Could You Deposit One of Those Giant Novelty Checks?

Michael Cohen / Getty Images
Michael Cohen / Getty Images

Win a golf tournament, a sweepstakes or the lottery, and you usually get two things: One regular check for your winnings and one oversized cardboard one for photo opportunities and framing above your fireplace. What if you wanted to take the big one down to the bank, though? Could you deposit that behemoth?

Hypothetically, yes, if it’s got the right stuff on it.

A valid check has to have certain information right on it: the account owner’s (payer’s) name and account number, the name of the bank where the payer’s account is held (along with the bank's state), the date, an instruction to pay another party (e.g. “pay to the order of”), the payee's name, the dollar amount of the check in numerical and in written form and the signature of the account owner.

Beyond that, there’s a little bit of wiggle room as far as the material and dimensions of a check. There’s no standardized size (my checks from mental_floss, for example, are several inches longer and taller than the ones I get from some other publications). There’s no special check paper, and plain old printer paper is fine. You can buy software to design and print your own checks at home.

Paper might not even be a necessity. There are plenty of stories out there, no doubt some of them apocryphal, of people writing checks on cocktail napkins, doors, human flesh and the shirt off their back (that one supposedly got sent to the IRS), and having them accepted.

The Fine Print

The big cardboard novelty check seems tame, even downright normal, compared to some of these, but don’t push your luck too much. While an oversized check, shirt-check or door-check is valid in theory, many banks have rules (often included in the agreement you sign when you open an account) about the form of documents used for an account. These include what they will and won’t accept as a check, and usually enable them to reject a check or other document that doesn’t meet their standards. One bank might require that you must use the checks issued to you by the bank or a printing company it partners with, while another might regulate the material documents can be written on.

If your bank doesn’t have any such rules, your giant check, with the correct info, should pass muster. Just don’t try and deposit it at an ATM.

What Happened to the Physical Copy of Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' Speech?

AFP, Getty Images
AFP, Getty Images

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and gave a speech for the ages, delivering the oratorical masterpiece "I Have a Dream" to nearly 250,000 people.

When he was done, King stepped away from the podium, folded his speech, and found himself standing in front of George Raveling, a former Villanova basketball player who, along with his friend Warren Wilson, had been asked to provide extra security around Dr. King while he was speaking. "We were both tall, gangly guys," Raveling told TIME in 2003. "We didn't know what we were doing but we certainly made for a good appearance."

Moved by the speech, Raveling saw the folded papers in King’s hands and asked if he could have them. King gave the young volunteer the speech without hesitation, and that was that.

“At no time do I remember thinking, ‘Wow, we got this historic document,’” Raveling told Sports Illustrated in 2015. Not realizing he was holding what would become an important piece of history in his hands, Raveling went home and stuck the three sheets of paper into a Harry Truman biography for safekeeping. They sat there for nearly two decades while Raveling developed an impressive career coaching NCAA men’s basketball.

In 1984, he had recently taken over as the head coach at the University of Iowa and was chatting with Bob Denney of the Cedar Rapids Gazette when Denney brought up the March on Washington. That's when Raveling dropped the bomb: “You know, I’ve got a copy of that speech," he said, and dug it out of the Truman book. After writing an article about Raveling's connection, the reporter had the speech professionally framed for the coach.

Though he displayed the framed speech in his house for a few years, Raveling began to realize the value of the piece and moved it to a bank vault in Los Angeles. Though he has received offers for King’s speech—one collector wanted to purchase the speech for $3 million in 2014—Raveling has turned them all down. He has been in talks with various museums and universities and hopes to put the speech on display in the future, but for now, he cherishes having it in his possession.

“That to me is something I’ll always be able to look back and say I was there,” Raveling said in the original Cedar Rapids Gazette article. “And not only out there in that arena of people, but to be within touching distance of him. That’s like when you’re 80 or 90 years old you can look back and say ‘I was in touching distance of Abraham Lincoln when he made the Gettysburg Address.’"

“I have no idea why I even asked him for the speech,” Raveling, now CEO of Coaching for Success, has said. “But I’m sure glad that I did.”

In What Field Was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Doctor?

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Martin Luther King Jr. earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. He’d previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” examined the two religious philosophers’ views of God in comparison to each other, and to King’s own concept of a "knowable and personal" God.

In 1989, some three decades after King had earned his doctorate, archivists working with The Martin Luther King Papers Project discovered that King’s dissertation suffered from what they called a “problematic use of sources.” King, they learned, had taken a large amount of material verbatim from other scholars and sources and used it in his work without full or proper attribution, and sometimes no attribution at all.

In 1991, a Boston University investigatory committee concluded that King had indeed plagiarized parts of his dissertation, but found that it was “impractical to reach, on the available evidence, any conclusions about Dr. King's reasons for failing to attribute some, but not all, of his sources.” That is, it could have been anything from malicious intent to simple forgetfulness—no one can determine for sure today. They did not recommend a posthumous revocation of his degree, but instead suggested that a letter be attached to the dissertation in the university library noting the passages lacked quotations and citations.

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