But you will see the six highest true-value, currently legal tender banknotes; this month’s exchange rates for the world’s largest, smallest, and several other pretty obscure currencies; and the rates — at least in theory — for the largest and smallest electronically based cryptocurrencies (Bitcoins and their ilk).1
Uh… ya got anything smaller?
Next: the US $10,000 bill featuring Salmon Portland Chase. I first learned about this from an old Blondie comic strip in which someone quizzed Dagwood Bumstead on it as a trivia challenge. President Nixon ordered the US Federal Reserve to pull the $500, $1000, $5000, and $10,000 bills from circulation in 1969, but like all US paper they’re still negotiable at face value. Since only 336 10Ks still exist out of the 60,000 originally minted, as collectibles they’ll fetch from $30,000 to $100,000 or more.
Chase was a character. As Treasury Secretary under President Lincoln he supervised the design for the first greenback — a One Dollar bill — in 1861. As longstanding angler for the presidency himself he made sure those plans included his own portrait. In 1864 Lincoln elevated him to Supreme Court Justice, but despite his achievements most people nowadays think of Chase, if at all, as the eponym of a bank he had nothing to do with.
The Monetary Authority of Singapore manages the Dollar currencies of both Singapore and its joined-at-the-hip trading partner Brunei. Their exchange rates pretty much coincide these days, so to the nearest US Dollar the 10K notes of Singapore and Brunei amount to $7,199.00. The presses fell silent on the Singaporean 10Ks in January 2014 but both remain negotiable.
In 2000 the Royal Canadian Mounted Police decided to tighten the screws on their drug runners and money launderers and convince the Bank of Canada to call all the “pinkies” in. They remain legal tender, though, and despite the BOC’s best efforts there are still around 950,000 of them outstanding.
Those two songbirds look perfectly innocuous, but reliable sources describe underworld capos hoarding pinkies by the briefcase-full and routinely shuttling them back and forth over international borders to settle debts. Should the BOC decide to demonetize them, almost a billion Canadian Dollars could go up in smoke since their bulk holders would find it impossible to redeem them without having to face a lot of embarrassing questions.
Your money’s no good here
I remember buying when I was about ten, from one of those coin operated gumball-type machines, some big plastic capsules of folded up Brazilian banknotes. No wonder, because for most of the 20th century Brazil was the poster child of runaway inflation. Authorities had to hack off three zeros six separate times, divide again by 2750, and rename the currency eight times, such that one modern Brazilian Real is now worth 2,750,000,000,000,000,000,000 (2 sextillion 750 quintillion) pre-1942 Brazilian Reis.
|Hyperinflation Olympics! Per USD|
Somalia’s Shilling has been reported to be in even worse shape from time to time, with its Central Bank quoting 33,300 to the US Dollar in February of 2010. But their value against the Dollar has actually been RISING steadily since mid-2013. At that time the Shilling was 15,000 per USD, but it currently stands at 547. This track record makes it now, technically, the world’s strongest currency.
Conversely, here are the world’s largest currencies.
|Largest Currencies, USD per Unit|
Seborga’s currency, the Luigino, holds no value outside of that Alpine town/principality/tourist attraction. You’ll hear talk of it being accepted in Monaco 38 km (23 miles) to the southwest. My suspicion is if that’s literally true, such acceptance would likely involve a bank employee losing a coin toss and driving a pocketful of Luiginos from sporting Monegasque merchants back to Seborga, once in a great while, to redeem them for Euros.
Speaking of Luiginos, here is some more of the world’s least-known money.
|Largely unfamiliar currencies, per USD|
The Transnistrian Ruble [$0.0885] is about as obscure as you can get but also perfectly legal tender — if only in Transnistria, AKA the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic, a scrappy breakaway territory with half a million inhabitants tracing the Dniester River’s left bank between Ukraine and Moldova. The Russian and Transnistrian Rubles currently trade at around 5.3 to 1.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Dram [$0.00208] and the Abkhaz Apsar [$0.167] fall into a similar, semi-accreditable category, with the former pegged to the Armenian Dram at par and the latter to ten Russian Rubles. (Right: a 10 Apsar piece commemorating Abkhaz literary pioneer Dmitry Gulia.2)
In its swashbuckling days the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta (SMOM) waged naval warfare with the Ottoman Empire, but it now exists primarily as a Catholic service organization headquartered in Rome. SMOM’s currency divides as follows: 6 Piccioli = 1 Grano; 5 Grani = 1 Cinquina; 2 Cinquini = 1 Carlino; 2 Carlini = 1 Taro; and finally 12 Tari = 1 Scudo [$0.268]. So in effect the Scudo’s smallest division is 1/1440 of it or about $0.000186 at the present exchange rate.
All your base are belong to us
|Largest cryptocurrencies in capitalization (log scale)|
Cryptocurrency is so far legal in every country4 aside from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Iceland and to various degrees redeemable for conventional money; though in view of its purposeful lack of centralized accountability many jurisdictions have been trying to crack down on it. In 2014 the China Merchants Bank blocked currency transfers through BTC, that country’s largest Bitcoin exchange, but later it eased up and BTC itself thrives now more than ever.
There are now over 750 cryptocurrencies, many devoted to various charities, ideologies, or just plain will-o’-the-wisp gimmickry. Among those showing capitalizations of $50,000 or more, here are the exchange rates for the five largest and five smallest as of the most recent mid-month.
|Largest cryptocurrencies (USD per unit)|
|Smallest cryptocurrencies (units per USD)|
The crypto-market overall has been going gangbusters over the past four weeks. The biggest 30-day gainer and loser, rounded to the nearest percent, have been Espers, up 9400%, and ArcticCoin, down 88%. Mutual funds based on cryptocurrency have begun to appear, if you’re up for the kinds of things that would have most people dashing for the exits.