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Hear Me the Money

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Rustling money. Flippant, yet rewarding.
"Boy, what a sound! How I love to hear that old money plink — that beautiful sound of cold, hard cash! That beautiful, beautiful sound! Nickels, nickels, nickels... that beautiful sound of plinking nickels!"
Lucy van Pelt, A Charlie Brown Christmas

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 — silver will sound much more "bright" and vibrant compared to base metal alloys, and this sound has been referred to as the "ring of truth". This is also why many old mechanical cash registers had marble shelves above the cash drawer—it gave an easy place to test the sound of the coins.

See also Tasty Gold, for another sensory money test.


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    Comic Books 
  • In one Scrooge Mc Duck comic, the Beagle Boys see a giant cash register being loaded into Scrooge's house, and assume that he's starting a home-business. All through the day, they hear sales being rung up, and conspire to pull a burglary. That night, they sneak into the basement, open the register and find...nothing! Scrooge just enjoys the sound of a sale so much that he's been making money melodies as a hobby.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery: 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.
  • An unintentional variant occurs in Down Periscope during a scene where two silent-running submarines are attempting to detect one another. Captain Dodge's Sonar Technician E.T. 'Sonar" Lovacelli (Harland Williams), a character established to have Super-Hearing is able to locate the rival sub when a crewman therein drops a small handful of coins. Lovacelli reports the event down to the amount of money/value of coins dropped which he determined purely from sounds.
  • The Scorpion King: After recovering his money pouch from a thief, Matthyus gives it a quick shake and immediately knows the thief took one of his stones.
  • 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.

  • Discworld:
    • 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".
  • Spice and Wolf has an instance that falls somewhere between this and Tasty Gold. Holo is able judge the purity of coins just by clinking them together, leading to the plot point that a city is minting coins that have a lower silver content and are thus worth less.
  • In Stig Of The Dump: when Barney finds his stolen money box, he shakes it, trying to determine if it still contains three shillings and threepence.
  • In the novelisation of The Thwarting of Baron Bolligrew, Moloch determines that the Baron has given him forged money by the sound the coins make when struck. (In the original play, he does it by taste, because the money is made of chocolate).

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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 '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.
  • Family Ties: In the episode "A: My Name is Alex", when Alex was talking to a therapist while dealing with a severe case of Survivor's Guilt over the death of a friend, Alex bragged that he could identify different coins by the sound they made when they hit the floor.
  • 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 the Star Wars live-action series The Mandalorian, the titular character is offered a spear made of pure beskar (AKA Mandalorian Steel, a supermetal that is highly effective as personal armor) as payment for a requested service. When momentarily offered the spear for examination, he checks it by tapping it against his own beskar steel bracer and listens to the resonating chime to confirm the spear's composition.
  • In The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis reunion movie Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis, Dobie and Zelda now run the Gillis GroceryŚnow also a pharmacyŚon their own. Dobie's ear is especially finely tuned to sound of their son Georgie opening the cash register to remove cash and he can hear it no matter where he is in the house. It is so finely that the sound of Georgie opening the till brings Dobie out of a coma at the end of the film.
  • In the M*A*S*H episode "Payday", Hawkeye draws paymaster duty for the month. After giving everyone their pay, he laments to Radar that serving in Korea has caused him to miss out on at least $3,000 that he could have earned in private practice. Radar takes him seriously and arranges to have an extra $3,000 delivered to the camp. Hawkeye flips through a couple of bundles of scrip and says that one of them is a dollar short.
  • 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. When he attempts to do so, however, they make an unsatisfying "clunk" because all the latinum has been extracted from the bricks, leaving only "worthless gold".

    Tabletop Games 
  • 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.

  • Cabaret: "Money makes the world go around, that clinking, clanking sound."
  • 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!
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead:
    Player King: We can give you a tumble if that's your taste and times being what they are. Otherwise, for a jingle of coin we can do you a selection of gory romances, full of fine cadence and corpses, pirated from Italian; and it doesn't take much to make a jingle. Even a single coin has music in it.

    Western Animation 
  • 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 another scene in the same episode, Joker jingles his coin purse next to his ear, and knows he has 53 cents in it.
  • Ebenezer Scrooge in Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol when counting his money:
    Scrooge: (singing) Ringle, ringle, coins when they jingle, make such a lovely sound. Give them away and nobody can rob you.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
    • Parodied in Pickles when Bubble Bass is inspecting his Krabby Patty

    Real Life 
  • 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:
    • An adaptation appears in the Girls to the Rescue series.
    • In France, the deed is attributed to Saint Yves. "Le son paie l'odeur" (the sound pays for the smell).
    • In the Muslim world, the story is attributed to The Trickster Nasreddin Hodja/Juha/Goha,note  who in all tellings is a Sufi mystic and a mufti/qadi (judge of Islamic law). Most Islamic versions of the story make the restaurateur specifically a kebab vendor and many change the rice to bread.
  • 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 is quite handy for people who check their change for silver; a coin can be heavily tarnished to the point that more than a cursory glance is needed to confirm its metal content, but the sound is instantly recognisable to a trained ear.
    • Canadian coins are the exact same size as their American counterparts, and are generally accepted by businesses in places close to the Canadian border like upstate New York and Michigan, though most vending machines will reject them. Because the Canadian coins are made of a different alloy (American coins are mostly copper, Canadian coins are mostly steelnote ) they make very different sounds when dropped, so an easy way for the visually impaired to tell them apart is to simply drop them onto a hard surface from a height of a couple inches.
  • This trope undid a Soviet spy who used hollow coins to send messages; the Hollow Nickel Case. 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, who was imprisoned for 30 years and fined.
  • 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"
  • As noted in the trope description, bankers, cashiers, and others who physically deal with paper money gain the ability to spot counterfeits by feel, because legal money is usually printed on a special blend of paper. In the case of US Dollars, the paper contains a significant amount of linen, giving both fresh and heavily circulated bills a different sensation on the skin when touched - new bills should feel stiff and crisp, while older or more worn bills feel more like fabric. The designs are also printed onto the note in such a way that the details are raised from the bill, making them stand out when holding them.