This article originally appeared as a part of my regular column at Kjarninn.is. The original article is still available here (in Icelandic). I plan on publishing all my articles here on my blog in English (with some delay). Please forgive any typos as I can only afford so much time on translating the articles.
I shall be “sharper than the sharpies and smarter than the smarties”. These are the words that echoed in 12 year old Scrooge McDuck’s head as he made the dangerous journey across the Atlantic in search for luck in America. On his arrival, Scrooge made his way straight to Klondike, where he searched day and night for gold. One day the hard work paid off: he found a rock of gold the size of a goose’s egg. Only one year later, Scrooge had made his first million.
But one million was not enough for Scrooge. He wanted more. He wanted a seat at the table with the his fellow Scotsman: Andrew Carnegie. So he worked harder, and in the face of repeated attempts by thieves and witches to rob him of his wealth, he finally overtook Mr. Carnegie and eventually became the richest Duck in Duckburg. And possibly the world.
There is no doubt that today Scrooge belongs to the 1%. And in fact everybody knows that he is, excuse my economic jargon: filthy rich. But such qualitative information was not enough for my 30 year old bother who asked me if I could quantify Scrooge McDuck’s wealth. I told him not to be silly, and that of course I could.
What do we know about McDuck’s wealth?
As far as my research efforts went I could only find three sources that document McDuck’s wealth. The first one claims that he is worth roughly one multipujillion. The second, which quotes his accountant claims his actual worth is closer to 600 tillion and the last one claims that he is worth around 5 multipujillion. Although these figures do give us some indication of his wealth there is only one problem: these numbers are actually not numbers.
Neither is there any consensus amongst economists about where the lion share of McDuck’s money is kept. Some think he operates a complex network of shelf companies around the globe while others think it is all kept in cash in the Money Bin where the 151 year old duck keeps fit by swimming in it, literally.
Given this uncertainty, in order to avoid inflating his net worth too much, I decided to only estimate the value of the money he keeps in the Money Bin, we can call it the lower bound of his wealth.
My first idea for estimating the value in the tank was to simply get on a plain to Duckburg and ask McDuck if I could just count the money. Now, despite it being well known that Duckburg is a prosperous city in the state of Calistoa on the west coast of America (right between California and Oregon) I could not for the life of me find it on any online mapping service. Not even the DuckDuckGo.com mapping service. So I went with plan B, geometry.
The Don Rosa story “The Money Tank” from 2001 describes a Beagle Boys burglary mission. in that story the boys get stuck in the tank and for the first time a blueprint of the tank is on display. According to that the tank is 37m x 37m x 39m.
The story does however not detail how high the money actually reaches. But with some internet research I managed to pin down a photo which shows McDuck swimming and a depth gauge. The gauge suggests that the money reaches 27 meters (90 feet). A further inspection of photographic evidence also suggested two more things: (1) most of the tank is actually used for storing money; and (2) it has thick walls.
On this information I calculated that around 33,000 m3 are actually used for storing money. And using this information plus data on the physical measurements of American coins and notes I was almost ready to carry out the calculation. But first I needed to sort out two issues.
First, in order to figure out what share of the money are actually in the form of notes and what are in the form of coins. Photographic evidence (see below) seem to suggest that almost all of McDuck’s money is in the form of coins and it is my estimate that at most around 2% of the space is being used for notes.
The next problem to solve was: what is the denomination of those moneys (cent/dime/dollars, etc.) and since the money is almost all in a round shape I also had to figure out how much of the area is wasted on air (you cant pack circles without space between them).
Again, the photographic evidence help. The photos show that almost all of the coins in the tank look like gold and since the only US coin that is gold is the dollar coin it seems like most of his money is kept in that format. In terms of air, for that I got help from the circle packing theory. This left me to establish a base case where I assumed that the tank content are:
- 15% air;
- 51% one dollar coins;
- 32.5% other coins (in equal proportions across dominations); and
- 1.5% bills (in equal proportions across dominations).
Get to the point! What is his net-worth?
Obviously I am a careful analytic and as such would never provide a point estimate for Scrooge McDuck’s net worth, that would be silly. Instead I set up three scenarios (high, central and low) and calculated a range in which McDuck’s net worth probably falls. Which is obviously not silly. The key assumptions for the central scenario are the same as the one listed earlier and assumptions for the other scenarios are available for scrutiny in the table below.
The conclusion then is that net worth of McDuck (or the money in his tank, in current USD) is, at minimum, around 27 billion dollars and at maximum around 49 billion. And to put at in context that is more than the GDP of the small developed nation of Iceland was in 2016, but just half as much as the worlds richest non-duck, Bill Gates (a human, or a reptilian if you subscribe to conspiracies) holds.
So, there you have it. Scrooge McDuck worked all his life, outlived other Mallard ducks by more than 140 years, never had a family and never spent a dime on anything he did not deem necessity. And where did it get him to: 27 to 69 billion USD – which is not bad, for a duck.
Thanks for reading,