6 Powerful Images of Money and What They Really Mean


Money talks. And not just at the cash register. Very often imagery or symbols related to money convey powerful messages about social, political, and economic issues. Let's review six powerful money images — and what they really mean.

1. Fearless Girl

A major player in the index fund world, investment firm State Street is no stranger to the issues surrounding corporate America. One particular issue that State Street deemed as critical is the need for more gender diversity in the finance sector, particularly the need for more women sitting at company boards. To raise attention to this issue, the company installed a bronze statue of a fearless girl facing the Wall Street bull statue in the financial district on March 7, 2017.

Created by artist Kristen Visbal, Fearless Girl has become such an inspiring piece of artwork that thousands of individuals are requesting New York city officials allow the statue to be on permanent display.

2. Charging Bull

While the Wall Street bull statue may be getting a bad rap as an image of status quo and unchecked power nowadays, it wasn't always like that. Originally installed in 1987, the bronze bull, with its head lowered as it's ready to charge, is a symbol of aggressive financial optimism and prosperity. From day one, the 11-foot and 7,100-pound bronze bull became a popular attraction as it gave a sense of hope to institutional and individual investors during the 1987 stock market crash.

3. Harriet Tubman on the new $20 bill

For a couple of years, the U.S. Treasury debated on whether or not to replace the face of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill with that of a prominent American woman. The public weighed in very passionately about the decision and, in the end, Hamilton will stay and abolitionist Harriet Tubman will become the new face of the $20 bill (sending Andrew Jackson to the back of the same banknote) in 2020. This is a major change because Tubman will become both the first woman and the first African American to grace the front of a bill, a place formerly only reserved for presidents.

4. Homeless Jesus

When seeing a homeless person collapsed on a bench on a snowy, cold day, many of us face the decision to either lend a hand or keep walking. But what if that homeless person was Jesus? That's the question that sculptor Timothy Schmalz posed with his depiction of a homeless Jesus lying on a bench. This sculpture has been received with equal amounts of praise and rejection in all of its installations around the world, including those in St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Davidson, North Carolina; the Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin; and the Vatican office in Rome.

The image is so powerful, it inspired Pope Francis to touch it and pray when presented with a miniature of it. Homeless Jesus is a reminder of Jesus' call to help marginalized members of society.

5. Scrooge McDuck's vault

Depicted in several Disney cartoons, TV shows, and comic books, Scrooge McDuck's iconic money vault has been estimated to hold between $28.8 and $31.2 billion, mostly in gold coins. More than one kid (and probably adult!) has dreamed about taking a dive in McDuck's golden pond, which only a handful of real-life billionaires could actually fill.

The character's story is an analogy of capitalism, as well as pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. As a shoeshine boy in Glasgow, Scrooge was compensated with a single American dime — worthless in Scotland at the time. Enraged, Scrooge swore he'd never be taken advantage of again, and that he'd be "sharper than the sharpies, and smarter than the smarties." Three years later, he emigrated to America to seek his fortune and amass an empire. All the while, he held onto that Number One Dime for motivation — and a reminder to never be fooled with money again.

6. Pyramid on the back of the $1 bill

While presidents, bald eagles, and other classic symbols of America are more recognizable to the average Joe on U.S. bills, the pyramid on the reverse of the $1 bill may leave more than one of us scratching our heads. However, this symbol contains key messages from the founding fathers to future generations.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin advocated "an Egyptian pharaoh sitting in an open chariot with a crown on his head and a sword in his hand, passing through the divided waters of the Red Sea in pursuit of the Israelites" as the image to be part of the Great Seal of the U.S. Jefferson was so adamant about this idea that he used it as his own personal seal.

In the end, the approved final design was an unfinished pyramid, representing strength and duration. The 13-row pyramid has an "all-seeing eye" at the top, representing God watching over mankind, and the year 1776 in Roman numerals at the base. The symbolism of the pyramid is explained with two mottos in Latin: "Annuit coeptis" (providence approves our undertakings) and "Novus ordo seclorum" (a new order of the ages). This pyramid seeks to portray America as a new order favored by God.

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