What does one TRILLION dollars look like?
(calculations & dimensions)

After receiving a few emails suggesting my trillion dollar calculations may be in error, I decided to put up this page showing the calculations step by step.

But before we do, there are two things I should make perfectly clear....

1) We are using $100 dollar bills, not $1 bills.

2) We are using the following definitions of million, billion and trillion...

MILLION = 1,000,000
BILLION = 1,000,000,000
TRILLION = 1,000,000,000,000

I realize that some people in some places may have been taught differently and that there is the "short scale" and "long scale" definitions of these numbers. But without getting into the merits, preference or usage of one naming system over another, let's just be clear that the above is the system I'm using. And more importantly, when the U.S. government is talking about a trillion dollars, that is the system they are using.

With that out of the way, let's get to our calculations.

We'll start with one packet...

(I've removed the graphics for clarity)

This packet is a stack of one hundred $100 dollar bills. It's about 6" by 2-1/2" by 0.43" high.

100 x $100 = $10,000

Next we'll arrange 10 packets on the ground like so...

10 x $10,000 = $100,000

If we increase it to 10 layers high, we get $1,000,000 (one million dollars)...

10 x $100,000 = $1,000,000

The pile is 12" wide (2 x 6"), 12.5" deep (5 x 2.5") and 4.3" high (10 x .43").

Now we'll look at a pallet. We'll start with one layer, 7 packets wide by 16 packets deep, with each packet being $10,000.

7 x 16 = 112 packets per layer

112 x $10,000 = $1,120,000 per layer

Increase that to 90 layers and you have a stack 38.7" tall (plus 4" for the pallet) that is worth a little over $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)

90 x $1,120,000 = $100,800,000

For the sake of simplicty, we'll round this down and consider a pallet to be exactly $100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars). We'll just put put the extra $800,000 aside and have ourselves a party. With all this money sloshing around, who's gonna miss it?

Next, ten pallets of $100 million are $1 billion...

10 x $100,000,000 = $1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)

Here is where we may start running into problems. In some parts of the world, this may be referred to as a "thousand million" (or "milliard") rather than a billion.

Below is a table showing the different terminology. Which one you use may depend on where you live. More on this at Wikipedia if you're interested.

 Short Scale  Long Scale   
 one  one  1
 thousand  thousand  1,000
 million  million  1,000,000
 billion  thousand million (or milliard)  1,000,000,000
 trillion  billion  1,000,000,000,000
 quadrillion  thousand billion (or billiard)  1,000,000,000,000,000
 quintillion  trillion  1,000,000,000,000,000,000
 sextillion  thousand trillion (or trilliard)  1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000

At any rate, for our purposes here, we're at one billion dollars ($1,000,000,000).

Next, a row of 50 double-stacked pallets (50 x 2 = 100 pallets total).

100 x $100,000,000/pallet = $10,000,000,000 (ten billion dollars)

Multiply that by 100 rows....

100 rows x $10,000,000,000 = $1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)

(Notice the little guy at the bottom left corner.)

Here's another view oriented a little more to the front...

So, one hundred rows x 100 pallets per row is 10,000 pallets.

That's a LOT of $100 bills!

And hopefully that puts to rest any notions of "errors".

You know, it occurs to me.... if you were the guy stacking all those pallets and you swiped one single bill from the top of each pallet, after you were done you'd have yourself a cool $million.


Each individual pallet is 42" wide by 40" deep. The height of the bills is 38.7". Add 4" for a pallet and the total height of one pallet of bills is 42.7". In the field of pallets above, the pallets are spaced 12" apart.

The field is 50 pallets x 100 pallets by 2 pallets high, so...

width = (50 x 42") + (49 x 12") = 2100" + 588" = 2688" = 224 ft

depth = (100 x 40") + (99 x 12") = 4000" + 1188" = 5188" = 432.33ft

height = 2 x 42.7" = 85.4" = just a little over 7ft high

So our field of pallets is roughly 224ft x 432ft x 7ft high.

At 96,768 square feet, it's about 2.2 acres and well over the size of a football field.