The King of Town
: All right, gentlemen, this is how this is going to go down. I'm gonna write a number on this piece of paper. Strong Bad
: Uh, King, you wrote a piece of lasagna
on this piece of paper. The King of Town
: And I ain't budging!
For some reason — perhaps to avoid the show becoming dated by inflation, perhaps because people's definition of "a lot of money" varies, or perhaps to just let our imagination do the work
— large sums of money tend not to be specified on TV. They are written down on pieces of paper, whispered in people's ears, etc. Commonly involves characters blatantly stating "That's a lot of money!" or making a statement about a large number of zeros, though other variations exist.
are frequently measured in Undisclosed Funds.
Compare Zillion Dollar Bill
, Fiction 500
. Contrast On The Money
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Anime and Manga
- An episode of Naruto where, upon finding Jiraiya's checkbook, the titular character opens it and exclaims "Woah! That's a lot of zeros!" Apparently, writing erotic novels can pay pretty well...
- Word Of God says that Tsunade's gambling debts are around that high.
- Averted after the timeskip, when it is stated that Chiriku has a bounty of 30 million ryo on his head, and it is stated that one ryo is ten yen, and ten ryo is approximately one dollar, and databooks specify the rewards for missions.
- At one point in D. Gray-Man, characters are discussing the amount of damage caused by "Phantom Thief G." When someone holds up a piece of paper with the number on it, it's pixellated out. Of course, what with Komui's reaction, this is probably more to do with the Rule of Funny than anything else.
- Fullmetal Alchemist has Ed give Sheska his pocket watch and a figure to take from his research budget for recreating a book for him. Cue stunned "That's a lot of money!", with a stunned Maria Ross standing by for emphasis. "Who is this kid?!" indeed.
- In Mostly Harmless Ford Prefect "names a figure" as a tip for the bar singer (strongly implied to be Elvis Presley). The figure causes the barman to faint, but Arthur Dent doesn't react because he doesn't know how much it's worth. Ford says it would buy you "roughly... Switzerland."
- At the end of A Christmas Carol, Scrooge whispers to the two gentlemen from the story's beginning (the ones asking for charitable donations) how much he will give, causing them to react in amazement. Even though we're working with Victorian economics here, this example makes this trope Older Than Radio.
- Those film and theater adaptations that do name a figure give a value that in those days was roughly equal to the salary of a semi-skilled laborer... for three or four years.
- Early in the Anita Blake series, Anita needs to question a prostitute in order to get some information on her case, and she has to buy the time. All we know is that Anita's shocked at the amount (well, and that the prostitute was fully convinced Anita was just using an Unusual Euphemism).
- In the Quantum Gravity series, money is never mentioned with an explicit number. Whether it is merely called a lot of money or about to be told and then cut off as a curse might be varies. Given that this is a universe where our universe essentially exploded and mixed very thoroughly with five others, and the currency is likely something no reader would recognize anyway, the amounts would be...complex.
- Harry Potter comes into quite a bit of gold as the heir to the Potter and Black family fortunes, but just how rich he is isn't specified.
- Also, the wizarding world uses different currency anyway, so being able to attach a number to it wouldn't really mean that much.
- In the Egyptian novel The Yacoubian Building, the corrupt car importer goes to a Party official to get elected to parliament. The official draws a rabbit—which Egyptians know means a million pounds (the Egyptian pound is about 6 to the dollar today, so it's not exactly Ridiculous Exchange Rates).
- When the eponymous character of The Dresden Files asks what it would cost to hire Professional Killer Kincaid as backup for a raid, the answer is "a sum that made the amount in my savings account look very small indeed".
- This is an issue for Robert B. Parker's Spenser novels because of their use of Comic Book Time. When Spenser first appeared in the early 70s, his daily rate was specified as $100 a day. Later that became $200 a day. Eventually Spenser would seem say, as narrator, things like, "I told the client how much I charged, we argued about it, they complained it was too much, I told them to bite me, and finally they paid me what I had asked for in the first place."
Live Action TV
- In NewsRadio, Mr James shows Dave the amount he was offered for the radio station, written on a piece of paper, and we don't see it. Dave thinks it's not excessively generous until Mr James points out he has to unfold the paper.
- In Friends, Chandler cuts short of telling Monica how much money he has in his bank account, writing it down and showing her instead; in context, this is because he doesn't want to say it in front of Rachel and Phoebe, but Monica shows them the figure anyway. It's described as "the budget of Wedding Scenario A", to give the audience a general idea of how much it must be.
- In Seinfeld, Jerry buys a suede jacket with an unnamed but astronomical price which he refuses to tell to George. It's at least implied that the jacket costs something north of a thousand dollars.
- Another example would be in The Cadillac episode, where Jerry earns enough money to buy a Cadillac, from a single gig.
- On Nip/Tuck, Sean sells his share of the practice for "a lot of money."
- In Mad About You, Jamie makes a huge bet on a horse race; we only see Paul's reaction when she shows him the betting slips. The horse wins at very long odds, which presumably means the Buchmans won a small fortune, but this fact isn't even brought up.
- Subversion: On The Drew Carey Show, Millionaire Mrs. Lauder offers Drew 00 for his house in a land-grab. He is reeled, then responds that his house is clearly worth more. Mrs. Lauder says that she knew, but her accountants had scientifically calculated that exact amount as the minimum sum that poor people think is "a lot".
- The whole inflation deal is parodied in a Muppets Tonight sketch, in which a character inherits a "fortune" of "eighty-five dollars." (Miss Piggy: "What!? I've got more than that on me!")
- A similar device is used in one episode of The Sarah Silverman Program, in which the titular character is asked by a nurse how many times she has had unprotected sex. Rather than say it out loud, Sarah writes it down on a piece of paper. The nurse seems more confused by the fact that there are two numbers on the piece of paper ("One's for the front") and that they are both identical ("I'm kind of OCD about that") than surprised at the size of the figure, but given the content of the rest of the scene, it can be assumed that the number is very high.
- In Friday Night Lights' first season, the Street family's lawsuit's settlement is for a number written down on a piece of paper, after a whole scene of debating between two opposing, also never-spoken-aloud amounts.
- A sketch on The Sketch Show played with this, which a woman discusses with a repairman his prices using onomatopoeia (whistles for high prices, "eh" for low prices, etc.) At the end of the sketch, the woman asks how much it would be if she helps install it, and he replies, "£50".
- On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, after a long series of episodes where Buffy is shown needing money, the problem is abruptly solved with some money from Giles. The money is implied to be a large amount, but its value (true to this trope) is never shown.
- Subverted on Leverage in "The Juror #6 Job" when Sophie writes $100,000,000 in the guy's Zen sand garden.
- Also subverted on the pilot where the payout is printed on the check as $32,761,349.05.
- A running joke on Bones is the amount of money that Brennan makes from her novels.
- No sum is ever given for the cost of hiring (renting?) a doll from the Dollhouse, but it costs at least six figures if not seven. In Epitaph One, we learn that Rossum is now charging "a nine-figure sum" for a full body transplant.
- A hundred mil every sixty or so year for true immortality? That's a steal!
- Rumpole of the Bailey: The amount that Rumpole received from the Bugle (a lawyer-friendly version of the Sun) in "Rumpole and the Bubble Reputation" was sufficiently large that Henry revealed the amount to Rumpole by showing him the file (at which point Rumpole's eyes widened). Averted in part, as we do learn that the refresher for the brief was £500/day.
- Subverted in The Honeymooners: a rich old widow who Ralph had befriended dies, and leaves Ralph "my fortune" in her will. Ralph gets excited about the riches coming his way, but it turns out she meant Fortune, her pet parrot.
- Gilmore Girls sets up its fundamental conflict (independent-minded Lorelai is forced to accept the help of her parents in order to provide for her daughter's elite education):
Lorelai (on phone): Yes, I read your letter, and gee, that is an awful lot of zeros after that five...
- A Wings episode has Joe and Helen meeting with the insurance adjuster after the loss of their house and all its contents in a fire. The meeting goes poorly, to say the least, and ends with the adjuster saying "I'm sorry, but we can't do any better than this", at which point he writes down a figure on a piece of paper and leaves. Joe and Helen look at the paper with trepidation, shrug for a moment, then begin dancing with joy. "We're rich! We're rich!"
- On The Big Bang Theory, when Sheldon mentions that Raj's parents are rich, the most detail he goes into is that they're "Richie Rich"-rich, which is apparently "halfway between Bruce Wayne and Scrooge McDuck."
- On Life, the amount of money included in Charlie Crews's settlement for his wrongful imprisonment is undisclosed by court order.
- In How I Met Your Mother, Lily asks for the price of a wedding dress on a scale of "never" to "never ever". She receives a response of "never ever ever ever ever times infinity".
- This is then subverted later in the episode when she tells her fiance she accidentally destroyed it. It was worth $8000.
- On Night Court, after being informed of a citizenship applicant's net worth, Dan Fielding's stunned comment is: "My Social Security Number isn't that big!"
- In 42nd Street, Dorothy Brock's list of ridiculous additions to her contract is capped off with "no problem with the salary... I just added another zero."
- Played with in The Curse Of Monkey Island: During an attempt to purchase a Plot Coupon, the character who owns it states that "it would cost you an awful lot of money," and then asks if Guybrush has that much money. If the player has already completed an insurance fraud quest (which yields "a lot of money" as the reward), Guybrush will offer "a lot of money," only to be turned down: The diamond cannot be sold for "anything less than an awful lot of money."
- Fortunately, you do have the option to play the men at poker for the Plot Coupon, and the buy-in is "not very much", which, given that he very distinctly has "a lot of money," Guybrush can amply afford.
- Played straight in Mother 2, but averted in EarthBound. During localization, for some reason a couple of vague references meaning roughly "a bajillion dollars" were changed to real numbers (Ness' family's debt to Porky's family is "a hundred thousand dollars or more" and the Diamond "could pay off a million dollar debt easily").
- When Tony and Bam are shown the total bill for the actual storyline events in Tony Hawk's Underground 2, the amount's obscure but they're quite glad to have someone else foot the bill.
- In Strong Bad's Cool Game For Attractive People, Strong Bad has to pay for his Fun Machine repairs with "one big sack of cash". After kicking off his moneymaking scheme, a battle of the bands (wherein he asks each band playing to enter a "few handfuls of cash"), he's dismayed to learn that his profits only amount to "half a big sack of cash".
- In the World of Warcraft novel, The Shattering Prelude To Cataclysm, it's never specified how much Gazlowe charges to rebuild Orgrimmar aftre the fire, or how much Baine and Stormsong pay him for the supplies to retake Thunder Bluff, but it's suggested that it's a considerable amount of money. This may be to avoid having to scale it with how expensive things are in the game.
- In the X-COM remake, the shadowy council provides your funding in "credits". Considering you get an achievement for earning 1000 credits in a month of operations and how comparatively little it costs for the Engineering department to, say, build a spacefaring fighter craft from the ground up (with some scrap metal taken from various alien objects), then outfit it with a fusion cannon capable of blowing an alien BATTLESHIP out of the sky with two shots, it can be assumed that "credits" are worth a hellalotta money*.
- There is however a way to translate "credits" to real world money: There are Real Life satellite launches. You as the X-COM commander is required to build and place satellites for about 30 or so credits. Given that this pays for the "much better than a communications/GPS" hardware and the cost of sending said hardware into orbit, the ballpark amount of funds for those Heavy Plasmas can probably pay the annual running costs of a small nation...
- Both played straight and averted, on separate occasions, in the webcomic Scandal Sheet!. Played straight when Max shows Foster his first paycheque for working at The Comet - Foster's eyes grow large and he says "That's a lot of zeros." However, it's averted later when Foster receives a large amount of money from his former co-worker at the porn studio, who found his script for Thigh-tanic and produced it, with enormous success. The amount is specified to be ten thousand dollars.
- "Schlock Mercenary" plays it strait with Lunesby, here. Usually averts it, but gets the same effect by using real numbers but in something other than units of currency, like saying something cost a character a years pay.
- The Dragon Doctors never discuss funds in direct amounts, partially because of the fantasy setting. It's hinted that the protagonists are about as rich as you would expect a team of world-class doctors to be.
- Plus they have the backing from an as-yet-unrevealed donor, who funds them directly for all their interesting cases.
- Real Life example: In soccer, clubs sometimes list the transfer fee paid for a player as 'undisclosed'; this usually means 'more than he's really worth'.
- Several deals, settlements and contracts do not disclose terms.
- A form of bidding used in Japanese fish markets, for top class/dollar fish prized by chefs, has bidders slipping their bid in a small piece of folded paper to a seller. They don't wave number in the open or yell or take the time to outbid because time is so critical a mere minute of haggling could affect the quality of the fish.