07 March 2009

A trillion dollars - visually displayed

When most people hear politicians or newscasters speaking of a "trillion dollars," or read about such in any media, the concept of size is not adequately conveyed. I would bet most people think in terms of powers of ten, and assume that a trillion is 10 times more than a billion, which is ten times more than a million. Which, of course, is not even close to reality.

The top image depicts a million dollars in $100 bills. It's as much money as many people take home after taxes in a lifetime. The stack of $100 bills is surprisingly small for a million dollars; you could pick it up.

A billion dollars is not 10X as big or 100X as big. A billion dollars is a thousand millions. For the image it is depicted stacked on pallets.

Similarly, a trillion dollars is not 10X or 100X a billion. It is a thousand billions. In the image the human figure is standing at the lower left. And the pallets are stacked two high.

That's a trillion dollars.

Full credit to this link for the very useful graphic. (via)


  1. 1 bundle of $100 bills = 100 x 100 = $10,000.

    100 bundles of $100 bills = $1,000,000.

    Having worked in a bank for several years I am more than a little skeptical that the top image is equal to one million dollars.

  2. From the text at the link: A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000.

    The million dollar (100 packet) image shows a stack made with two packets end-to-end. That would mean 50 packets deep, or 25 inches deep = two feet deep.

    Perhaps drawn imperfectly, but not bad for an amateur.

  3. I don't think you're giving readers much credit, assuming that someone would think a billion is 10 times a million.

  4. I absolutely didn't intend to impugn the intelligence of readers of this blog.


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