14 Zeroes

January 16, 2009

Zimbabwe DollarsAs temperatures in Pittsburgh approach -20 degrees Celsius (or minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit), here are some curious news from warmer parts of the planet:

Zimbabwe is introducing a 100 trillion (!) Zimbabwe dollar note, currently worth about US$30. That's a one with 14 zeroes. This is the latest in a series of releases of new bank notes as part of Zimbabwe's fight against hyperinflation. (Pictured on the right: Its "little brother", the 100 billion dollar note).

Germany once suffered under hyperinflation as well, back in 1923. Wikipedia writes:

In 1922, the highest denomination was 50,000 Mark. By 1923, the highest denomination was 100,000,000,000,000 Mark. In December 1923 the exchange rate was 4,200,000,000,000 Marks to 1 US dollar. In 1923, the rate of inflation hit 3.25 × 106 percent per month (prices double every two days). Beginning on November 20, 1923, 1,000,000,000,000 old Marks were exchanged for 1 Rentenmark so that 4.2 Rentenmarks were worth 1 US dollar, exactly the same rate the Mark had in 1914.

Luckily, all of this is history. What remains are (now) funny pictures of people using money in unusual ways, such as wallpaper:

Tapezieren mit Geldscheinen

That reminds me, I think at some point, my family had a few high-denomination notes from the time (that are sadly still "worthless") -- I may scan and publish them if we can still find them.

For Zimbabwe, we can only hope that one day, they can look back at their old pictures and find them amusing too. For now, their political and economical situation is not enviable.

(Pictures: 100 billion Zimbabwe dollars. CC attribution licensed by smath. on flickr. Banknotes as wallpaper. CC by-sa licensed by the German Federal Archives on Wikipedia.)

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