What does a trillion dollars look like?

Michael Victory's picture

I was a zero. I came to grips with it in 9th
grade when my girlfriend said c'ya. Because I didn’t play in the big game Friday night? Because I’d rather
spend a Saturday on a launch ramp trying to pull backsides? Probably
both, me… a zero. Back then I thought zeros were bad. Turns out the more zeros
you parade the bigger and badder your story really is.


Twelve zeros is the latest craze as federal spending grows
faster than revenues and deficits drive debt higher and faster.

So, what does a trillion look like and what comes next?

First: When trillion becomes old school, what will replace


A Tale Of Many Zeros

Next: How do a trillion cool ones stack up?

(I like them, but don't take credit for the images below. Props to JB at pagetudor for putting this illustration together and FSN for the heads up.) 



The illustration starts with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the
largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slightly
fewer have owned them. Benji’s are certain to make friends wherever they go.

A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. 100 burritos can fit in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.


Believe it or
not, this next little pile is $1 million worth of bills (100 packets of
$10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.

While a measly
$1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million in bread is a bit more
respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...

And 1 billion bux... now we're getting somewhere...

And finally..

$1 trillion


Notice the pallets are double stacked.
...and remember those are $100 bills.

The next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about.



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Elmer Fudd's picture

Hey just asking, can all them pallettes fit on one container ship?  If so, then its a nice pic of the US exporting toilet paper to the world.

toady's picture

I'm amazed that they still bother with trillions, we are obviously in the quadrillions now, and soon we will move on to the next. My political like to debate who should be on the million dollar bill. The repubs blame Obama and say it should be him, while the dems blame W. I think we need to go back to Reagan. With Reagan the repubs get to put him on a bill like they always wanted, and the dems get to place blame. Its win-win!

Vendetta's picture

all to bail out a fraudulent and corrupt banking system and the likes of Blankfein, Dimon, Mozilla, et al

anony's picture

Cute, but without at least the number 1 leading off those zeros, a billion zeros is still ZERO.

HEDGE313's picture

I would like to see it illistrated in gold. Much smaller pile though, but you would be looking at 'REAL" money.

Downtoolong's picture

This makes it seem even more ironic that same government which soo casually borrows and spends a $trillion also continues to mint pennies. Can you imagine what a $trillion in pennies would look like? II won’t even bend over to pick one up when I see it on the street anymore.

Zero Govt's picture

the more $000,000,000,000's Benny prints the more worthless his Benny Bucks become, to the point society rejects them as toilet paper..

..what possible motive could he have to trash his sole product and continue on a path to suicide???

Mec-sick-o's picture

Wake me up when we get to the googolplex.


sbenard's picture

I've also read that the last image, with the double-stacked pallets of bills, is the size of a football field. So it is a footfall field of $100 bills stacked one-story high. It's still a quantity that is nearly impossible for the finite mind to grasp.

There's going to be the devil to pay. We must therefore plan and prepare accordingly!

sgorem's picture

The sad thing about it is, the Madoffs, Blankfeins, Dimons, Rothchilds and their ilk, could have a TRILLION sitting in their warehouse, and it STILL wouldn't be enough for the motherfuckers! Long lead.....short patience......

anony's picture

And that's the real problem.  Long lead, but no plan or action.

Might as well just go to the beach.

ZombieHuntclub's picture

I hope they arent using a piece of shit HP printer for those stacks. The ink alone in those little plastic deals would cost like eleventy gazillion dollars.

vocational tainee's picture

Keep it that way,the capitalist`s,are keen on zero`s...

magpie's picture

How about:

"How many hours at McDonalds do i have to work

How many Bonuses at GS do i have to receive

How many Pork Barrels do i get from the Taxpayer

How much Gold do you need

... to repay the National Debt"

Fix It Again Timmy's picture

Here's what 100 trillion dollars looks like:


If this does not say it all, nothing will...

booboo's picture

that was a 50 billion note, (3 rocks high) The One trillion is four rocks high and the US billion note will have two rocks AND a crack pipe. 

CB's picture

So Michael, please demonstrate in similar fashion what each American owes on US debt!

dearth vader's picture

Your Latin numbers beyond fifteen seem a little rusty:

51 zeros would make sedecillion ~ no sex at 16

54 zeros septendecillion

57 zeros duodevigintillion

60 zeros undevigintillion

And to be of any worth, a zero should always remember to keep to the right. 


Smu the Wonderhorse's picture

I think this is the start of something big here at ZH. Soon up: "The US debt illustrated" with  a roadway of dollars stretching to Saturn and back. Keep up the good work!

metastar's picture

Wrong. A trillion dollars looks like this: http://www.solarnavigator.net/venture_capital/venture_capital_images/credit_Smartcard_nordea_visa.jpg


It's nothing more than microscopic bits encoded in the ether.

Now if you're referring to 1 trillion oz of gold or silver, then we're talking about real money!

Moe Howard's picture

We are still paying interest on the money borrowed to purchase a trench knife for WWI. Only God knows where the knife is.

Sudden Debt's picture

And the FED can only print 28 million dollars a hour with the presses on full speed.

357142,85 hours of printing without stopping.

14880 days of printing without stopping

40,7 years of printing without stopping




That is why the money needs to be digital. There is just so much printing to be done it just isn't logistical possible to do so because old currency also needs to be replaced.

And every time they say a trillion: THEY SAY:



In 1 decade, the governement has lost 140,000$ per family!! HOW MANY FAMILIES SAVED 140,000$ AND HAVE PUT THIS ASSIDE?! LET'S ASK THOSE 40 MILLION WHO LIVE ON FOODSTAMPS!!



Parousia's picture

So fiat is being borrowed faster than it can be printed.

On the other hand, if Bernank ran the printing press to pay off .gov's debt, he'd be done in a shade under 560 years.  Winning The Future indeed.

(First post, please be gentle.)


1100-TACTICAL-12's picture

Now that would be a good stat to get out to the sheep.. If ben started now 5/14/11, how long would it take to print up 14T ? 50T SS & 70T MC/MK. We are so fucked...

nmewn's picture

Digital fiat is being created, nothing more.

The value of physical money in your wallet is what's being destroyed, which is why the price for what you exchange money for, is going up.

It takes less labor & resources now to produce a widget or a candy bar than it ever did in the past.

The only thing that has changed is what is an acceptable means of exchange for the same widget or same ounce candy bar.

Welcome aboard ;-)

Parousia's picture

I've enjoyed reading your posts, Nmewn.  Educated wit is gold-standard-rare.  


nmewn's picture


A word of advice...take it or leave it.

You will see many things here, as you have noticed. Never take investment advice from anyone here.

Including me.

Do your research, separate the wheat from the chaff, do what's best for you and hope for the best.

Welcome again, its a rough crowd, be careful ;-)

wtlf555's picture

This is a nice little graphic but it appears to be wrong from the start. $10,000 is less than a half inch. A hundred of those ($1 million) should be a little less than 50 inches. The two stacks next to him look like about 10 inches. Am I wrong? I hate to quibble but the graphic should add up no? The two stacks end on end should go over his waist unless he's 8 feet tall

Libertarian777's picture

10 stacks high, 2 rows, 5 wide = 100 $10,000 as shown.

10 stacks high is only 5inches.

or if as you estimate 10 inches high, that's 20 stacks high, then he only needs 1 row of 5 across.

laosuwan's picture

He looks like Margo Dydek

nmewn's picture

Nice representation.

Most people have never seen a million...let alone a billion, in order to try comprehend what a trillion is.

"All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure." Sam Clemons
WaterWings's picture

Nice one.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.

- H. L. Mencken

nmewn's picture

Love my Mencken ;-)

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule." H.L.Mencken

He had some great ones.

tahoebumsmith's picture

Dude you forgot to add The total National Debt...This was google sketched when the national debt was only 11 TRILLION!!! So just add another 6.4 stacks to the top of this pile and there you have it.....



doggings's picture

:) awesome. its a fucking 8 story building's worth at least

achmachat's picture

and this is why the current events were physically not possible before digital money.

NotApplicable's picture

Yet Greenspan made the laughable claim that they had made fiat behave as if it were on a gold standard.

Libertarian777's picture

Greenspan was right.

The USD is behaving exactly like its on a gold standard.
Remember, the $2.5 trillion extra money printed is exactly offset by the exact same value in gold and silver being mined, instantly, at no cost.

It's just emerging markets demand that's causing the price of gold to go up, you know. People are eating gold coins and drinking silver colloidal. The increase in gold and silver prices are purely a function of emerging markets consumption.

/sarc off/

fonestar's picture

I think the basic idea is that there is a total disconnect between people, money, value and common sense.  Anyone from a hundred years ago who worked for a real silver dollar would be disgusted with these sleazy, artificial constructs.

Dr. Engali's picture

Don't worry they will just do a reverse split and it will be worth more.  My citi is now worth $41.55. I only paid $4.00 for it. I'm a rich mother trucker.

NemoP's picture

Only looks like $1/2 trillion to me.

50 x 50 x 2 pallets x ($100 million / pallet) = $500 billion.

Need to quadruple-stack them to get to $1 trillion.


Steroid's picture

It is OK. The perspective deceived you.

(L x D x H) D=100 though!

50 x 100 x 2 = 10000 (pallets)


Shock and Aweful's picture

its 100 deep and 50 wide...double stacked...


Or at least it looks that way to me.

(Of course....I did not take the time to count each one...hahaha)


I read somewhere along time ago that if you started counting 1 dollar every second...and did so 24 hours a day....that it would take you over 95 years to count just a billion dollars....that is pretty nuts of you think about it...and that is just a billion....hell, we can piss that away in a good firefight in Afghanistan!!!!


SwingForce's picture

I did count, you're right 100 deep x 50 wide x 2 = 10,000 pallets. Sheesh, I thought it was a mistake, but THAT'S ALOT OF MONEY! 

Note to Congress: Who do you think is going to pay it all back? Not me or Mike Kreiger.

strannick's picture

I've actually been doing that.

"three hundred thousand million one hundred and sixty five thousand nine hundred and forty six; three hundred thousand million one hundred and sixty five thousand nine hundred and forty seven... honey, could you grab me another diet coke? .... three hundred thousand million one hundred and sixty five thousand nine hundred and forty eight..."

Al Gorerhythm's picture

Hey man! Your toast is burning!!