what a $50 bill looks like.

Old $50 bill found real, but not before bearer arrested [Shelbyville Times-Gazette]


  1. Was he arrested or charged? I’m not entirely sure on how it works over there, but here in the uk you are arrested on suspicion of a crime and then held or bailed while said crime is investigated, following that you are charged or released.
    In this case that could have involved a trip to the station where someone more aware of the counterfeit measures is consulted and then the chap being sent on his way with no further action

    Edit – Didn’t read the link. Feel stupid now.

    1. In the UK the correct procedure is to take the suspected counterfeit note and issue a receipt with the owner’s personal details. The note should then be handed to the police for investigation.

      1. Not necessarily – Anyone (intentional or otherwise) passing a counterfeit note is committing a criminal offence. They could be detained for this by the vendor (under PACE1984…Anyone may arrest Anyone etc.), And the police called. This isn’t ideal – in my experience so few people know how to spot legal tender innocent people would be arrested and often the same people insist Scottish money is legal tender when in reality it’s not, it’s just accepted as a matter or banking courtesy – for as long as the issuing banks can support the money they have issued.

        I’ve had to arrest people and successfully prosecuted them for passing fraudulent money and deception. 

        Anyone attempting to pass counterfeit money given a receipt will not give their real details and will move on to the next town with their wad of home made cash. 

        I have a small safe full of counterfeit money I’ve previously used for training material both paper money and coinage – some dating back 40 years. 

        1. I was thinking of occasions on which I have been employed handling large amounts of cash. Occasionally one dodgy twenty might turn up among several thousand pounds worth. Perhaps the situation is not quite the same if some crackhead is trying to pass dodgy twenties in a corner shop.

  2. From the article: ” Gasper was told by Horner to take the bill to a bank and have it exchanged for a newer one.”

    To which I would have told Officer Horner to politely go F*ck himself.

    1. After which Officer Horner began clobbering his Assistant Deputy with his police hat, yelling “Enos, you dipstick!”  Then they both climbed into the patrol car and rode off, in search of the Duke boys.

      Later that night, Officer Horner invited Enos to a party, “There’s gonna be plenty of drinkin’, plenty of dancin’, plenty of screwin’, so bring some of your homemade moonshine”.  Enos asked “How much should I bring along?”.  Officer Horner replied “Oh, not too much, it’s just gonna be you and me”.

    2.  Really, I’m sure the bill still says “valid for all debts public and private” just like a new bill.

  3. Someone I know had a clerk call over a police officer who was conveniently nearby while trying to spend a $2 bill because everyone knows that $2 bills don’t exist. I’m told that the ensuing conversation was amusing for at least two of the parties, if less so for the clerk.

    1. I always carry stack of $2 bills.  About twice a year I cash a $2000 check at the bank, get it in $2 bills, and use it for walking-around money.  (The bank just asks me for a weeks advance notice.)  I have yet to find a better conversation-starter.  There was the clerk at the grocery store who called over the manager to ask “Do we take these?”  There was the barista at a Starbucks who literally brought the entire place to a standstill by taking the stack of $2 bills I had given her around the place and insisting that all the other employees look at them.  (She didn’t think they were fake.  Actually, she was squealing with delight and wanted to share the experience since she knew they existed but had never actually seen one.)  There was the gas station clerk who was cursing me all the way out the door for paying with $2s.  There are the people who think they’re lucky and the pony/dog track players who refuse to touch them.  Everyone has something to say about them.  Love it.  Just love it.  I’m looking forward to the day when someone calls the police on me for trying to pass a fake denomination; I’ll have even better stories to tell in the aftermath.

      1.  I tried the whole “$2 bills as spending money” thing, but I found it difficult to actually spend my cash. So many cashiers will simply refuse to accept it (which sort of defeats the purpose of carrying them around).

        1. at least at gas stations they don’t really have a chance , as the transaction can’t be rolled back.

          Also, isn’t refusing to take legal tender for an existing debt kinda their problem?

          1. This is true, but applies only to existing debts. They can refuse to do business with you based on your payment method, but cannot refuse to allow you to pay an existing debt. If you incurred the debt knowing their terms (or reasonably expected to know their terms, such as if a sign was conspicuously posted), then the burden is on you to provide payment on their terms.

      2. I think some companies will occasionally pay all their staff in $2 bills to show off how much they contribute to the local economy. I also have a friend who doesn’t like using banknotes because he feels it makes it too hard for him to keep track of his money, so he converts his paycheques into £2 coins (this is the UK) rather than taking cash out at an ATM.

        1. America needs to get with the $2 & $1 coins.

          There is undiscovered joy in it for them. 

          When I ended up in Canada a while ago (and stayed) I found the joy.

          Went out flush, drank, ate, drank more, met people went places drunk on a bicycle (no no,  I no condone, this was before -I- knew), paid in paper again and again.

          Woke up in my clothes at the “place” that I “lived” awash in self-loathing for parting with all 4 of the hundred dollars bills I had at the beginning of the night. I knew all I had was change and I’d be getting breakfast from a convenience store, I just knew it.

          There was $82 in loonies and toonies in my very heavy pants, plus 4 bucks in other change. I said “Thanks, Canada” and had breakfast at a brunch joint with shades on like a proper monied hipster.

          1. We do have $1 coins in the states. The change machine where I work only gives out $1 coins. Most of my town, 27k pop, has gotten use to them. They’re rare anywhere else.

          2. I’m sure any bank will be happy to give you $1 coins. Or if you use public transit, many ticket machines will give change in $1 coins. Makes sense, easier to handle and cheaper all around.

          3. My Dad likes to save his money by cashing in money for $1 coins. He gave me $112 one dollar coins for Christmas last year. Sadly I was short on rent and had to put them in the bank. Otherwise I would of used them for tips all year (or part of). 

      3. About twice a year I cash a $2000 check at the bank, get it in $2 bills, and use it for walking-around money.

        Oh man, I thought my stash of $2 bills was special, I stand here humbled.
        Over the years they slowly dripped into the business I worked in, if it was in good condition I’d always nab and replace it with the same amount in “common” bills.

        So I’ve got around fifty $2 bills, which I’ve shown to a few people and it’s like, “Wow, cool!”.  No so much anymore, eh?

      4. What’s even funnier is that guy who gets a stack of $2 bills, puts some PVA glue on one edge of the stack, lets it dry, and proceeds to pay people by tearing off bills from the stack one by one.

  4. How old?   Coin and currency collectors want to know.  I had a $10 silver certificate handed back to me in change once at a Whataburger.  I nearly squee’d.  I’ve also spotted silver coins in change — they sound different.  They ring out higher.

    1. When we were teens, my sister was working at a concession booth at a fair and got twenty dollar silver certificate from the 30’s. Happily, she was able to scrape together enough cash to swap for it.

      1. Back in 1990 or so, in my pizza delivery days, some kid paid me for his pizza with a dozen silver Peace dollars from the 1930s.  Later on I kinda felt bad for the kid, but at the time it didn’t bother me a bit.

        1.  Once, working at a somewhat shady neighborhood alcohol dispensary, a kid (of age to drink but a kid to me) ‘paid’ for his order in silver half dollars going back to the 40’s. I took them and later that evening gave them to the kid’s grandfather whose sock drawer the kid had stolen them from. Needless to say grandpa was pissed. Didn’t see that kid for a week or so afterward.

          So yeah, feel bad for the kid because he’s an idiot but feel worse for the person they ripped off in the first place.

    2.  Working as a cashier, I’ve gotten quite a few silver coins, and a few silver certificates.  Still waiting to get my hands on the one with the red marking.  $1 in-$1 out

  5. “This is the state that just made it possible to sue teachers who tell children how human reproduction works. It’s hardly surprising the authorities there don’t know what a $50 bill looks like.”

    This quote stinks a bit like classism, though. Even if you got a point.

    1. Were you making an education pun when you mentioned classism, or was this a legitimate comment?  Please explain, if it was the latter.

      1.  i think he’s saying the article comes off as “well we already knew these people were ignorant fucks, so its not surprising their too stupid to spot real money also.”

          1. OK fine let’s expand that. All Americans are idiots because congress is too busy trying to murder the Internet and chop away at freedoms to actually fix the economic problems our country is in.

          2. @google-c5868c47252dbe2d7b51541d5f7b6f51:disqus  – If they allow it, then yes, they are collectively a stupid-head.
            Oh and focussing on economic problems is endemic of stupid-heads. The economic problems are not causal.

      2. As in, ‘clearly anyone that ignorant is probably poor, and therefore is unlikely to have seen enough money to have encountered a $50 bill.’ Which, yes, would generally be considered classist humor.

        Sorry, Rob, it was a bit douchey as I saw it.

        1.  Well, it may have been uncool, but it’s also statistically accurate.  

          Ignorance does tend to effect the poor more than the rich.  It’s not difficult to see why; the rich have a better chance of getting their kids a decent school.  Also, historically, there was the whole nutrition thing, although I’m not sure that that figures these days.

          Doesn’t it suck when saying something true is bound to come out making you look like a dick?

        2.  @Wreckrob8:disqus — “ignorance” as in “not knowing stuff”.  If there is another definition, I would love to hear about it.

          Statistically, more poor people are bad at knowing stuff than rich people.  That may well be classist.  Pointing it out is not, because it’s true.

          1. Maybe it is not a question of how much knowledge you have but how you use it. To problematise the acquisition of knowledge at the expense of its use is easy but seems to me to miss the point. (It’s just a class thing!)

          2. How you use it is undoubtedly important. But it remains a matter of simple fact that people from poor backgrounds tend to get worse education, and as a result are less knowledgeable. It’s part of a very unpleasant cycle, because it leads to the children of poor families also being poor.

            That’s not to say that if you are born poor you have no hope at all; just that the odds say you have less chance of doing well than someone born into a better-off family.

            Edit: also, you can’t use it if you don’t have it! :)

          3. True, but information does not necessarily produce knowledge and knowledge does not necessarily produce wisdom. These should not be confused with the ability to verbalize.

          4.  In my experience, everyone knows around the same amount of stuff. The difference is in what they know and how highly that knowledge is valued. I know someone who can recite the list of English/UKian Prime Ministers and the list of US Vice Presidents. He’s considered knowledgeable. I know someone else who might not even know that the UK has PMs, but she can tell me how to get to anywhere around on the bus and the schedules of all the buses through the main stop down the block. I don’t think she’s ignorant, either, just not so much book-learned.

          5. What is the German word for “bored”? My daughter knows this, I do not.
            I’m willing to bet that Stephen Fry knows more than I do, full stop. And I know more than my daughter, overall. And my daughter is always complaining about how her schoolfriends don’t seem to know as much as her; she’s a voracious reader, they are not.

          6. “Statistically, more poor people are bad at knowing stuff than rich people.”

            Link, please?  I know some shockingly ignorant rich people and have known a lot of amazingly knowledgeable poor people.    College physics professors make far less than stock brokers.    People with masters’ degrees are flipping burgers part time.
            I guess my point is 
            (a) I am not convinced your statement is even true as a statistical matter, and would like to see a link; 
            (b) you need to define rich and poor; and 
            (c) even if your statement is true statistically, lots of individual poor people are a lot more knowledgeable than lots of individual rich people.  

    2. It’s not classism, per se, it’s “All southerners are stupid”-ism.

      It can be tough to keep up sometimes without a score card.

      1. Every time somebody mentions something negative about Massachusetts, people from Massachusetts say, “Yup, We’re idiots.”

        Every time somebody mentions something negative about the South, people from the South have a hissy fit.

        Maybe somebody needs a nap.

        1. Maybe that’s because whenever something like this happens in Massachusetts, it’s framed as “man jailed…” rather than “Massachusetts man jailed…” and not followed by a snark about the idiocy of the MA legislature.

          1.   I’ll confirm that, we are idiots.

            -abs still can’t forget the whole “OMG, Light-brights on teh highways, it’s Terrorism!”, oooooh, he’s also fond (by which -abs means “ashamed”) over the treatment the MIT student got at the airport because she was wearing a shirt which had home-made electronics on it

        2. As a Southerner I’m pretty sure my standard response has been, “We’re not all like that, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.”

          Here, though, I feel strangely compelled to say…Yep, we’re idiots.

  6. The officer was named “Brock Horner”  and the victim was named “Lorenzo Gaspar”. I bet that “Cletus McCoy” could have talked his way out of it.

    1. I get that way when they trash-talk Arizona on BB. I’m from Baja Arizona. Is there a Northern Tennessee?

      1. Nah, just less rural areas where we actually have paved roads.

        But seriously though go to some of the more populated chunks of middle tennessee (murfreesboro or nashville.) Haven’t been East or West that much so couldn’t comment about knoxville (yes yes that’s still in middle tennessee technically but further east than I’ve been) or Memphis.

  7. You know 175 years ago, when Tennesseans had had enough of their state, many would up and leave , some scrawling ‘GTT’ for ‘Gone To Texas’ on the door of their abandon homes. Those of you living in Tennessee today could still do that, be let me warn you, it’s no better here in Texas. Anyone know a good Blue state that’s accepting immigrants?

    1. Id just settle for a state where the districts aren’t arranged to marginalize the voting power of people wanting to vote for something other than the dominant (IE Republican) party in state.

      1. Hell, yeah those gerrymandering bastards. Did you see where they left Tipton County off the original redistricting map? Had to have a little do-over. I don’t know who elected the morons, but it sure wasn’t me.

  8. JAILED for using a single bill? I don’t care if it was actually a counterfeit bill, that doesn’t sound right. Making counterfeits, fine. Trying to introduce those counterfeit bills into the system, sure… But jail time for using a single bill?

    Ignoring the fact that simple machines can NEVER be perfect and should never be relied on as the sole factor of authority like this.

    It is perfectly possible for counterfeit bills to be circulating the system already and for people to be duped into taking counterfeits. A victim given a counterfeit should not be jailed for any period of time.

    In a case like this the bill should have been confiscated and the identity of the person taken down (both to track the source of frequent counterfeits and for return purposes). The bill should have been sent to the bank to be checked out. And when it was found to be non-counterfeit the bill (or perhaps a replacement) should have been delivered to the owner. No-one should have been jailed for any period of time over something as trifling as this.

    1. Why would someone trying to pass a counterfeit bill give their real name and contact details if they didn’t have to? I imagine swapping a large denomination bill for a pile of change is one of the favourite ways of passing counterfeit notes.

      1.  I assume the conversation would go something like this:

        Police Officer: Can I see some ID?
        Person of Interest: No.
        Police Officer: Either show me some ID so we can follow up with you later or I’ll take you into the station now.
        Person of Interest: …

        1.  And the conversation with the cashier would probably settle with “You can either show me your ID now and get on with your day, or wait for the officer to show up and give him your ID.”

  9. what? no tasering? no buttrape? man, those guys at the jail are overpaid.

  10. These stories of dumbfuckery are like those trays of appetizers at a fancy party. At first they’re entertaining and you look up with interest when you see the waiter approaching. “Oh, that was a good one!”

    But after awhile, when there’s just more and more of them, you’re just saying, “No thanks. That’s more than enough. No more, thanks.”

    At this point, the trays of dumbass are circulating thick and fast. I haven’t really been able to savor them ever since that whole batch of Sarah Palin they sent around a few years ago.  I’m really pretty close to full up on them.

    1. I suppose it does get tiresome until it happens to you.  I know a guy who got jailed for 6 months for trying to cash a forged check given to him for work he did.  He did nothing wrong other than have a record, a pretty hapless life, and bad public defender.

  11. @nixiebunny — Not really, we are a short wide state. Btw. I live in this town, a lot of really nice people, some not so bright (obviously). We only get national attention for things like this and when a couple commits assault on each other with Cheetos.

    Prununciation guide: Shelbyville — Sheb-vul

    1. And it’s got to be said fast enough to sound like one syllable otherwise it still ain’t right.

      And don’t forget the guy that tried to marry his car. Then again I think that was Knoxville. 

  12.  “I didn’t think I needed ID for a midnight run for some sodas and chips!”

  13. That is dumb. But where’s the 
    “He was a 80 year old, one legged man, using the $50 to buy sweeties for his grandchildren who lost their parents?”

    The TSA are to blame in some way no doubt!

  14. After receiving an apology from the police, the man asked for directions to Sarah Connor’s house and went about his business.

  15. Shelbyville? Of course those cousin-marrying lemon tree thieves would do something like this.

  16. I call bullshit:
    “Horner [the officer] apologized for the arrest, the report said”

    1. One southern stereotype I’m generally happy to see is more or less true (give or take a bit depending on the person in question.)

      We try being polite, even if we come off asa bit… odd about it. Run into your barn because somebody was hopped up on meth while driving a van full of pot? ‘Aw naw man Can ya help me get outta here?’

  17. My favorite-ever thrift store find was a month or two ago. I don’t (or didn’t at the time anyway) typically look at thrift store jewelry boxes because I have no need for jewelry boxes. But for some reason this one called out to me. 

    I looked inside it and felt like something was funny about it. I quickly realized that there was a hidden compartment in the bottom.

    I got it open but didn’t see anything – the hidden compartment had broken (hard to explain). I shook the box and out came three $20 bills from the 60’s and two dollar coins.

    I put everything back in the hidden compartment and bought the box, for $2. I haven’t done anything with the money yet because it’s noticeably different from modern money (I suspected I would have a problem like this guy did if I tried to spend it normally), including being smaller in size, but it’s also not in collectible condition. I guess I’ll ultimately end up just taking it to the bank :(

    1. Those are 50 cent pieces, half-dollars, not dollars.

      The lower one appears to be a 1964, which is 90% silver, and worth around $11 today just for the metal in it.

      I can’t read the date on the other Kennedy half.  1965-1970 Kennedy halves are 40% silver, anything newer is likely worth just $0.50.

      That said, karma demands that if that thrift store is run by a charity you pretty much have to share your good fortune with them, though karma will go easy and allow to take a tax receipt for your donation.

      1. Ha, of course you’re right about the coins; I mis-remembered – I took that picture a couple months back and didn’t even look at it while posting here ;) 

        That is indeed a 1964, and the other is 1980 unfortunately. Thanks for the info! Not sure what I’ll do with them, the 1964 coin isn’t in great shape (maybe silver polish will restore it?)

        I spend a lot of money at that thrift store, and I’m actually just about to donate a huge load of high-quality stuff this week. I’m not worried about my karma in that regard :)

          1. @lafave:disqus @boingboing-6197642a2f218aa4cdc6af1ba8f213bf:disqus I won’t polish it! Thanks! Where should I sell it?

        1. “Kennedy half dollars were first produced in 1964. Half dollars that bear the 1964 date are 90% silver, and carry a numismatic premium based on the current price of silver. In 1965 the amount of silver used in the production of Kennedy halves was decreased to 40%, and this specification was used until 1970. Kennedy halves dated 1971 and later contain no silver and do not command a numismatic premium. In order to evaluate the current value of your Kennedy half dollars, multiply the current market price for silver by 0.36169 for 1964 issues, and by 0.1479 for all issues 1965 to 1970.”

          ebay?  dunno – my silver coins have been sitting in a box in my closet for years.

          1.  This.

            And I’d keep them, give them to your grandchildren who will no doubt look at you with wonder at how people traded physical coins in the ‘olden-days’. Plus they will be worth much more in a few decades. If you do sell, avoid pawn shops, coin dealers, jewelry stores, and metals exchanges, most of them are consummate cheats. And unfortunately it’s a little hard to get a fair deal on a few coins (YMMV). Again I’d just keep them.

          2. @boingboing-6197642a2f218aa4cdc6af1ba8f213bf:disqus @lafave:disqus Haha, ok. I’ll keep it. I thought you guys were leading me down the road of selling it. 

            I think letting it sit in a box in the closet for years until I have grandkids is a great idea (it will be sitting along with all kinds of useless but neat stuff – not sure if my grandkids will love it all or will be annoyed when they have to get rid of it all when I die).

          3. Yeah, sorry ’bout that. It’s maybe worth (sight unseen) about 15-20 bucks. Not bad but still not really worth it. Better to keep it and pass it on.

      2. I remember getting a Kennedy half dollar the day they came out.  Of course, I also remember the Kennedy assassination.  Pardon me; I have to adjust my belt onion.

  18. I can’t really fault the cashier in this case.  No doubt they’re required to use the pen for $50s, and if they take a $50 that the pen doesn’t say is legit, they might be personally on the hook for it.  They may also be required to report it.

    Arrest is over the top though, at worst if they can’t personally identify it as legit they should take the guy’s personal info and take the bill to someone who is qualified to see if it’s legit.

    1. Funny thing is the bill could have actually been a fake and the guy never knew it.

      I mean isn’t the whole point of the bill redesigns to make counterfitting harder? Sure the bill was legit, but still… 

      Wait. Arrest was still entirely over the top. As in *facepalm*.

      1. Yeah, in many (most?) countries old bills become invalid as legal tender after a set amount of time, i.e. you usually have at most 2 sets of bills circulating at any given time. Find some really old bills in a box somewhere? You’ll have to go to a bank to exchange them.

        I think that’s fair. Money that nobody recognizes as real isn’t very useful after all.

  19. The pens that some stores use to “verify” bills are suspect at best. All they do is test the composition of the paper which can vary slightly in a real bill yet can be sometimes perfect in counterfeit. The Mint makes no mention of the pens in their instructions on how to verify a bill  

  20.  My kid had to take some money to school for one of the seemingly-endless little fees for his free public education. He came home with the cash and a note from his teacher scorching me because he tried to pay with play money. He was mortified because she’d told him off in class too. She hadn’t seen the new $5 bill before, apparently. We do NOT live in Tennessee–there is plenty of stupid to go around.

  21. It takes place is in a quik(ie) mart in shelbyville  with officer Horner (Homer). someone is channeling the Simpsons

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