The E-Sylum:  Volume 6, Number 10, March 9, 2003, Article 4


  Regarding last week's excerpt from Mark Twain's story,
  "The Million Pound Note," George Kolbe writes: "C'mon
  Wayne, don't tease.  What happened to the honest intelligent
  electee? And "gorgeous flunkey"? (sounds like a Mickey
  Spillane novel)"

  [Well, to be honest, I haven't read the whole story yet
  myself.  But it's all available at the listed web reference.
  Read on to learn about the Hollywood versions of the tale.

  Bob Lyall writes: "00,000 note!  I believe I was told
  many years ago that there were several million pound notes
  produced for banks to use them for inter-bank settlements -
  they were not for use by the public.  But someone may know
  better of course.  Oh, and there was a classic British film made
  of the same (similar) story, cleverly entitled "The Million Pound
  Note" or something similar.  I seem to recall Alec Guiness was
  in it, but again someone may know better."

  David Klinger writes: "There are may fantasy versions of the
  Million Pound Note, and some highly collectable stage money.
  This is a from a description of a Million Pound Bank Note
  currently offered on eBay:

  "In 1893, Mark Twain published the story. In 1954, J.Arthur
  Rank Film Studios made this delightful story into a movie "The
  Million Pound Bank-Note" with Gregory Peck and a large cast
  of British character actors.  A single banknote in the amount of
  one million pounds was created to "star" in this movie. (The note
  is dated 1903).

  In 1989, this note was sold at auction by Sotheby's for nearly
  2,000 pounds (then about $3,500 US). From that original, a
  Limited Edition of only 1,000 of these unique banknotes have
  been re-issued.

  Another adaptation of the "Million Pound Bank Note" was
  released in 1994, and was titled "A Million to Juan", produced
  by Trimark Pictures and directed by Paul Rodriguez who also
  stars in the title role. I do not known if there was a Bank Note
  produced for that movie."

  Peter Gaspar (Esylum subscriber #1) writes:
  "1.  The Twain story may be found, along with more than
  a hundred other stories and books in the 1997 annotated
  bibliography "Numismatics in Fiction" published by Chris
  Carlisle and me in the print version Asylum.

   2.  Genuine "giant notes" including million pound denominations
   are described in Byatt's (sp?) beautifully illustrated history of
   the Bank of England note "Promises to Pay" published in 1994
   as part of the Old Lady's tercentenary celebration.  I believe
   that I reviewed the book for the Spink Circular.  The
   photographs of notes from the Bank archives are really
   spectacular, including several of the "giant notes."  A canceled
   one was sold at auction in 1997 and I have a photograph with
   permission from Sotheby's to publish it.  It arrived just too late
   for the 1997 Gaspar, Carlisle Asylum publication, but we will
   use it in a forthcoming addendum.  I hope that friends will
   continue to send me suggestions of additional items of
   "Numismatics in Fiction."  We have about 40 items not
   included in 1997, but there must be hundreds more.
  Thanks much!"

  Len Augsburger writes: "I don't know anything about a million
  pound bank note, but there was once a "trillion dollar bill" on
  an episode of The Simpsons, which, by some contrived path,
  ended up in the hands of Fidel Castro.  Perhaps E-Sylum
  readers could cite other numismatic allusions from this most
  perspicacious font of modern American culture."

  Ron Haller-Williams of the U.K. writes:  "First, I think a quick
  trip to "across the pond" is required, to the USA.

  Apparently, the highest denomination ever produced by the
  U.S. Federal Reserve Bank was $100,000 (with the portrait
  of President Woodrow Wilson).  These notes were used only
  for transactions between the Federal Reserve and the
  Treasury Department.

  The highest denomination issued for public circulation was
  $10,000 (with the portrait of 19th-century U S Supreme
  Court Judge Salmon P Close).  The highest denomination
  currently in circulation is $100, as per a 1969 decision, and
  only 200 of the $10,000 bills remain in circulation (or
  "unretired").  Although my sources (
  and )
  state that the $100,000 notes were "issued", I have my doubts
  about this.

  A film was made of Mark Twain's story in 1953, starring
  Gregory Peck as the "victim", with Ronald Squire and Wilfrid
  Hyde White as the brothers.  Script adapt.: Jill Craigie.
  Director: Ronald Neame.  Also known as "Man with a Million"
  (1954, USA).     Runtime: 90 min. See

  The "Guinness Book of Records", c1980, confirmed the
  existence of at least one of these notes.  I no longer have this
  volume, but (if I remember correctly) the account is something
  like:  One such note (or was it two?) was "adapted" by hand
  from a 0 note in order to use it for internal accounting
  purposes, and (of course!!) it was never issued.   But I
  regarded the date as a problem:  I was sure it was between
  1904 and 1910 !!!  (By the way, by this date all our notes
  were 100% printed;  prior to 1870, some parts were written,
  dated and/or signed by hand.)

  Update on the Guinness Book of Records, as dictated by a
  cousin of mine: 1974 ed: "Two Bank of England notes for
  00,000 still exist,  dated before 1812.  These were used
  only for internal accounting.   The highest notes issued were
  for 0, issued from 1725 and  discontinued on 22nd April
  1943, being withdrawn on 30th April 1945.  As of May 1973
  (the latest date for which statistics are available),  62 of
   these 0 notes are unretired, but only 3 of these are in
   the hands of collectors."

  Discontinued 22-April-1943? But Pick shows last issue date
  as Aug '43!  1979 ed. is exactly as above, except that
  * Now "4 of these [0 notes] are in the hands of collectors",
     not 3.
  *  "In November 1977 the existence of a Treasury 00,000
     note dated 30th August 1948 came to light, and it was sold
     by private treaty for $A18,500, then the equivalent of 300
     in Australia."

  Working mainly from Pick but also from other numismatic
  sources:  The Bank of England's highest denomination issued
  for public circulation was 00 (which, like those of
  and, was last issued August 1943).  The  was last
  issued in 1929. Our highest denomination currently in circulation
  is  There was a ten-shilling note from 1928 to 1970;
  emergency notes of half-a-crown and five shillings were
  produced in 1941 but never issued.

  Meanwhile, the Treasury issued "currency notes" of ten
  shillings and rom 1914 to 1928, plus (in 1919 only) notes
  for one shilling, half-a-crown (two shillings and six pence), and
  five shillings. The signature on the Treasury Notes of 1914 to
  1917 was that of John Bradbury, hence the enigmatic name at
  the end of some versions of this song:

    "Abe, Abe, Abe my boy  - what are you waiting for now?
     You promised to marry me some day in June:
     It's never too late and it's never too soon.
     All the family they keep on asking me,
     which day? what day?  I don't know what to say!
     Abe, Abe, Abe my boy  - what are you waiting for now?"
    "John Bradbury!"

  e.g. with unnamed artiste/s, on Ariel Records # 4068 (78rpm).
  "Can you tame wild Wimmen" and "Abe Abe Abe my Boy"
  ( see for example
  although this site gives a "rude" parody for the 5th line:
  "which day? what day?  I'm in the fam'ly way!" )
  For anybody who doesn't quite get it, the young man
  presumably thought he did not have enough money available
  to undertake such a commitment.

  The Bank of England's home page is at

  BTW, you can see a promo at with order form at

  TEN million pounds?  Well, the Turkish "lira" has also been
  called "pound" (check derivation of our "ymbol!), and
  there are details of a ?10M note at

  Fiction, of course, goes higher than this - but not as high as
  fact! In an episode of The Simpsons, variously called "The
  Trillion Dollar Bill" or "The Trouble With Trillions", a unique
  specimen of the eponymous bill had been printed with the
  intention of relieving depression in Europe in the immediate
  aftermath of World War II.  [It would, of course, have been
  even more impractical than was expected by one of the
  brothers in Mark Twain's "Million-Pound Note".]
  However, the avaricious C. Montgomery Burns stole it
  while it was en route, and ended up with it hanging framed
  on a wall in his house, where Homer Simpson happened to
  spot it ...

  This of course would have been US$ 1 000 000 000 000.
  However, owing to a different system of numbering, we
  "ungrateful" Europeans would not have reckoned it as being
  worth more than a billion!

  Meanwhile, in various parts of Europe at that time we had
  higher notes:
  Greece - 100  000 000  000 000 drachmai
  (03-Nov-1944, Pick#135)  [Pick's interpretation of
  "dis-ekatom-myria" as a milliard is wrong.]
  Hungary - 100 000 000  000 000  000 000 pengos
  (03-Jun-1946, Pick#136)
  and 1 000 000 000  000 000  000 000 pengos
  (03-Jun-1946, Pick#137, not issued)

  At other times:
  Germany - 100  000 000  000 000 mark
   (15-Feb-1924, Pick#140)
  Yugoslavia - 500 000 000 000 dinara
  (1993, Pick#137)  -  half-way there!
  Although this last is claimed to be "the most zeros actually
  printed (11)", including by the current (2003) edition of the
  Guinness Book of World Records, one counter-example
  is the uniface Mengen (Stadtgemeinde) K-3517d
  locally-issued note of 1 Billion mark (1923), visible at

  where you can see the value in numbers and hence showing 12 zeros.

  2 different types of $1M promos (though there are others!)
  can be found at:
   and at
  The American Bank Note Company is responsible for the
  design and production of the latter of these, which apparently
  was commissioned by and at first exclusive to the "Institute
  of Millionaires", and its design has been copied onto a 4-ounce
  .999 silver ingot, details of which are at

  there's a write-up of the 1 million Euros "banknote art" to
  be found at

  I feel that this is the type of thing which maybe should
  be dealt with by an item in the "ANA Money Talks" series.

  WHY IS IT that some of the E-Sylum's questions open the
  door to what might almost be called "research papers"?

  Wayne Homren, Editor

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