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It's only a conspiracy theory when you're not sure if it's true

Carmine opines on hidden symbols and messages on backs of dollar bills

for The Brooklyn Paper

I’m madder than my 12th grade history teacher when I didn’t do my homework over the fact that some people don’t take the time to research things like why dollar bills have all those weird symbols on the back.

Look, you all know that ol’Carmine is as American as apple pie, baseball, and the Brooklyn Dodgers. But what you may not know is one of the reasons I so rarely spend a buck is because I spend much of my time studying the back of my greenbacks like they are some kind of piece of art.

Sure, my lovely wife Sharon always complains to me “Carmine, give me some money so I can go to the store and by some butter!” but I would rather collect my money, pin it up on a bulletin board, then study it with my trusty magnifying glass just to see if I can find something on them that I haven’t seen in the past.

I’ll tell you, old Thomas Kincade had nothing on the guys that designed the dollar bill, which, to me, is one of the greatest pieces of art the world will ever know.

And best of all, they only cost a buck — not an arm and a leg like that artwork that looks like it’s moving when you shine a light on it.

So this week, on the eve of July 4, I’m going to tell you why and how some things got on the dollar bill — and I’ll bet you’ll be surprised to find out the reason behind some of the things that are on there.

F’rinstance, take the great seal of the United States, which is on the back in the circles.

Oh, by the way, don’t think for a minute that I will be providing you with a dollar bill to use for this guide. If you want that, you’ll have to go out there and earn your own. I’ll wait if you want. Trust me, I’ll be right here when you get back.

Ok, back to the seal. You see it now? Well, at the First Continental Congress down there in Philly, Benjamin Franklin and a group of men were asked to come up with a seal for the country, you know, to put on envelopes and stuff. It took them four years to get the job done, and I think they knocked it out of the park!

If you look at the left-hand circle, you will see a pyramid with an eye floating over its top. Note that the shadows on the pyramid — it’s on the west. Well, according to me that’s because when they drew it, we were yet to explore the west. Now, check out how the pyramid is uncapped. That’s because the country wasn’t closed to being finished. And then there’s that all-seeing eye, which I’ve heard is an ancient symbol of divinity.

Now, I’ve been told it was Franklin’s belief that one man could not do things alone, and that it took a group of men — with the help of god — to get things done. That’s why it says “In god we trust.” I think.

Then there are some funny words in a dead language above the pyramid. It says “annuit cœptis” and it means “he has favored our undertaking,” and the he, of course, is god.

Below the pyramid, it says “novus ordo seclorum,” which I think means “a new world order has begun,” and it began on MDCCLXXVI — that’s 1776!

If you look at the circle on the right you’ll see the seal of the President of the United States — something that is always visible whenever he (or she) speaks, yet very few people know what the symbols mean.

Let the Screecher break it down for you the only way I can.

The bald eagle was selected for two reasons: it is not afraid of a storm; it is strong, and it is smart enough to soar above bad weather. You’ll also notice he doesn’t wear a crown. That’s because we had just broken from the king of England, who did. The shield is left unsupported, signifying that the country can stand on its own. In the Eagle’s beak you is a note that reads “e pluribus unum” which we all know means, “from many one.”

Above the eagle are 13 stars, representing the 13 original colonies, and any clouds of misunderstanding rolling away. Here, we are coming together as one.

Now, notice what the eagle holds in his talons. There’s an olive branch and arrows. This country wants peace, but we will never be afraid to fight to preserve it. The eagle always wants to face the olive branch, but in time of war, his gaze turns toward the arrows.

So at this year’s July 4 picnic, pull out a dollar bill and teach a kid a thing or two.

Screech at you next week!

Read Carmine's column every Saturday on E-mail him at

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ty from pps says:
Carmine... c'mon.

Where in the Great Seal does it say, "In God We Trust"? It doesn't. And the phrase didn't occur until 1812... and wasn't used officially until much later. NOTHING to do with Ben Franklin. Your "I thinks" are cute, but it doesn't make what you write true or its falsehood excusable.

And did you fail latin in Catholic school? Novus Ordo Seclorum means "New Order of the Ages" -- nothing about a "new world order." Bad at Latin or a conspiracy theorist?

And I think you'd be heartbroken if you had an actual understanding of the founding father's view on religion and their own varieties of personal faith and practice.

Also, the Great Seal is BOTH sides.... it's not the pyramid only. That's actually the *reverse* (back) of the Great Seal. The *obverse* (front) of the Great Seal is what you call the "Seal of the President." Just an FYI, Carmine, the Seal of the President of the United States includes a similar eagle motif, but it's a very different image.

So, this 4th of July, pull out a dollar bill and just give it to the kid. That's a lot more useful than filling their heads with the crap Carmine spews.
July 1, 2012, 3:06 pm
Billy from Coltonsville says:
Someone ^^ actually takes Carmine seriously?
July 1, 2012, 4:03 pm
ty from pps says:
Not really... but there are probably hundreds of people in Brooklyn who could write a weekly column that actually has VALUE for the community -- in stark contrast with this whiny old man that is inexplicably allowed to publish this waste of electrons each week.
July 1, 2012, 6:55 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
"...the country wasn’t closed to being finished." *CLOSED* to being finished? Really? Not even the editor can get through this crap apparently, and seems to have just given up. Quick, go to the 10th paragraph and retroactively fix it so no one can see it anymore!

Maybe that's what this awful column will do... close or finish. We can only hope.
July 2, 2012, 7:46 am
John Wasserman from Windsor Terrace says:
I don't think that it is very nice or fair of you to make fun of people who are mentally handicapped. I always thought it was nice that the BP let this man (a true Brooklyn-ite also) speak up and have his say. It is not every day that a retarded person is given the chance for his (or her) voice to be heard. Having had said that, I do wish the editor would proof read, or edit what this man has written.
July 2, 2012, 4:27 pm
Billy from Coltonsville says:
Who's to say what value is? Perhaps a column about cupcakes would be of more value to the borough? And by borough I assume you mean those sections of Brooklyn populated by the bourgeoisie and their revolting kin.
July 2, 2012, 11:16 pm

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