July 22, 2024

Hankering for History

Hanker: To have a strong, often restless desire, in this case for–you guessed it–history!

Four Oddest Events in Money History

3 min read

In ancient history, money was no issue…because it didn’t exist. People used to barter for everything. You’d trade a goat for some apples and tobacco and call it a deal. And that was fine, until people started realizing that a deal wasn’t always fair, and bartering was kind of inefficient. Currency had to be developed, and it happened somewhere around 2,500 years ago. There will always be a debate about who officially created money and when (although many people point coined money to the Phoenicians and paper money to the Chinese.) There’s one thing there’s no debate about though – some very odd things have happened in the history of currency.

Edges With Ridges

218 AD Ancient Roman Coin
Ancient Roman Coin (218 AD)

Check this out–go grab a coin and take a look at its edges. You’ll notice that they’re ridged. Back in the early days of gold and silver coins, these ridges didn’t exist. People would actually shave the edges down to get scrap gold and silver, then sell it. You could actually make a lot of money off of this practice. Of course, the government caught on, and the value of these coins decreased. To prevent it from happening, they introduced coins with ridges. That way they could easily catch a cheater. Lets just take a minute and think about something though. How funny would it be it would be if people were still shaving coins?

Green Ink

Ever wondered why money is green? It doesn’t matter, I’ll tell you anyway. It’s hard to know why green was chosen in the first place, but as money started to get mass-produced, the green pigment was the most available color. It was also the best color to prevent chemical damage, and it had good psychological benefits. Kind of like how you know a green light is good, you associate that same feeling with paper money.

Money In Poor Condition

India 50 Rupees (1930)

There’s a somewhat “old wise tale” if you will; in 1916, supposedly you could go to Washington D.C. and get your money laundered. But not the type of money laundering you might think. I’m talking literally laundered – washed, pressed, and cleaned. Whether this is true or not, it’s still interesting. Something along the same lines still exists today, though. If you have 51% of a bill, you can take it to a bank and get it replaced. The same goes for coins.

Big Bills

Back in 2007 – 2009, Zimbabwe went through a really rough period of inflation because of their civil war. Zimbabwe currency existed in 10 trillion, 50 trillion, and even 100 trillion-dollar bills – but the bills weren’t worth much at all. If those number’s aren’t mind-boggling enough, get this. Their inflation was at about 6.5 sextillion percent at its peak. And let me throw one more number at you. The largest bill ever produced was a 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bill – a Hungarian Pengő in 1946. It was worth about $.20 U.S.

100 Trillion Dollar Zimbabwe Note
100 Trillion Dollar Zimbabwe Note (2008)

Money is a fascinating thing to study. And with the recent government shutdown as an example, it’s obvious that we’ll have more interesting facts to look at down the road.

Katelyn Porter is a history buff and freelance writer, but she’s always up to date on economic news. Katelyn purchases her rare currency from Great American Coin Company.