How much is a $5 bill worth?

How much is a $5 bill worth? That seems like a silly question, but it really isn’t. Your average $5 bill is worth $5, sure, but how much is the bill worth as a tangible item? Or as a historic collector’s item?

It costs the Treasury’s Bureau of Engraving and Printing 10.9 cents to make a $5 bill. That is actually the second most expensive bill behind the $100 at 12.3 cents, thanks in part to the security strip embedded in it. Even a $50 bill costs less, coming in at 10.5 cents.

The 1896 $5 Silver Certificate is apparently the most valuable paper money bill that is regularly available to collectors, with uncirculated bills worth $10,000 or more.

Of course, the value of the $5 bill is not in its cost to produce or in its value as an artifact. It’s a rectangular piece of fabric paper with a dead guy’s face and a number printed on it, but we value it at $5 because we have all placed trust in the system that agrees upon that value.

But is even an average $5 bill always worth $5? Not necessarily.

In both his new book “What to Do When It’s Your Turn (and it’s always your turn)” and the audio program “Leap First“, Seth Godin challenges his audience to take a $5 bill to a public place like a bus station and offer to sell it to complete strangers for $1. Almost no one will take you up on it because people will think you are crazy. Surely, the money has to be counterfeit, or there is some catch that will end up costing more than $5.

This same rectangular piece of fabric paper with a dead guy’s face and a number printed on it would be perceived to be worth $5 if given to you by the checkout person at your local grocery store or coffee shop. Yet that same bill is perceived to not be worth even $1 in the hands of a potentially crazy stranger (including nice looking strangers like you or me).

I recently shared this with the summer staff at the Warren Willis Camp as they prepared to write their Team Covenant. The trust that is required to function as an effective group of counselors runs deeper than the words they put on the page. The same is true of the words we share with our churches through sermons and small groups.

This week, I head to Florida Annual Conference and other Annual Conferences have met, are meeting, and will be meeting soon. I am reflecting on this concept of trust as Annual Conference this year involves preparations for the world-wide General Conference next summer. The delegations we elect, the leaders we nominate, the legislation we pass and send up the chain–all of these are more than the names and faces and words on the page. To be of any value, they have to be built on trust that runs deeper. Sadly, trust seems to be one of the things missing most from the conversations over ideological viewpoints I have seen online.

It is my prayer for this week, especially in the areas of preparation for next year, that we grow in our trust–of God, of ourselves, and of our peers, especially those with whom we disagree.

Header image by Flickr user Kevin Dooley. Used under Creative Commons License. Cropped from Original.

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