Getting interested in numismatics is a journey into an arena of fun facts about history, design, and the economy. Coins and banknotes tell stories about the areas where they circulated and the societies which used them. A crisis often births a new currency or a new design of the old currency. Whether it is about an unusual depiction or purpose - there are many cases of weird currency.
We chose nine of our favorite stories.
The Central Bank of Norway appointed some of the best graphic designers in the country to redesign their currency - the Norwegian krone. The new banknotes add a significant metaphor to one of the nation's most important identification symbols - money, which reflects the sea's significance to Norwegian national identity and economy.
The concept of the Norwegian coastline's boundaries - between sea and land, land and air, and air and sea - is explored in the design.
The designers transformed this analog art form into the mosaics of our time: the pixels, by combining the coastline concept with a visual expression inspired by ancient mosaic artifacts made of colorful glass or stone. This is how the design defines borders: as a journey through time - between the old and the new, the past and the present.
The Republic of Hungary created the 100 million billion pengo banknote (the currency of Hungary at the time) in 1946 after a few years of extremely high inflation. The note is the highest-denominated piece of money ever issued, with a face value of 100 quintillions (1020) pengos.
The note is printed on white paper with several shades of blue coloring on its two sides. An image of a Hungarian lady wearing a scarf and holding two ears of wheat is seen at the center-right of the note's obverse, inside an ornate oval-shaped border. The note's reverse has a picture of the Hungarian Parliament Building in the center.
Using a 100 million billion banknote as real money is strange enough as it is, right? But since we're talking about weird currency, why end there? After the 100 million billion, the Hungarian National Bank actually printed the one billion billion (it's not a typo) pengo banknote, i.e., one sextillion.
But unfortunately for the collectors out there, this denomination never entered into circulation.
The coldest money in the world must be the Antarctician dollar. Despite the fact that these notes are not accepted as legal tender anywhere, they have tremendous collector's value. They are issued by the "Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office" and can be exchanged at the same rate as the US dollars.
Both Canadian and European currencies served as inspiration for the banknote design. In accordance with the six primary colors of the rainbow, each denomination wears a different color.
Green, blue, and purple reflect smaller denominations, whereas red, orange, and yellow represent higher denominations. The denomination value is shown in two corners of the obverse side, along with a picture of an Antarctic explorer.
Even though the Quasi-Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID) is not emergency money for space refugees or a form of currency for aliens, per se, it has an intergalactic purpose. It was created to provide upcoming space travelers with money for their futur(istic) trips.
QUADs were developed by the University of Leicester and the National Space Center of England for the foreign exchange business Travelex. The remaining 8 planets of our Solar System are depicted as circles around the QUID's rim, with the balls standing in for the Sun. One QUID was valued at around $12 in 2007.
The Bank of Zaire produced currency for the now-Democratic Republic of Congo in 1993. The notes were printed in the following denominations: 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 new zaires; 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 new makuta. In 1994, additional notes for 200 and 500 new zaires were issued.
1995 saw the introduction of 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 new zaires, and in 1996, there was the addition of notes worth 20,000, 50,000, 100,000, 500,000, and 1,000,000 new zaires. All of the new zaire notes include a picture of Mobutu Sésé Seko wearing a hat and uniform.
Shortly after the Republic of Zaire once more changed its name to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Congolese franc once more took the place of the new zaire as the official currency on July 1st, 1998, at an exchange rate of 1 franc = 100,000 new zaires.
The Democratic Republic of Congo ran out of cash after overturning Joseph Mobutu's autocratic rule. So how did the Congolese deal with this currency situation? By simply punching Mobutu's face off of the old 20,000-Zaire notes, they chose to make the best of what they've had.
Some of the most beautiful banknotes in the world have to be the Bermudian dollars. These vertical-oriented, pastel-colored, animal-depicted dollars are so gorgeous they are on every list. The 2-dollar note shows a bluebird. A pink five-dollar bill has a blue marlin - a type of fish specific to the Pacific Ocean.
A whistling frog is on the front of the green 20-dollar bill, while a blue angelfish decorates the Bermudian $10. The yellow longtail is on Bermuda’s $50, and a bird called the red cardinal decorates a $100 bill. While the Bermuda dollar is not a weird currency as such, it deserves to be on this list purely due to its fantastic design.
The topless lady riding a shark on the 1987 Cook Islands' $10 note is a striking nod to Polynesian culture. This note was created for local usage and as a collectors' item, even though the traditional currency used in the Cook Islands is mostly the New Zealand dollar. It even has a name: Ina and the Shark.
Nowadays, Cook Islands’ notes bear images related to Polynesian culture - buildings and events from their history and the animals surrounding them.
Post-WWI money in Germany was, in a sense, strange. It was issued in an emergency, on materials such as wood, and designers had fun making images for the design. One of those fun designs was depicted on the two-mark wooden note - a donkey eating grass while doing the number two.
A silver dollar coin featuring the figure of the Virgin Mary and a little vial of holy water from the Grotto at Lourdes, France, was released by the island nation of Palau in 2007. The nation released a second set of coins the following year to mark the 150th anniversary of Mary's apparitions at the Grotto.
Before anyone gets too excited, no, there is no official Harry Potter money. But the books and movies did mark the end of the 20th century for many and the wizarding world has its own form of currency, so we wanted to give it a little nod.
Well, a nod to Harry Potter and a Reddit user who took the time to compare the mentions of real-world products in the books with the prices provided in wizarding currency and approximate how wizarding money converts to American dollars. First, let's list the official coin denominations in HP:
According to the user's calculations, 1 galleon is worth approximately $25, 1 sickle $1.50, and 1 knut $0.05. That would mean that a ride on the Knight Bus costs $16.5 (11 sickles); a bit steep we'd say if you consider that an ounce of dragon liver costs $24 (16 sickles).
But hey, Dragons presumably have big livers and maybe they're more common than you'd expect - classic supply and demand that lowers the price. Be that as it may, we hope you had fun reading about this abstract currency and weird currencies in general.
The chances are - none of these banknotes and coins are going to be useful to you in any real market today, but owning them could be fun and even rewarding. US First Exchange has experience with collectibles and offers a treasury of currencies you can get on your doorstep in no time.
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