the sky floor

How Much is a Counterfeit Dollar Worth?

June 22, 2021

North Korea is all about the Benjamins. Just not the real ones. 

North Korea is known for creating “Supernotes,” counterfeit 100 dollar bills that look as good or better than an actual bill*. They went so far as to find the right blue and red fiber paper, create plate printing presses and the security thread in pre-2013 currency. 

They put enough of these in circulation to be a source of revenue for the government. The Secret Service estimates that they have distributed at least $45 million of these fake Benjamins. 

I got to thinking; if these bills are so convincing, I could have used one without knowing it. The person or business I paid may also have missed that the money is artificial. The question becomes apparent, where does a green-inked piece of paper get its value? 

Not getting too far into monetary policy, there are two layers to the value of that piece of paper:

  1. The belief that the Federal government backs it.
  2. The idea that someone else will accept that value.

In reality, it becomes an infinite loop of trust built on point 2. 

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There is no government agent present to confirm the exchange of every bill is legitimate. And how is the backing of the U.S. Treasury ever realized? It isn’t. There is no validation besides the belief of each recipient that they too will be able to exchange that paper for goods and services of roughly the same value. 

Trust is the driver of value – even with our real currency. If I went and cut out a rectangular piece of paper and wrote $100, it is just as valuable as the real deal as long as everyone who will ever exchange it plays along. 

In much the same way, the value you produce is relative. It is a giant act of trust between you and your clients or your employer. You are essentially handing them a piece of paper with $100 written on it and hoping they believe in the value.

The question becomes: How can you make your value higher and find people who will believe that it is worth that? How can you increase the trust in your value? If you can build trust and produce consistent, unique results, you get to set what you are worth. 

Find ways to create more value; get out your Sharpie, cut out your counterfeit bill, write what you are worth on it, and ask for more.  *It should be noted that the U.S. has gone back and forth on this accusation over the years.