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When a character is poor, there's no better way for him to say "I have no money" (due to Perpetual Poverty or a Broke Episode) than to have moths emerge from his wallet when he opens it. It's also the perfect way to show that a character with tons of money at his disposal is a complete skinflint. Alternately, the character can make a great show of pulling the pockets of his pants inside out (an act that might also be accompanied by the appearance of moths). Double points if the character does both.
Anime and Manga
- Pokémon: Happens to Team Rocket regularly.
- Happens in an Ivy The Terrible comic strip in The Beano (with Ivy's dad pulling at his pockets).
- The Beano used it pretty much any time any character took out a wallet or otherwise searched for money. Unless their gimmick was being incredibly rich, of course; sometimes in this case moths would fly out wearing tiny top hats or carrying diamond rings.
- It occurs during the "Rhapsody in Blue" segment of Fantasia 2000, to the man in the diner.
- In The Mask, the title character has a moth fly out of his pocket to show how poor he is.
- The opening of The Thief and the Cobbler has the titular thief opening woefully poor Tack's wallet in his sleep, only for a few moths to fly out.
- In an episode of The Three Stooges, when Moe and Larry open Curly's money purse that he keeps around his neck, hidden beneath layers of shirts, moths fly out. They are able to pull out a single moth-eaten dollar bill.
- Used as a plot point in the children's book McBroom Tells the Truth by Sid Fleischman: Josh McBroom buys a seemingly worthless farm for everything in his wallet, and when it turns out to be valuable land, the swindler who sold the land demands it back, saying that McBroom still owes him the moths that flew out when he handed over the money.
Live Action TV
- In one episode of The Muppet Show, when Kermit checks the theatre's cashbox, he comments, "Three moths and a washer... More than we usually have."
- In Calvin and Hobbes, it happened once when Calvin's dad was paying Rosalyn's baby-sitting bonus and there was nothing left.
- Lampshaded in a Lio strip, where the title character is shown with a package of "Wallet Moths" which he uses to trick his father into thinking he's broke.
- In Quest for Glory I VGA, if you look at your money pouch when it's empty, you may randomly get this message:
"A moth flies from your money pouch. That is all."
- Happens in SpongeBob SquarePants (which is strange, seeing as they are underwater and all...)
- The Tex Avery short Uncle Tom's Cabana (not to be confused with Uncle Tom's Bungalow, one of the Censored Eleven) has this with the protagonist's pocket.
- In even older cartoons (think Bosko or early Porky Pig) these came out of pantries to show how bare they were.
- Occurred once in The Simpsons when billionaire C. Montgomery Burns opened up his wallet.
Mr. Burns: "Hmm... does anyone have change for a button?"
- Rocky and Bullwinkle does this in one chapter of "Box Top Robbery", where Bullwinkle happened to have one of them when he opened his wallet containing 27 cents.
- When Johnny Bravo does this in one episode, you can hear the moth say in a tiny voice: "I'm free! Free!"
- Camp Lazlo: When Scoutmaster Lumpus opens his wallet in "Prickly Pining Dining", a large cloud of dust escapes.