Mental Floss has a great article about time MAD printed a phony $3 bill as part of an article and got in some trouble with the FBI and the U.S. Treasury Dept.
The article in question appeared in MAD #115 (the same issue that Mort Drucker and Dick De Bartolo‘s famous parody of Star Trek, “Star Blecch” appeared). It was entitled “MAD Mintlies” and featured phony coins poking fun at obsessed coin collectors. It also featured the fore mentioned fake $3 bill. Art by Bob Clarke, BTW. Despite the fact that it was cheaply printed in black and white, featured none of the engraving or other trademarks of real currency, had Alfred E. Neuman as the “president”, contained the signatures of Zsa Zsa “It’s only money, Darling” Gabor and Adam Clayton “Keep the faith, Baby” Powell (a congressmen who got in a lot of trouble for misuse of committee funds in the mid-60’s), and having a currency image only printed on one side, very early versions of automatic change machines in places like Las Vegas and Texas accepted these as actual dollar bills when cut out of the magazine and fed into said machines. They then dispensed quarters in exchange.
The FBI and eventually the Secret Service were not amused (they seldom are) and paid a visit to the MAD offices, demanding the original artwork and the printing plates for the page the bill appeared on.
Considering MAD sold for 30¢ (cheap) at the time, that’s over a 200% return on your investment in a copy! No word on whether issue #115 sold better than usual.
This was not MAD‘s only run in with the FBI. After the US Freedom of Information Acts released files to the public, the Bureau was found to have 36 files opened on MAD Magazine and its publisher, William M. Gaines. Turns out J. Edgar Hoover was not a fan. In MAD #37 (Jan 1958) they ran an article called “MAD‘s Xmas Games”, which included a board game called “Draft Dodger”. Art by Bob Clarke again, BTW. If you made it to the end of the game, you earned the title of “Full Fledged Draft Dodger” and were encouraged to write for a membership card to “J. Edgar Hoover, Washington D.C.”. Hoover actually got a few letters from readers asking for their “Draft Dodger Card”. This earned MAD a visit from two FBI agents who very strongly insinuated they should not do anything like that again.
These aren’t the only examples of MAD articles running afoul of the G-Men. You can read about this and other fun MAD/FBI run ins here.
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530 New profile pic courtesy of my self-caricature for the Scott Maiko penned article “Gotcha! Mug Shots of Common (but Despicable) Criminals” from MAD 550
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