The Price of an Ice Cream Cone – Funny Money in Asia

When I was a kid, we could buy an ice cream cone (double scoop) for five cents.

That was in the 50s. Now ice cream cones cost two bucks.

Are they worth that much?

To answer that question, I will tell you two true stories.

Ten years ago, my wife, Kate, and I were in Hong Kong. We cashed a check at an American Express office. The teller gave us a counterfeit hundred-dollar bill. Part of it had not even been printed on. I raised the dickens and received a fully printed bill.

When I returned to Los Angeles, I called an FBI buddy and he had a buddy of his from the Secret Service phone me.

The guy (Mike) said the Secret Service knew all about the bad bills in Hong Kong. He explained that a wily Thai in Bangkok owned a set of near perfect printing plates. Apparently he was churning out about 200 U.S. hundreds a day.

One of the ways to detect counterfeit money is paper quality. This Thai bleached out single dollar bills and then printed on the real paper. (I told you he was wily.)

The Secret Service has no jurisdiction in Thailand.

A few months later, a banker at a wedding, mentioned that Citibank had a contract with the U.S. Mint. Each month, Citibank would gather up worn currency from the Pacific Rim, burn it and replace it with new bills.

I asked the banker how much of the currency from the Pacific Rim was funny money. None, he told me.

“I’ve seen a phony hundred in Hong Kong.”

“We never look at money before we burn it,” he said.

“You don’t?”

“No. We weigh it. We can come within 1/100th of one percent accuracy and when you’re dealing with $60,000,000.00 every month, that’s the easiest way to process the currency.”

Since then I’ve been considering counterfeiting as a way to supplement my writing income.

I have come to the conclusion that using high-tech color copiers, photo software, scanners and computers (the kind you can buy for under a $1,000) it would be simple to create undetectable copies of currency. (A bottle of bleach costs only a few bucks.)

The way I figure it, the authorities can only detect poor quality imitations. The good imitations are so good, no one spots them. I bet there’re billions of phony dollars whirling around the planet.

I am certain I could make excellent 100s that would pass undetected, especially outside of North America.

But I wouldn’t try…because something could go wrong. A friend might turn me in after he heard me shooting off my mouth on how I had pulled off the perfect caper. People like to turn in criminals, especially ones who shoot off their mouths – one of my many weaknesses.

Besides the possibility of jail, there’s something else to consider. How you feel about yourself. If you become a criminal, you start to feel like a criminal. While I am far from perfect, I don’t want to feel like a criminal.

Criminals flood the market with bad but undetectable money, thus diluting the total currency’s worth in the system. Even if they don’t get caught they drive the price of everything up – including ice cream cones.

What a monstrous thing to do to people, especially kids who live for ice cream.

This brings us back to the present worth of a two-dollar ice cream cone. I happen to love them. So if they cost two dollars, I say buy ‘em. They’re worth it. While you’re at it, buy one for someone you love.

In a few years because of the enormous amount of undetected counterfeiting going on, the two-dollar ice cream cone will be three bucks.

Still not a bad deal. After all, ice cream cones are one of the fun purchases you can make almost whenever you want …as long as you’re not in jail.


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