"Ahh, there's nothing better than a cigarette... unless it's a cigarette lit with a $100 bill!"
A Corrupt Corporate Executive
, or another kind of usually unpleasant character, sets alight a high-denomination dollar bill, and uses it to light his cigar or his cigarette.
This is used to show that he doesn't care for what is being burnt: he either has too much money, has an insurance policy on the object, doesn't like it, or doesn't respect what it stands for.
Note that destruction of money without due authority is illegal in most countries, so this also has connotations of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!
Extra points if the character in question does this in front of a less affluent one
. Especially if the poorer character just asked or even begged the wealthier one for money.
The Other Wiki has an article about this.
As mentioned on said article, Do Not Try This at Home
because it's often illegal.
Not to be confused with Conspicuous Consumption
, which is what this phrase refers to in real life, or Money to Throw Away
, which is a much more philanthropic way to get rid of your cash.
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- In Speed Grapher, Suitengu smokes cigarettes wrapped in 10,000 Yen bills. Even worse, he crushes them underfoot after no more than four drags, then lights another in less than a minute. If that's not enough, at one point he nonchalantly sets fire to a whole briefcase worth of the bills. And then takes it to the most extreme, when he torches every last yen Japan has in a skyscraper.
- One episode of [C] - The Money and Soul of Possibility, had Kimimaro burning a huge amount of his Midas money as a point that he chose the future and not money.
- Elfen Lied: Nana uses the yen Kurama left her with for firewood. In this case, having been raised in a lab for her entire life, Nana simply has no understanding of the concept of money.
- Rosario Vampire: Brightest Darkness Act VI: In chapter 11, Ceal makes Fang Fang pay him 9000 gold bars to repay a debt, and promptly feeds the gold to his pet necro demon Xarai, admitting that his family is filthy rich enough as it is and he wanted the gold just so he could take it away from the Huangs.
- The protagonist in Erich Maria Remarque's The Black Obelisk starts the book off this way, lighting his cigar with a ten-mark note and kindling the wood stove in his workplace with several more. This being 1920s Weimar Germany, however, he's not doing it because he's rich, but because those notes are almost completely worthless.
- In Agatha Christie's short story "The Soul of the Croupier", the Countess does this to the high denomination bill that the croupier arranged for her to win, because she will not accept his charity. He is her long-estranged husband.
- American Psycho: One of Pat Bateman's friends teases a homeless guy with a dollar bill and then lights his cigar with it. Pat thinks he's a jerk but it's not worth killing him over— he likes the homeless even less and kills one later.
- In Spider Robinson's Callahan's Legacy, a character who inherited a frickload of money decides to "combat inflation". He and his friends fold the bills into paper airplanes and send them flying into the fireplace.
- At the beginning of Terry Pratchett's pre-Discworld book Strata, protagonist Kin Arad is uninterested in Jago Jalo's claims of an uncharted world where thought becomes matter, until he takes out a couple hundred thousand years worth of the life-extension tickets that function as the setting's currency and casually tosses them all into a trash disintegrator.
- In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, Natasya Filipponva heard that Gavrila Ardalionovich would “crawl to Vassilievsky Island for three roubles”. She tests Gavrila by throwing a packet of ten thousand roubles into a fire, and telling him that if he reaches in with his bare hands, he can keep whatever he grabs.
- Lazarus Long does this to a big bill in Time Enough for Love after his bank gets nationalized. He's trying to teach the mayor that money is a fiction and he shouldn't get too attached to the notes themselves. Lazarus then comments that that's what he usually does when the safe starts to get too full. Then he writes down the serial number so he can keep track of the currency in the system.
Live Action TV
- "Money to Burn" by Richard Ashcroft.
- Possibly "Money Left to Burn" by German band Kettcar refers to that song.
- "Counting Stars" by One Republic has the lyrics «Take that money. Watch it burn».
- The music video "Beautiful Dirty Rich" by Lady Gaga has her doing this with some rolled up bills as them being the cigar. Also just burns a 100 as well.
- A situational variant in her "Telephone" video—she walks out into the prison yard with sunglasses blinged-out with lit cigarettes. Now, what is commonly used as money in prison?
- In the video for "This is the Life", a filthy rich "Weird Al" Yankovic lights a cigar with a 100 dollar bill.
- The video for Superdrag's "Sucked Out" ends with the lead singer lighting a cigarette with a $1 bill. Given the tone of the song to which the image is attached, this was likely meant to be symbolic.
- Accidentally happens in The Unsinkable Molly Brown. When Johnny leaves Molly $300,000 in cash as a wedding present, she considers where in the cabin it could be hidden where a robber wouldn't think of looking for it. She decides to hide it in the stove, underneath some kindling. When Johnny comes home shivering, the first thing he does is light the stove.
- In Dead Rising 2, one casino features a "Game" called "Money to burn" that is quite literally a bonfire that you throw increasingly large amounts of money into for Prestige Points (experience). After you do it enough times, you are given a "Stupidity Bonus".
- Fallout: New Vegas has a variation, where Legion denarius can be used to create "coin shot" rounds for 12-gauge shotguns.
- Before that was Fallout 3's Bottlecap Mine, a craftable explosive weapon that uses bottlecaps, the series' usual in-game currency, as shrapnel. The head of a caravan company in New Vegas lampshades this, wondering why someone would actually want to waste money in this manner.
- PAYDAY 2: The "Become Infamous" option is this. Your ability to gain exp is nullified each time you reach level X00, where x is a nonzero integer. In order to unlock the next 100 levels, you must spend $200,000,000 from your offshore account and BURN ALL THE MONEY IN YOUR SAFE HOUSE. All for a little card. And stronger skill sets. And badass masks.
- Liberal Crime Squad allows you to spend $250 to buy expensive props to brainwash conservatives. They are all single use (and randomly chosen), and include beating conservatives with "fists full of money".
- Given some play in an early episode of Batman: The Animated Series: the Scarecrow and two of his henchmen break into the Gotham University's vault, which has a lot of checks and cash donations from the university's alumni fundraisers. Figuring he means to rob it, the henchmen set to work gathering everything up for transport; but then he tells them "Take as much as you can carry; we'll burn the rest." When they wonder aloud why he's not taking any for himself, he explains that this heist is about revenge, not profit: while he doesn't mind their getting themselves a nice big payday from the stash, his intent is to hurt the university as badly as he can for firing him; so he's destroying their money.
- The Simpsons:
- Granny in the Looney Tunes short "Hare Trimmed" was a rich widow who would literally burn stacks of cash to heat her house, kept in a scuttle that was actually marked "Money to Burn".
- Spongebob Squarepants:
- In the episode "Chocolate With Nuts", Squidward's Fancy Living Magazine features a High-Class Glass Fish burning a dollar, because he can!
- In another episode, Spongebob and Patrick try to prank Mr. Krabs by burning a dollar, but he throws a bucket of water on it and the pranksters are revealed.
- In "Pretty Patties", Spongebob and Patrick have no idea what to do with their fortune. Burying, shredding, and burning actually took too long! So they just gave it right back to their customers in large bags.
- Title of a 1980s episode of G.I. Joe, in which Cobra burns United States of America money.
- Parodied by Futurama's Le Grand Cigar. Its wrapper was a piece of the original U.S. Constitution. It was hand-rolled by Queen Elizabeth during her "wild years" and was buried with George Burns until grave robbing space mushrooms stole it. Bender then decided to steal it rather than pay its $10,000 cost.
- Archer has Cheryl, the ditzy secretary, turn out to be the heiress of a family that made its fortune on the railroads. Once she comes into her inheritance, though, she won't pay back Cyril the $3000 he lent her because "that money doesn't exist anymore" - because she set it on fire to watch it burn.
- Walter Lantz once made a version of the Elves and the Shoemaker where the shoemaker, after the elves helped him, became so wealthy he set a bill on fire to light some candles.
- Played with in Family Guy when Carter literally blends $20,000 and drinks the smoothie instead of giving to Joe's Charity.
- South Park: Scott Tenorman burns the $16 that he scammed off Cartman so he couldn't ask for it back. This was a big mistake.
- The K Foundation Burn a Million Quid, an event where musical duo The K Foundation cashed out a million Pounds of the money they had earned in royalties over the course of their career and burnt them in an abandoned boathouse with a couple of friends, with no explanation whatsoever.
- Earlier, the K Foundation had set up a cash prize to award to "the worst artist of the year". Their shortlist was identical to that of the Turner Prize, which was going on at the same time. Amanda Whitehead won both the Turner Prize and the K Foundation's award. She refused the latter "prize", at which point the K Foundation threatened to set fire to the cash. Whitehead prevented the burning by accepting the prize at the last minute, stating that she would donate the money to charity.
- A justified example: Germany's economy was destroyed after World War I, resulting in hyperinflation to the point that Marks were more useful for papering bare walls than using as currency. It got so bad that the bills were worth less than what they could buy in firewood. There were also more German bills in the United States than in Germany, due to them being sold to Americans as novelty pieces.
- This is also true in places like Somalia, where the money is so worthless people need a wheelbarrow-load of it just to buy apples or bread. Most people just use the money for animal bedding or toilet paper.
- Hyperinflation in general tends to cause this, as the paper money is LITERALLY worth less than virtually any other substitute.
- One odd example during this period came from the practice of producing "notgeld" (emergency money) by town governments, local banks, and other sources not officially authorized to issue money. Notgeld wasn't actually legal tender, but within the locality it would be interchangeable with real money. Some notgeld pieces are now quite rare because the unusual materials they were made from left them especially suitable to burning as fuel once the emergency passed and non-inflated real currency (which the notgeld could no longer be exchanged for) was available. These include notes made from thin planks of wood instead of paper, and coins made from pressed coal dust. Once the hyperinflation period passed, most of these wood banknotes were tossed into fireplaces, and the coal coins were tossed into stoves.
- One of the most famous stories told of Cleopatra is that she once drank a pearl earring dissolved in vinegar, purely to win a bet with Mark Antony over which of them was more wastefully opulent.
- This is parodied in Astérix, where pearls dissolved in vinegar are Cleo's favourite drink.
- Serge Gainsbourg famously burnt a 500 franc bill on TV at the height of his fame.
- Back in the 1970s, poker player "Mad Genius" Mike Caro would get inside his opponents' heads by burning a $100 bill before playing a single hand, just to make everybody there think that money meant absolutely nothing to him.
- The Aztec civilization used cocoa beans as one of its sources of currency. So when the rich and powerful drank chocolate...
- A popular chemistry demonstration subverts this by soaking a banknote in aqueous isopropanol and setting it alight. If you've got the composition right, the note survives unharmed. The trick is that isopropanol burns with a bright but not particularly hot flame, and the water keeps the paper itself below its ignition temperature.