The One Hundred Trillion Dollar Bill

In the summer of 2008, the United States’ economy saw its highest levels of inflation in a almost two decades — peaking at 5.6% in July.  If that sounds off-putting, Zimbabwe’s economy is downright terrifying.  In 1998, Zimbabwe witnessed 32% inflation.  Ten years later? 11,200,000,000 percent that August.   By November 2008, per one estimate, prices were doubling every 31 hours.  (That’s not a record — post-World War II Hungary saw prices which doubled in half that time.)

With 100 billion (yes, billion) Zimbabwean dollars valued at roughly 65 American cents (yes, cents), even eggs were expensive.  The solution:  Really big bills.   Witness the $100,000,000,000,000 bill:

At the time of issuance in January of 2009, the bill was supposed to be worth roughly $300 in U.S. currency.   But by then, many merchants stopped accepting Zimbabwean currency.  (By the end of the week, it’d be worthless.)

Zimbabwe’s solution to rampant inflation?  It no longer issues money — the country uses foreign currency only.  And that bill with the 15 zeroes?  They go for about $5-10 U.S.


Bonus fact: The largest U.S. bill?  The $100,000 note.  Issued in 1934, it bears the picture of President Woodrow Wilson and was only used by Federal Reserve Banks for official transactions amongst themselves.

From the Archives: Almighty Currency: Why the words “In God We Trust” emblazon American coins.

Related: Really, the Zimbabwean bills go for about $5-10 U.S. — and are available on Amazon.