Make me a Zimbabwe Dollar billionaire
July 31, 2008 7:48 AM   Subscribe

I wanna be a Zimbabwe dollar billionaire. Where can I buy Zimbabwe dollars in bulk at a reasonable price?

To be clear... I'm not a collector. I want fistfuls of the actual money... like... I wanna be able to grab a giant sack of Zimbabwe dollars and throw it all over the bed before I make love. When I see my rival rappers in the club, I wanna be able to throw millions of Zimbabwe dollars in their face, just to let 'em know that I'm for real. I wanna pose for pictures on my myspace page with my my billions of Zimbabwe dollars on display, just stacks and stacks of it... maybe even make a little youtube movie where I flash my Zimbabwe dollars in my hands and yell, "I'm rich, bitch!"

I see 'em on eBay, but the prices are... well... shockingly high, given the value of the Zimbabwe dollar.
posted by ph00dz to Work & Money (18 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I wonder if you could ask a bank to order the currency for you? Most banks will do it for most popular currencies (euros, for instance).
posted by phrontist at 8:19 AM on July 31, 2008

You could buy one note and then cut it up into lots of little pieces to shower your rapping rivals in million-dollar-per-shred of confetti...
posted by benzo8 at 8:22 AM on July 31, 2008

Hmmm... none of the currency exchange markets list any ZWB pairs. I think you might be out of luck, unless you can find someone in Zimbabwe willing to make a trade via post.
posted by phrontist at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2008

Mod note: most comments removed - please knock it off or go to metatalk with your metaconcerns thank you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:32 AM on July 31, 2008

I think the trouble might be that you won't be able to get stacks and stacks of zimbabwe dollars, because they are (almost) completely worthless. With (according to one US dollar being equivalent to approximately 18 billion Zimbabwe dollars, I doubt any normal bank will get you notes worth less than several billion, if any, considering the hyperinflation.

Perhaps you could set your sights on some currency which lies really low, but is reasonably stable instead? Unless you know someone who is in Zimbabwe and can send you a stack of bills.
posted by bjrn at 8:33 AM on July 31, 2008

Wikipedia has a list of least valued currency units. Turns out that for just US$60 you could get a million Vietnamese dong (yes, added hilarity).
posted by bjrn at 8:36 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]

This is a really excellent question! Ties in nicely with some research I was doing for someone else ...

The fundamental problem you're going to have - and perhaps the reason for those high eBay prices - is Zimbabwe, like many other "stressed" nations, imposes rigorous currency controls.

One reason for this is the sharp disparity between official and black market rates of exchange; a example I had to hand afte Sparks (2003) -- "Currency speculators range from street traders to senior public officials, including government ministers. Part of the reason for the ‘currency rush’ is the vast disparity between the stipulated, lawful, rate at which the Zimbabwe dollar should trade and the ‘real’ market rate. A recent survey has shown the linkages between corruption and currency speculation. Well-connected individuals are known to have procured hard currency, in the form of US dollars, from official repositories, at the government prescribed rate of Z$55 to the US dollar, and subsequently sold the same currency on the parallel market for Z$6,000. This represents a profit of astronomical proportions. "

Sparks, A., 8 Octover 2003, 'Zimbabwe slips into Zairisation', The Star, online [ ].

You know what I'd do in this situation: write the Central Bank, tell them its for your kids school project, and put fifty bucks cash in the envelope. Or ask if you could purchase a small amount, for cash and actually send the money in a follow up letter.

Don't be surprised if an individual rather than The Central Bank answers your letter. All folks there are desperate for foreign currency, and you just might change the life of the secretary that opens and responds to your letter. A win / win I'd say.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
80 Samora Machel Avenue, Harare
Box 1283, Harare, Zimbabwe

Telephone +263 4 703000
Fax +263 4 707800 / +263 4 706450

Sidenote: I spent a lot of time working in the ground in Africa, and almost nobody down there (at least in the circles I moved in) uses official rates of exchange. I did lots of deals in abandoned parking ramps, lavatories, anyplace we could get a minute or two of privacy to negotiate a transaction. This is the norm down in Africa. Official rates are just PR, typically for the benefit of the IMF or other interested parties. The real rates of exchange are usually very different.
posted by Mutant at 8:59 AM on July 31, 2008 [4 favorites]

Went through this list. Looks like the most devalued currency you can order from here is the Paraguay guaraní which is worth 0.00027710 of a dollar or about 3600 to the dollar you'd need about 277 dollars to have a million dollars worth.

Not a billion, but it has an -illion in it.
posted by jourman2 at 9:06 AM on July 31, 2008

If someone really had billions of single-dollar notes, the paper they were printed on would be worth more than the exchange rate. You can easily get 50 billion dollar notes on ebay for cheapish, but that doesn't sound like what you're looking for. You may want to consider how this joke will be taken by other people - they may be offended by you joking about a country in financial ruin.
posted by nomad at 9:43 AM on July 31, 2008

I've been curious about this myself, I've been thinking about getting a stack of various high-denomination bills and giving them to friends. I always figured mail in or out of Zimbabwe (or any of the reportedly corrupt African nations) would be confiscated or opened.

If it were possible to ship things directly in or out of Zimbabwe, though, what would be something you could offer a citizen that would be valuable/helpful to them? (I could send US currency, obviously, but not sure how much use they'd get out of it...) I think it would be nice to actually help someone out there, seeing as the nation is in chaos, and get some of their limited-edition currency in exchange.

All the pictures I've seen show the currency as being "bearer checks" which expire on Dec 31, 2008, so looks like I'm gonna have to get it before the end of the year.
posted by rubadub at 10:12 AM on July 31, 2008

Get 'em before the announced revaluation, in which they are cutting off 9 zeros. Many of old bills will be turned in for new ones, presumably, so potentially the government will have the same idea as you and export the bills for sale as curios. Or launch a business by doing that yourself.
posted by beagle at 10:26 AM on July 31, 2008

I seem to remember that the Gyrocery, a great fastfood restaurant in Seattle's University District, sold Saddam Hussein era Iraqi currency in the same way that you want Zimbabwe dollars. Perhaps there's a Zimbabwe restaurant or other type of business somewhere in the US that's doing the same with Zimbabwe dollars? Maybe find out what city in the US has the largest population of Zimbabwean expats?
posted by msbrauer at 11:01 AM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

This is on MetaTalk, btw.
posted by Grither at 11:24 AM on July 31, 2008

What you're trying to do, while it may seem interesting and funny and maybe even cool in some way, contributes directly to a problem that I don't think you really understand.

What you'd be doing would, as I hope that helps you understand, likely actually make things worse for the people of Zimbabwe.

There's some reasons why in the MetaTalk linked above. Further, there's lots of good info on what's been going on in Zimbabwe that's already been posted to Metafilter, here (including political repression, jailing, suspension of aid work, violence, ethnic cleansing, etc.).

There's also a good list of organizations you can support that are trying to help the affected, here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:11 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

How about hell money, if there's a Chinatown anywhere near you?
posted by phirleh at 3:40 PM on July 31, 2008

You might want to ponder just how much space you want to devote in your life to devalued currency. These fellows estimated the size of $1 million in $100 bills to be about the size of a 15 inch television set: their simulated 10,000 paper bills weighed in at about 20 lbs. You are probably looking at hundreds of dollars for shipping alone. Your chances for getting ripped off are enormous. For a joke that will just end up getting you yelled at by people like allkindsoftime, and your friends will probably be sick of after about three days. That chick from the bar? She's not gonna want to roll around in that. Probably not worth the trouble. You could just order a small stack of hundreds from a place like this and counterfeit a couple thousand of your own with a scanner and a printer and come out ahead of the game. Or design your own fun money. You could put your face on the front, and, like, a wombat on the back. That would be fun.
posted by nanojath at 10:22 PM on July 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

ph00dz - see here.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:08 AM on August 1, 2008

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