Urban Legend?: "Gay $" crash in Chicago?

Rohit Khare (rohit@fdr.ICS.uci.edu)
Thu, 01 Oct 1998 16:06:37 -0700

*If* it happened, the bank defintely violated the law... RK

------- Forwarded Message
Date: Thu, 01 Oct 1998 17:43:55 -0500
To: Rodney Thayer <rodney@tillerman.nu>, dcsb@ai.mit.edu
From: Black Unicorn <unicorn@schloss.li>
Subject: Rumors, defaced currency, and denial of service attacks.
(Was: Re: a question on paper money)

At 03:33 PM 10/1/98 , Rodney Thayer wrote:

>I'm not making this up.
>I went to my bank today, and got some cash. Now you need to understand
>I'm talking about Barnett Bank a/k/a Nations Bank a/k/a Bank of, er,
>America I guess. One doesn't trust them too far if you can avoid it.
>Anyway, I got a couple of $100 bills. Now on the back of one of them
>was a stamp, you know, people write on and stamp bills all the time.
>I think it's tacky but I guess it's for counterfeit checking. Anyway,
>on the back of one bill was a little round stamp, with this:
>Now other than the obvious question of whether the bill is real, anyone
>have any idea what that is?

Could be anything. "Merchant, Citi Bank," "Master Charge Bill" "Must Clog
with Bacon." People stamp and write on bills all the time. It's not
illegal to deface currency unless you do it for "fraudulent purposes."
Usually it's to mark a place where they were counting a stack or something.

There are a few firms that market a marker the ink of which is supposed to
turn red or black depending on the paper in the bill. Sometimes you will
see those marks on the boarders or the edges of currency. People write
reference numbers on bills. I remember one story about someone who signed
a $5 dollar bill and gave it to his granddaughter, only to get the same
bill back a year later in a store 2000 miles away. (I think it was on that
old show "That's Incredible!").

Your concern about the validity of "defaced" or marked money is not unique,
however. Consider the following story:

Some time ago several of the gay bars in Chicago decided to make a
statement about how many people were or were not homosexual, and what their
impact was or was not on the economy by stamping every bill that passed
their counters with the nomer: "Gay $" (Which I gather was pronounced "Gay
Dollars") in big red letters.

Well, it got the point across because before long something like 1 in 100
bills circulating in the near north side of Chicago had "Gay $" stamped on
them. Of course most of these were in denominations of $20 or lower which
proved to exaggerate the effect because low denomination bills tend to get
returned to banks less often and stay in circulation longer. Bars tend to
localize this effect because when they pass the bills back to customers
those customers tend to be local or live in the general area.

The effect was unsettling, and an interesting statement about confidence in
currency systems and the effect of rumors. You'd get a few of these in
your pocket from a store or even a bank, and be stuck with them because
eventually people stopped taking them. "I don't give them, I don't take
them," one merchant explained to me with a suspicious look. Someone quite
cleverly started circulating the rumor that money with "Gay $" on it was no
longer valid. Of course this is the kind of rumor that captures the
conspirational minds of the masses, and was an overnight success. It was
fueled when one local bank branch announced they would no longer accept the
bills (contrary to law, incidently). Interesting denial of service attack.
Unfortunately, the bank underestimated the extent of its clientele whom
were homosexual. (You'd think they'd look at the neighborhood they were in
and figure it out). Depositors left in droves and even caused a short term
liquidity problem for the bank. I believe they were eventually sued by a
gay rights group. I have no idea how that ended.

Apparently this didn't start in Chicago either.

I'm not sure what pressure eventually got them to stop.

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------- End of Forwarded Message


Rohit Khare -- UC Irvine -- 4K Associates -- +1-(626) 806-7574 http://www.ics.uci.edu/~rohit -- http://xent.ics.uci.edu/~FoRK