Review by Frank Plowright
Scrooge’s greatest fear in life is losing his money, and the likeliest way that’s going to happen is if the Beagle Boys manage to steal it. In a Carl Barks plot Scrooge is constantly anxious, despite the certainty of his concerns being considerably eased if he’d only spend a little money on better security, something he consistently refuses to do, therefore becoming an even greater enemy to himself. In ‘The Money Well’ that spending applies equally to his spectacles. His sight is diminishing and he realises he needs new glasses, but they’d cost ten dollars now. Because he spent a dollar for his current pair in 1885 he doesn’t believe he should be paying a cent more many years later. Let’s overlook Barks’ error in assuming the dollar to be Scotland’s currency. Perhaps it actually is in Scrooge’s world.
With the Beagle Boys planning to start drilling not too far away from his money bin, Scrooge is wily enough to realise their plan is a diagonal tunnel running beneath his bin to drain the money out, but the authorities can do nothing until they actually steal it. It seems there’s no way he can save his money.
There’s a thematic similarity to Barks’ first solo Uncle Scrooge story from six years earlier, Only a Poor Old Man’, in which the Beagle Boys threaten his money bin, so he conceals his money in a lake. It could also be argued that Barks oversells the matter of the spectacles, telegraphing too obviously that a mistake due to short-sightedness (in both senses) will lead to Scrooge’s downfall, and the ending is rapid. However, these are all minor points considering the neat plotting and wonderful cartooning of a hilariously funny adventure. It introduces Grandpa Beagle, features a great scene of the humbled Scrooge as the Beagle Boys’ butler, and the anti-miserly message echoes.
Gladstone thought highly enough of the story as a classic that they’d previously published it as part of their Gladstone Comic Album series (see alternate cover), and more recently it’s been included with new colouring in the Fantagraphics hardcover reprint The Mines of King Solomon.