When it comes to the currency-tracking project, Where’s George, you may have herd of it, used it, or maybe saw a dollar bill telling you to “Track this bill”. I recently got one of those marked bills as change at a bar and remembered when I used to be active on Where’s George. I also thought this might be a good starter for our new “Still a Thing” feature. So…Let’s take a brief look at Where’s George.
A Unique Idea
Founded in 1998, Where’s George provides users the ability to enter their U.S. paper currency into a database. The basic idea is simple. You enter a bills unique information, like the serial number, date, and current location on the website. When you spend the bill the idea is that, hopefully, someone else receives the bill and enters it in the future. When another person enters the bill after you, it will register as a “hit” and you can see on the website where your bill travelled. The user, who enters the bill, will also see any previous entries, and their entry will be logged, adding to the bills journey.
The creator of the website was on to something. From its inception, Where’s George spawned a community around it. The community also known as “Georgers” participated a variety of online forms and even organized in-person meetups. The website even developed a bit of a sub-culture of enthusiasts and was the subject of a minor documentary in 2006. Unsurprisingly, not long after Where’s George came on the scene, several other websites popped up for tracking currency. As far as we can tell, none had the same popularity as Where’s George.
Eventually, the website began selling stamps so users could mark their entered bill. More media coverage as well as the stamps even greater attention to the project. Unfortunately, the site also garnered a bit of unwanted attention from the US Secret Service, who had some concerns with the “defacement” of U.S. currency. While the law is a bit grey and not well defined, the sites owner agreed to stop selling the stamps. However, site users just found them elsewhere, and Where’s George continued on uninterrupted.
Where’s George Now
Coming up on its 24th year, Where’s George is not quite as popular as it used to be. I’m sure paper currency not being used as much had some impact. Nevertheless, the project is still alive, and over the years, has managed to remain true to its roots. The community has a true love for “legitimate” hits and discussing currency. The data the site generates is imperfect, but is not useless; in fact, the data has even been used in research projects.
Where’s George is fun hobby for many, and I have even dabbled a bit. It is somewhat cool to see a bill pop up in some crazy place (like apparently Venezuela?!). So, if you come across one of those marked bills, go ahead and enter it. See where it has been and check in later and see where ended up down the line. Or even better, enter your own bills, pass them along, and see if they turn up again.