500,000,000,000,000,000,000 Banknote (Yugoslavia)
The former European country of Yugoslavia experienced an amazing hyperinflation starting in 1989, until economic reforms took place in 1994. The highest banknote denomination in 1988 was 50,000 Dinara, but this had changed to 500,000,000,000 Dinara by 1994!
Concentration Camp Banknotes (Czechoslovakia)
These banknotes were created by the Nazis for the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia. The camp served as a showpiece for the Nazis to demonstrate to the Red Cross and other agencies how Jewish prisoners were being treated well, providing them with cultural events and schools for their children. In reality, over 30,000 people died in Theresienstadt and almost 90,000 were sent from there to extermination camps further east. These 10 and 20 Kronen notes were part of the propaganda ploy presented to the Red Cross, but were simply papers with no value that were never used.
One Hundred Trillion Dollars (Zimbabwe)
Worth about US$300, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe began printing these $100 trillion banknotes in January 2009. At the time, the country had the highest inflation rate in the world, and the bill pictured above was worth about US$300. In July 2008, the inflation rate reached a stunning 231 million percent! A single loaf of bread cost roughly 300 billion Zimbabwean dollars. By April 2009, the Zimbabwean dollar was defunct, but you can still get a copy of the banknote online.
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100 Million Billion Pengo (Hungary)
Hungary's currency before WWII, the Pengo suffered the highest rate of hyperinflation ever recorded. In 1946, Hungary issued the 100 Million Billion Pengo. That's right: 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 Pengos. It was worth only about 20 cents US! The prices were doubling every fifteen hours in its last fiscal period, so in July 1946, the country replaced its currency with the forint, which is still official today. The Hungarian Bank actually printed notes of one milliard b.-pengo (one sextillion pengo) but never issued them.
World's Oldest Banknote: 1380 (China)
The earliest recorded use of paper money is in China around 800 AD, although the Chinese abandoned paper money in the mid fifteenth century. This Chinese Kuan note is the world's oldest known banknote, dating from around 1380.
After the end of the First World War it was common to issue emergency money (or necessity money) in Germany and Austria. There are some weird ones, but perhaps the weirdest one features a donkey doing serious business.
World's Largest Banknote (Philippines)
As large as a sheet of legal paper, the world's largest single banknote is the 100,000-peso note created by the Government of the Philippines in 1998 to celebrate a century of independence from Spanish rule. The note was offered only to collectors, who could purchase one of the limited-edition notes for 180,000 pesos (around US$3,700).
Einstein's Banknote (Israel)
In 1952, the first Israeli prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, offered physicist Albert Einstein the nominal position of president of Israel. Einstein turned down the offer, but the State of Israel still wanted to honor the physicist. Therefore, when the Bank of Israel created their first currency, the Lirot, they celebrated Einstein in their 5-lirot note of 1968.
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Punched out Mobutu Banknotes (Zaire)
In 1997, the African country of Zaire, known today as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, overthrew the totalitarian regime of Joseph Mobutu. When the new government found itself in a cash shortage, they decided to use large stacks of old 20,000-Zaire notes by simply punching out Mobutu's image, sustaining them until the new currency was designed and printed.