In an exchange that seemed at least partially aimed at the internet, Skyler told Walt during Sunday's Breaking Bad finale that he'd made too much money for one person to count, let alone launder. But the internet loves a challenge, and so it was probably only a matter of time before someone tried to come up with a better response to Walt's inquiry of "How much is this?" than Skyler's "I have no earthly idea."
Knowing that Walt gave a couple of duffle bags to Jesse—presumably the $5 million he was owed and not a cent more—you'd expect the total in the storage unit to be much higher. But how high? Walt previously turned down a $5 million payout from selling the methylamine to Declan and then worked for several months straight with Todd to cook for his own territory, for Declan's territory, and for Lydia's Czech Republic territory combined. That's a lot of meth and lot of profit, even with Declan and Lydia taking a healthy piece of it.
Yesterday, a pair of tweets by Baseball America writer (and likely stats geek) JJ Cooper posited that Walt's haul is somewhere between $17 and $25.5 million depending on the size of the denominations of the bills:
Random thought. If the stack of money on Breaking Bad this week was all $50s I estimate it would be around $17 million. Half 100s means 25.5— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) September 4, 2012
And a thread on Quora estimates larger dimensions for the cube, arriving at a total as high as $43.8 million in the (unlikely) event that every bundle in the block contained $5,000.
Here's a side-by-side look at Walt wrapping a bundle of twenties into a packet of $2,000, as seen in "Gliding Over All," and a bundle of $100 bills that amounts to $10,000:
Since Skyler mentioned mixed denominations, the total per bundle is somewhere in between. Depending on your opinion regarding the dimensions of the money cube, you can arrive at wildly different totals, from a floor of $15 million all the way up to $80 million.
Here's a side-by-side look at Breaking Bad's money pile and a pile that amounts to $205 million, from a 2007 drug raid in Mexico City.
Show creator Vince Gilligan said in this week's Breaking Bad Insider Podcast that $80 million might be a bit too high:
"I asked prop master Mark Hansen, and he and his guys had tried, just for their own edification, to figure out how much that would be if it was roughly a half-and-half mix of twenties and fifties, and he guessed somewhere in the vicinity of eighty million dollars—eighty, eighty-five, ninety—that's a lotta dough. I don't know, we may have erred on the side of showmanship there instead of reality, I don't know if [Walt] could've made that much that quickly."
So how much would it take for Walt to walk away entirely? We know that Skyler was able to launder the money via the car wash when it was only in the single-digit millions territory. She likely waited to rent the storage unit until she was dealing with more than $10 million. So where did the total end up? I'd bet it's somewhere north of $50 million.
What do you guys think? Post your own calculations in the comments!