Sunday, August 02, 2009


Sometimes, my collection of coins and paper money provides a tangible example of historical events.
click on pictures to enlarge
The notes above are German notes from near the beginning of the hyperinflationary period in 1922-23. According to this Wikipedia entry, there were 60 marks to the US dollar in 1921. According to this PBS story, by November 1923 there were 1 trillion (1 followed by 12 zeroes) marks to the US dollar. That inflation is shown by the notes below:
The notes above were printed and released so quickly that there isn't even printing on the reverse side. If that PBS story is correct, it would have taken 100 of those 100 million mark notes to equal a US cent.

The note below was issued on November 25, 1981, in Argentina. I can't find what the exchange rate with the US dollar was at that time, but any time you're dealing with that many zeroes on a note, there are economic problems:

I believe post-WWII Hungary still holds the Guiness record for the highest inflation, but today's Zimbabwe seems to be making a run for the money:
The "official" exchange rate is US$1=ZWD$359, but no one takes that seriously. Read here to learn more about the impact of Mugabe's economic policies, and how Zimbabwe is reacting to this runaway inflation.

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