Monday, January 10, 2011

I am a Multi-Trillionaire (No, Really)

Join the Peace Corps, move to Africa, and then become a multi-trillionaire. I would really have it made if only those dollars were actually worth something.

A few months back, I bumped into someone coming back from a trip to Zimbabwe. They had a bundle of Zimbabwean paper money. This was the first I had heard about the runaway inflation there. I saw the notes and decided that they would make an interesting collector's item. I have been looking for some ever since. When I was in Zambia seeing the falls, people approached me walking down the street offering to sell me Zimbabwean Dollars, and after lengthy negotiations, I bought a few bills.

You think of inflation and you think Germany in the 1920's, Hungary in the 1940's and Yugoslavia in the 1980's but those pale in comparison to what happened in Zimbabwe in the 2000's.

I won't try to dive into all the details. Here is an article that explains it better than I could. I was (and still am) fascinated by this and can't believe that I didn't hear about this before. Inflation got so bad that it topped out at 65 million googol percent (thats 65 followed by 107 zeros if you don't know your big numbers).

When the $100 trillion note was released it was worth about US $300. The $100 billion note, at the time of its release, could only buy 3 eggs and a loaf of bread was $300 billion. There was also a saying at the time that the capitol city, Harare, was maybe the only place on earth you could find a homeless billionaire.

The Zimbabwean dollar was once stronger than the Great British pound and through poor management and simply printing money to pay debts, the country was crippled and there no longer is a Zimbabwean Dollar. The government stopped its use in June of 2009 and switched to using US Dollars and South African Rand.

It is a really sad tale of mismanagement but makes for an interesting collector's item.