The Trillion Dollar Coin is the World’s Greatest MacGuffin


A MacGuffin is an interchangeable item of immense value used to drive a plot. The Briefcase from Pulp Fiction. The Diamond from Snatch. The Maltese Falcon.

These examples and many more are all now archaic trash that doesn’t matter to anyone because we could have a Trillion Dollar Coin.

Something I learned recently is that the president can make money. If the president is at Zipps on Industry Sundays and it’s his turn to buy he can elbow presumptive Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew in the ribs. Lew will have to get up from the bar, walk outside where he can get reception and hear himself talk, and tell his guy to print out a handful of $20s and some singles for later.

That example is a bit of a dramatization. Zipps is mostly a family night thing for the Obamas, and the President can’t print paper money. But for reasons dumb and varied he can request coins to be minted as long as they’re made of platinum. They’re worth whatever number the President can fit on the face and Obama is known for his preference in narrow fonts and conservative kerning.

So a One Trillion Dollar coin can be minted. Great. Why?

Because like a balloon filled with money in a world where helium is currency inside a house constructed out of financial metaphors, we’re about to hit the debt ceiling again. And since it took congress until the day after the deadline to avoid the fiscal cliff (via Time Magic) there’s a valid concern we won’t be able to determine a responsible way to increase revenue.

So now it’s time to consider irresponsible ways to increase revenue. Like poking Lew in the ribs. But whether or not this is a good or effective idea is irrelevant. What matters is that we may have a One Trillion Dollar coin, The Greatest MacGuffin Ever.

I love heist films. I love intricate plots and huge ensemble casts and plans that are completely screwed except that was the plan all along! If we have a real life coin worth a trillion dollars someone has to try to steal it or at the very least make a film about stealing it.

Reasons why the Trillion Dollar Coin is the Best MacGuffin Ever:

Size – It’s small. It’s coin sized. That’s perfect, a good MacGuffin is portable and concealable. That’s why you hear a bunch of stories about stealing diamonds and not Eiffel Towers (except for Carmen Sandiego but she’s just a big old toolbox all around)

Potential – So your plucky set piece anti-heroes have narrowly escaped with the coin and are drinking martinis on the Riviera, each on the forward deck of the flagship of their new yacht fleet. Now what? The nation still has debt to pay. After the credits roll cut back to Zipps. Obama pokes Lew in the ribs again. Boom. A trilogy at worst and a decades-long series if done properly.

Value – Easily my favorite attribute of the TDC. With a priceless antique or a priceless artwork or a priceless child hostage you have to fence or ransom back the MacGuffin and then there’s a gunfight and then the MacGuffin is lost in the confusion, usually down a river or a storm drain or something. The whole reason why a trillion dollar coin would exist in the first place is because it’s already legal tender! All you have to do is plan your cunning break in, extract the coin, and walk to the nearest Bank with shifty ethics (read: Any Bank) and make a deposit. You could even walk up to the local 7/11, buy a coffee and ask for change. And what if they have a sign out front saying “No Bills Over $100”? Well guess what: this isn’t a bill. It’s a coin. $999,999,999,999,997.68, please. Oh, what’s that? They’ll just give you the coffee? Now you have a trillion dollar coin and a cup of coffee.