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How Far Can $300 Billion Get you?

If you told me, in 2017, that Elon Musk would break 300 billion US Dollars in five years, I’d say “Who dis”, and scoff. Nobody’s beating Bill Gates’s 86 billion. Skip a year, Jeff Bezos cracked 100 billion. In August 2020, he doubled that. Now, in late October 2021, Elon Musk has clawed to the top of the world’s richest ladder with 300 billion dollars. That rando five years ago was right. 300 billion is ridiculous, but convert it to Australian dollars, it’s closer to 420 billion, or for fun, 137 008 774 611 419 140 Venezuelan Bolivares. Let’s try to understand the mountainous amount that money ascends to. Notes and coins are near obsolete, so let’s use them before they’re fossilised. We’re stacking Australian currency to see what happens. 420 billion, here we go. Let’s go from top to bottom.


Commander and Civil Engineer, Sir John Monash (1865 - 1931), and soprano opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba (1861 - 1931), feature on 404 million $100 banknotes (As of June 2020). That’s 40.426 billion smackaroos. 10.4 times less than out $420 billion. So, how many can squeeze into Musk’s wealth? For those lazy or math intolerant, it’s 4 200 000 000. Imagine spilling that over the floor and tidying it up. Since Elon’s saving the world, let’s tidy it for him.

Banknotes are thin, with the $100 note being the thickest at 0.1408 mm. Multiple that with our 4.2 billion notes, and you get a stack 591 360 000 mm tall. Let’s shrink it to better understand the numbers. In centimetres, you get 59 136 000. To meters; 591 360, and in kilometres, we reach 591.360. Not a long drive, but if you’re a stack of $100 banknotes, that’s massive. It’s 100 km from the Earth’s surface to space, or if you could drive uninterrupted in a straight line, you’d sneak past the Queensland border from Sydney CDB, or well into Victoria. You decide where to go. Let’s move on, shall we?


The $50 bank note is the most circulated, with 873 million scattered around Australia. That’s equal to $43.626 billion. Slightly more than the $100 note, and totals 48 percent of all note worth. It features inventor and author, David Unaipon (1872 - 1967), and the first woman elected to Parliament, Edith Cowan (1861 - 1932). If you had Musk’s luck, your $420 billion could be split into 8.4 billion $50 notes, but we all know these two are worth more than the money they’re on. Let’s stack them.

A $50 note is 0.1400 mm thick. Do some bibbidi bobbidy boo and we get a 1 176 000 000 mm stack. More magic, and we’re at 117 600 000 cm, 1 176 000 m, then 1 176 km. Rockhampton, here we come, or we can cruise the Southern Sea beyond Tasmania. Adelaide is within reach. Who’s up for a road trip to South Australia? I’ll pick the tunes, you bring the twenties (I had to segue somehow).


182 million $20 banknotes, worth $3.631 billion, circulate Australia. They feature trader, businesswoman and convicted horse thief, Mary Reibey (1777 - 1855), and founder of the Australian Inland mission, Reverend John Flynn (1880 - 1951). Worthy occupants of money, but if Elon Musk was a country, they’d appear on 21 billion notes.

The note is 0.1332 mm thick, but we could stack a pile 2 797 200 000 mm tall. Converted to cm, m, and km, you get 279 720 000, 2 797 200, and 2 797.2. From Central Australia, we’ll hit the Northern outskirts of Papua New Guinea, or skid past Bali. From Sydney, we’re well beyond the New Zealand mainland, almost to the Chatham Islands. From Darwin, we’ll reach West Indonesia and halfway through the Philippines (home to my bestest friend. Guess where I want to be). They’re all great places, but my friend is greater than any city, country or civilisation ever conceived. Sorry slaves, criminals, and immigrants who built everything for $10 a hour (another crappy segue).


$10 is the least in circulation, with 139 million, worth $1.386 billion. Each features the beautiful faces of writer and journalist, Dame Mary Gilmore (1865 - 1962), and legendary poet, Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (1864 - 1941). Simple maths dictates that if you divide 420 billion by 10, you’ll have 42 billion notes. Double our $20 note, and should get double the distance, too.

The note’s thinner at 0.1294 mm, but billions of thin things make something thick. 5 434 800 000 mm, 543 480 000 cm, 5 434 800 m or 5 434.8 km thick. From Central Australia, you’ll reach Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and touch Thailand. If you prefer, we can explore the cold of Antarctica too. Let’s move internationally. From Tokyo (Earth’s most populous city (37 million people)) we’ll hit Dawin, Alaska, India, Kazakhstan, and far into Russia. What a range. Imagine where $5 will get us.


There are 207 million of those bad boys, or girls, or trans-currency (let’s not leave anybody out), with a total value of $1.033 billion. Everyone knows who and what is on this note, but for foreigners who don’t, one side features Queen Elizabeth II (1926), while the other bares the old and new Parliament houses, designed by John Smith Murdoch (1862 - 1945), and Romaldo Giurgola (1920 - 2016). (Fun fact. Queen Elizabeth is one year older than old Parliament house, which opened on 9th May 1927.) There was a limited edition $5 note in 2001 celebrating federations 100th birthday, which features Father of Federation, Sir Henry Parkes (1815 - 1896), and journalist, politician and feminist Catherine Helen Spence (1825 - 1910). they’re in the stack too. With our $420 billion, we can get 84 billon notes. That’s a whole lotta currency and many frequent flyer points.

One $5 note is 0.1259 mm thick, but 84 billion is 10 575 600 000 mm, 1 057 560 000 cm, 10 575 600 m, or 10 575.6 km. It doesn’t look big compared to the 420 billion we’re dividing from, but it’s big enough to get from Central Australia to Angola, Namibia & Egypt in Africa, and Turkey & Georgia in the Middle East. From Beijing, you’ll reach USA’s west coast, Ireland and Spain in Europe and down to South Africa in… you know. Want to hear something crazier? From Egypt, you’ll reach every continent. Imagine how far coins will get us.

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