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Our Total U.S. Government Debt–Stacked on a Football Field

If you covered every square inch of a standard football field with stacks of crisp $100 bills, how high would those stacks reach to match our national debt?


Our total outstanding public debt, according to the U. S. Treasure (as of April 17, 2013), is 16,807,270,364,907.39. That’s $16+ trillion. As in 16,807 stacks of a billion dollars each. Or, more than 16 million stacks of a million dollars each. Can you picture that?

Maybe thinking about that football field will help. Imagine a regulation NFL, college, or high school football field, 100 yards long, plus 10 yards for each end zone, that’s 360 feet long, and 160 yards wide. Cover that entire field with stacks of $100 bills, the largest bill currently in circulation. If every square inch of that field, including the end zones, would be more covered with stacks upon stacks of $100 bills, that huge pile would reach nearly 100 FEET HIGH! (If you don’t believe it, see the calculations below.)

Considering what a mindboggling pile of money that would be, it’s good to know that the U. S. Bureau of the Public Debt has been accepting donations to reduce this public debt. The amounts donated have actually been significantly increasing the last couple years. After averaging about $1.2 million per year during 2001 through 2005 and about $2.5 million per year from 2006 through 2010, the donations climbed to about $3.3 million in 2011, and then more than doubled to $7.7 million in 2012.

To get an idea how much of a dent last year’s donations of $7.7 million makes to our national debt, picture how big of a pile of $100 bills that would be. Compared to our football field’s nearly 100 feet tall mega-pile, $7.7 million could only cover a single square yard of grass with a stack of bills less than 3 and half inches tall!!

Considering that comparison, clearly somebody’s got to do a heck of a lot more donating. Fortunately, they take payments online at Pay.gov, or you can send your check to:

Attn Dept G
Bureau of the Public Debt
P. O. Box 2188
Parkersburg, WV 26106-2188


Here’s the debt money pile calculation: That regulation football field, including end zones, is 120 yards, or 360 feet, long. It’s 53 and 1/3rd yards, or 160 feet wide, sideline to sideline. That’s a square area of 360 times 160, or 57,600 square feet. The $100 bill is a bit more than 6 inches long and bit more than 2 and half inches wide. So two rows of 5 bills each, or a total of 10 bills, would cover slightly more than one square foot (making this huge pile actually edging out beyond all the edges of our football field). At about 10 $100 bills per square foot, that’s a layer of 10 times 57,600, or 576,000 $100 bills blanketing the field. That one layer of 576,000 $100 bills is worth $57,600,000. The total debt of $16, 807,270,364,907 (rounding to the nearest dollar) divided by that $57,600,000 means that we will need 291,793 layers of $100 bills blanketing the field. Assuming that a ream of 500 of those bills is 2 inches high, those 291,793 layers of bills are about 584 reams high, which is 1,168 inches high, which is more than 97 feet high.

And here’s the calculation for the $7.7 million in last year’s donations to the national debt: One square foot covered with one layer of 10 $100 bills is worth $1,000. One square yard contains 9 square yards (3 X 3 = 9), so one layer of bills on a square yard would be worth $9,000.  $7.7 million divided by $9,000 means we need about 856 layers of bills. With a ream of 500 bills being 2 inches high, those 856 layers of bills are about 1.7 reams high, which is less than 3 and half inches high.

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