How would I get my hands on a bunch of the world's most worthless money?
May 14, 2015 2:23 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to find out what some of the most worthless currency is in the world and then get my hands on a lot of it. Not counterfeits. The real stuff. Like where 100 dollars US is literally tens of thousands of a dollars worth of Brupals from Unobtainiastan in whatever form is most conducive to getting a briefcase's worth of seemingly high denomination bills. So A) what currency should I be trying to get? and B) Where would I get them?
posted by rileyray3000 to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
US$1 is about 5,000 Zambian kwacha and about 3,000 Malagasy ariary.
For Madagascar, it is illegal to take the currency out of the country. You would have to go to Madagascar or buy them off a collector. No idea about kwacha, though!
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:29 PM on May 14, 2015

You can buy 50 Trillion Dollar bills from Zimbabwe on Amazon.
posted by Rob Rockets at 2:30 PM on May 14, 2015 [6 favorites]

Plenty of eBay sellers offering Zimbabwean [x] trillion dollar notes too.
posted by holgate at 2:34 PM on May 14, 2015

You can get ~2 million Vietnamese Dong for $100. Maybe a bank could arrange it for you? B of A says they don't deal in it, but if you have a Vietnamese community near maybe one there.
posted by Huck500 at 2:40 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure if you're most interested in the physical aspect of the currency, but I just wanted to point out that Dogecoin is a beautiful thing.
posted by Gymnopedist at 2:41 PM on May 14, 2015

Need it be convertible? This makes a big difference.
posted by pompomtom at 2:56 PM on May 14, 2015

I would use a currency calculator, type in $1 and see what results you get for different currencies. Like this. I found that $1 USD is equal to 574 West African francs. $1 USD = 21,807.42 Vietnamese dongs.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:57 PM on May 14, 2015

$1 will get you 13028.00 Indonesian Rupiah, but they have 100,000 Rupiah notes so you'd have to convince someone at a bank to give you all their small bills if you want a mountain of currency in exchange for your $100 bill...
posted by foodgeek at 3:01 PM on May 14, 2015

Okay so $1US =10,000,000 Brupals but you don't want a 10 million or much less a 1 trillion Brupal note, you want a whole box full of 10,000 Brupal notes. That's harder. For one thing, everybody already spent their 1,000Brupal notes 5 years ago when they were worth a dollar each, but as they became worth less than 1 cent, the Unobtainistan banks collected them (filthy) and didn't print more, they issued only 100,000 Brupal notes. So even on the streets of Unobtaininstan, there may not be a lot of these low-value notes still in circulation, and those that are around may look more like used kleenex than like crisp bills of monetary value.

You could maybe get a bank (or a currency exchange kiosk at an airport with regular flights to Unobtainistan) to sell you large-value bills, but they just won't have low-denomination ones. You'd have to contact somebody actually living there to collect a box full for you.

(here's an article about how zimbabwean notes are worth more as collectibles than as as currency, interesting reading for context.)
posted by aimedwander at 3:02 PM on May 14, 2015 [7 favorites]

100 Trillion Dollar Bills from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe can be had in stacks of 50 on eBay less than a penny per Trillion Dollars. Misplace a stack, and you can legitimately say that you've lost a Quadrillion dollars.
posted by dws at 3:02 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

Believe it or not...previously.
posted by phunniemee at 3:03 PM on May 14, 2015 [4 favorites]

But just to follow up to my own answer, I neglected to account for what denomination of bills are offered. For instance, it appears the lowest Vietnamese dong bill is 10,000, so that doesn't help you. My bad!
posted by AppleTurnover at 3:09 PM on May 14, 2015

The problem you will have is that it takes around 30,000 bank notes to fill a typical briefcase, so even buying the cheapest 30c Zimbabwe notes will still cost you a thousand dollars or so for a full briefcase.
(about one thousandth of what it would cost in US currency)
posted by Lanark at 3:18 PM on May 14, 2015

the black-market exchange rate for Uzbek soum to USD was ~4,000-1 when I was there a couple of months ago. 1,000-soum notes were by far the most common, though I saw 500- and 200-soum notes as well (5,000-soum notes too, though those might not be as useful for your purposes).

You'll need about 2,400 USD banknotes to fill your briefcase, according to (of all places) TV Tropes. Let's assume for now that UZS notes are the same size as USD notes (they're not, they're actually a bit larger); let's also assume that you can find enough 200-soum notes to make this work. That means you need about half a million soum, or $125 at the black-market rate. Not bad!

Now multiply that by 5, since it's far more likely that you'll be using 1,000-soum notes for your scheme and not the 200-soum ones. That's $625. Now add 50% on top of that, since you're most likely not in Uzbekistan yourself and so have to use the official rate (~2500:1) instead of the bazaar rate. That's close to USD$1K. Still cheaper than flying there yourself with an empty briefcase, but not by much (definitely better for your well-being though than trying to go through customs in a post-Soviet police state with a briefcase full of cash).

I'm not sure this will work, sadly.
posted by xbonesgt at 5:28 PM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think your best bet may be Iraqi dinar. A lot of soldiers brought it home in large quantities, even small amounts, because they were sure the dinar was ultimately going to rebound. Now they're lighting cigarettes with it.
posted by corb at 5:55 PM on May 14, 2015

Try asking a coin/stamp/numismatics dealer. Coin, stamp, and bill collecting are dying hobbies, but there are still a few dealers around. They often keep collections of low-value bills around in case someone wants to sift for hidden gems or impress their nephew or something.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 6:44 PM on May 14, 2015

I agree with foodgeek that your best bet are Indonesian Rupiahs. The exchange rate is high, but the 1000 Rupiah notes are widely used in the country. Also the Rupiah is actually kinda stable nowadays, at least for a currency of such an exchange rate. The 2400 notes xbonesgt mentions come to some 180 USD.
Still the problem remains how to get all those 1000 IDR notes in the US. Maybe some friend could get them at a bank in Bali for you on his/her next holiday.
posted by Lynx at 1:03 PM on May 17, 2015

For what it's worth, the current Chinese One Yuan banknote is 2.5" x 5" (65mm x 130mm) in size, and is worth about 0.17 USD.
The good news:
- you can get a briefcase full of them for not much money
- there is enough exchange between China and the rest of the world that it wouldn't be difficult or illegal to get them through normal banks or currency exchange businesses.
- there is enough exchange that you could convert them back when you are finished with them.
The bad news:
- They don't look like "seemingly high denomination bills"
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 9:05 PM on May 21, 2015

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