When receiving a payment, a character takes a stack of money (or a case of coins) to their ear and flips through it, to hear whether or not all the money they were promised was there.
Could be Justified: since the paper they print money on is special paper, the sound it makes while flipping might be different than counterfeit bills printed on regular paper. And with coins, various densities and shapes could also make different sounds. Modern coin collectors can sometimes be tipped off that a dime or quarter is one of the pre-1965 varieties made of silver, if it sounds different than normal when landing on a tabletop — the "ring of truth." This is also why many old mechanical cash registers had marble shelves above the cash drawer. Gave an easy place to test the sound of the coins.
See also: Tasty Gold.
- Who's Harry Crumb?? with the late John Candy has this. When he comes upon one stack of bills that he says is short by one, another character rolls her eyes and insists it's insane to think he could know that just by flipping through it. They count out the bills by hand, and sure enough, there's one bill missing.
- During Austin Powers's final confrontation with Dr. Evil in the first film, in a deleted scene, Number 2 attempts to bribe Austin with $1 billion in a Fendi briefcase. When Austin grabs just one stack of $100 bills, he notes that the money is short of a billion, to which Number 2 mentions the Fendi briefcase being part of it. They continue to argue until Dr. Evil presses the button to eliminate Number 2. Of course, Austin could have told that the money is short of a billion by the simple fact that you can't fit ten million $100 bills in a single briefcase.
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum: Marcus Lycus can hear the sound of a coin purse being jingled across a noisy room. Pseudelous takes advantage of this to keep Lycus from asking too many questions.
Marcus Lycus: I know that sound... and I love it!
- In Hogfather, the Auditors of Reality leave a rather unusual payment when the commission the Assassin's Guild to off the eponymous holiday figure: blank discs of pure gold. The head of the guild bounces one on his desk, and the sound and bounce of the "coin" confirm its composition for him.
- The initiation test for the Listening Monks involves one of the masters dropping a coin a thousand yards away and having the prospective initiate determine from the sound whether it landed "heads" or "tails".
- On Good Times, pimptastic crime lord Sweet Daddy does this to a stack of money he seized from his lieutenant, Bad News. This is because of a lack of trust in Bad News, who tried to bribe JJ into not giving Sweet Daddy a life-saving blood transfusion, so he could take over Sweet Daddy's operation.
- In 'Allo 'Allo!, the rich but rather miserly Monsieur Alfonse is able count the money which is owed him like this. He's good enough to detect the absence of a single, solitary note - at one point, he looks about ready to accuse René of cheating him until René reaches into the box and produces one that had come loose from the sheaf.
- In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Quark once professes that the sound of two bricks of gold-pressed latinum tapping make the most beautiful sound in the galaxy, averted as he discovers through this process that they are nothing more than "worthless gold" because all the latinum has already been removed.
- An early episode of M*A*S*H had this once. Hawkeye was paymaster and after giving out the payroll, he lamented to Radar that he had lost out on at least $3000 because he was in the army in Korea instead of being home in private practice. Radar filed some paperwork and $3000 arrived in the middle of the episode. Hawkeye holds up a bundle of bills and listens to it. He does it with a second bundle and remarks there's one missing from it.
- Vera Louise Gorman in Alice could calculate any stack of currency to the exact dollar this way, as part of her Cloud Cuckoo Lander characterization.
- In the Complete Book of Villains, a 2E Dungeons & Dragons supplement, a dragon is presented as an archetypical villain representing greed. When its minions bring it tribute, it listens to the coins being poured out onto its hoard, and immediately detects from the sound that one of them has cheated it.
- South Park episode Super Phun Time has a combination of this and subversion of Tasty Gold. Robbers had stolen both money and food from a Burger King. When one of them wants out, he is given his cut. He then flips through the sandwich to make sure that all of the toppings were there.
- Scrooge McDuck has done it on occasion obviously, and in one story Donald Duck is shown to have inherited the talent as well. (Being Donald of course, it soon turns out that it's no use if he has Scrooge's talents if he doesn't have his skills and work ethic as well.)
- Batman: The Animated Series had this in The Strange Secret of Bruce Wayne. The thug thumbing the money to his ears was appropriately named "Numbers".
- In Spongebob Squarepants, Mr Krabs has two songs about this, one is the sound of money, the other is if he could talk to money.
- Newcastle, Australia's local radio station KOFM used to have a contest where they would play the sound of flipping notes and you won the money if you could tell them how many notes they had just flipped. A few people won, so possibly there's a grain of truth. Or people are just good at guessing.
- A variation: the most famous folktale about the wise Japanese judge Ooka Tadasuke is about a restaurant owner suing a poor man for payment. The poor man would eat his daily meal of plain rice near the restaurant so he could smell the food cooking, which made his rice taste better; when the owner discovered this, he sued for payment, and judge Ooka found in favor of the restaurant owner. The poor man protested, saying he only had enough money for rent, showing the judge the few coins he had. Judge Ooka had the poor man pour the coins from one hand to the other a few times, and then told him he was free to go. When the restaurant owner said he hadn't been paid yet, judge Ooka informed him that he HAD just been paid — the price of the smell of food is the sound of money. Variations of the story are told all the way to the British Isles.
- Truth in Television: the reason very old cash registers had the marble shelf above the drawer is that silver and gold coins ring differently than fake ones. It was a safe place to test them.
- One of the ways to check if a US quarter is made of silver (meaning if it's a pre-1965 coin) is to drop it on a hard surface: modern cupronickel coins have a hollow, deeper sound; silver has a resonating, higher-pitched sound.
- Pre-1965 U.S. dimes and half-dollars have this quality, as well. A few people have been able to identify more than a few silver quarters and dimes from a handful of change because of the unique sound they make, even when just passed from hand to hand as a large group of coins.
- This trope undid a spy who used hollow coins to send messages. A newspaper boy noticed that one of his quarters sounded odd, and when he dropped it again, it broke open. The coin was traced back to the spy.
- The names of traditional Hungarian coins were based on the sounds they made when struck on a hard surface:
- Gold – csengő, "clinking"
- Silver – pengő, "ringing"
- Copper – kongó, "pealing"