WheresGeorge.com Stamped Bills Earn Web Site at Least $7,600 per Month...With Free Advertising!
by Paula Neal Mooney
A curious thing happened the other morning after I bought stuff from a local cafe, mostly 'cause I need to break a 20.
The cashier handed me my change, which included the one dollar bill posted below with "WheresGeorge.com" stamped all over it.
I may have run across one of the estimated 103 million bills stamped with WheresGeorge.com before, but seeing as though I'm all into webmastering and viral marketing nowadays, this time I actually looked up the site.
Turns out WheresGeorge.com wasn't a political site about the man I voted for, but a site that tracks bills as they float across the country and beyond.
Fine and dandy -- I was more concerned with whether or not this viral form of marketing a website's URL on currency is legal or not -- because if it is, I'm all over it!
Hank Eskin, the WheresGeorge.com brainchild pictured above, says people tell him all the time that defacing dollar bills is illegal. But he claims it is not, as long as the money is still spendable.
And Claudia Dickens, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, agreed with Eskin, as quoted in The New York Times:
"According to the laws as they stand now, the practice is not illegal," she said.
As long as a person doesn't do any of these things to currency spelled out by the United States Secret Service, they should be good to go viral with stamped bills.
Yet the Secret Service reportedly hassled Hank Eskin to stop selling the WheresGeorge.com stamps that are still being sold by other people, saying that was using money for free advertising.
And Jim Mackin, an agent assigned to public affairs in the Washington office of the Secret Service, told the St. Louis Dispatch in 2002 that: "We would discourage anyone from participating in such a scheme."
Mackin said that violators who are caught are told to cease and desist - and usually do to avoid legal action.
Making Money with Money
All of this back and forth has not stopped WheresGeorge.com and all its imitators and followers from tracking currency as bills make their way across the globe.
Seeing as though I'm more obsessed lately with how much money bloggers and webmasters are making, I tried to track down Eskin's income from WheresGeorge.com, since I noticed he's running Google Adsense ads on the site.
What I did find were WheresGeorge.com's advertising rates, which give information about the site's pageviews and how much they charge in terms of CPM -- or cost per thousand impressions.
Plunking those numbers into a handy-dandy Google spreadsheet -- love em! -- I discovered that WheresGeorge.com could be pulling in anywhere from $7,600 (the presold WheresGeorge.com advertising space not listed as immediately available) up to $43,320 per month -- the revenue generated if all available slots were sold.
Not bad for Eskin, who says WheresGeorge.com is mainly a fun habit, and that he's not selling anything. And while the income generated by the site has been said to cover the cost of servers and such, I'll bet you a dollar to a donut -- as my mom was fond of saying -- that WheresGeorge.com's money is covering a whole lot more than that now, years later.
Good for Eskin for coming up with a fascinating and genius approach to free website marketing.
I would follow suit and go stamping a bunch of bills with PaulaNealMooney.com, but I prefer to keep the Secret Service where they belong, close to George W -- and I don't mean the one with WheresGeorge.com stamped near his face.