T+-4his isn’t going to be about those {{8800-pound stone discs}} they use on the Pacific island of Yap, the {{twisty iron rods}} once traded in western Africa, or even those {{silver “dollars” from Palau}} combining the likeness of the Virgin Mary with a tiny vial of certified Lourdes water.

R+squirrel-note.jpgBut 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+For informational purposes only. These are ballpark figures updated mid-monthly. Changes are rounded somewhat, so an item can drop by “100%” when there's still some value left..

Uh… ya got anything smaller?

Thai-500000-Baht-236.jpgIn 2000 Thailand issued a 500,000 Baht note [currently equivalent to <@>$500000/THB] commemorating the 50th wedding anniversary and coronation of Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit. Until he passed away in 2016, King Bhumibol had been the world’s longest-serving head of state and longest-reigning monarch. The 500K remains legal tender.

R+US-10000-Dollar-236.jpgNext: 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.

L+Singapore-10000-Dollar-236.jpgL+Brunei-10000-Dollar-236.jpgThe Monetary Authority of Singapore manages the Dollar currencies of both Singapore and its joined-at-the-hip trading partner Brunei. Their exchange rates coincide these days, so a 10K note of either country at the moment amounts to around <@>$10000/SGD. The presses fell silent on the Singaporean 10Ks in January 2014 but both remain negotiable.

R+Swiss-1000-Franc-236.jpgThough the Swiss National Bank continues to promote — and dangerously over-produce, say many economists — its 1K [currently <@>$1000/CHF], the riffraff specter keeps Canada lying awake nights over its own [<@>$1000/CAD].

L+Canada-1000-Dollar-236.jpgIn 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.C+twiddle3-160.png

Based on current exchange rates, one million US Dollars would weigh, if it consisted of Thai 500K notes, 173 grams (6.1 ounces); in US 10Ks, 100 grams (3.5 ounces); in Singaporean 10Ks, 220 grams (7.8 ounces); in Bruneian 10Ks, 353 grams (12.5 ounces); in Swiss Franc 1Ks, 1,297 grams (2 pounds 14 ounces); and in Canadian 1Ks, 1,367 grams (3 pounds).

[Place holder]


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 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.

At a current exchange rate of <@>BRL to the Dollar the Land of {{Xuxa}} now seems to have things well in hand, so meanwhile here’s an up-to-date comparison of the world’s five tiniest currencies. The <@>~record_max_name wins this month at about <@>record_max_value to the Dollar. Look for them to perform a zero-ectomy and inaugurate a New <@>~record_max_nickname at some point if things get too much further out of hand.2+The lengths of the bars on these graphs are not necessarily to scale. In cases where the differences in the quantities they represent are extreme, their lengths adjust logarithmically to keep them visually readable.

L+somali-shilling-180.jpgSomalia’s Shilling has been reported to be in similarly dire straits from time to time, with its Central Bank quoting 33,300 to the US Dollar in February of 2010. But its 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 <@>SOS. This track record makes it now, technically, the world’s strongest currency.

Conversely, here are the world’s largest currencies.

The Latvian Lats [<@>$1/LVL] has officially retired in favor of the Euro [<@>$1/EUR], but its floating exchange rate continues to post. Remarkably — to us non-Balto-Slavs, anyway — the old currency’s name had three quantitative endings: “Lats” for singular, “Lati” for two to nine, and “Latu” for ten or more. Disagreement simmers nowadays over what Latvians should call their country’s newly adopted currency. The European Union has declared “Euro” to be inviolate, regardless of locality, while the Latvian Language Agency has lobbied hard for “Eiro” and/or “Eira.”

L+pg-coin.png{{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.

The Mauritanian Ouguiya [<@>$1/MRO] is one of only three currencies (the other two being the Scudo, mentioned below, and the Malagasy Ariari) not divided decimally. Rather, 5 Khoums equal 1 Ouguiya. The 685-year-old Kremnica Mint in Slovakia strikes their coins.

The Transnistrian Ruble [<@>$1/PRB] is about as obscure as you can get but also perfectly legal tender — if only in {{Transnistria}}, ᴀᴋᴀ 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 <@>PRB/RUB to 1.

R+apsar-large.gifThe {{Nagorno-Karabakh}} Dram [<@>$1/NKD] and the Abkhaz Apsar [<@>$1/ABK] 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 ten Apsar piece3+Since Apsar coins are bullion and issued in excruciatingly limited quantities (either 1000 or 2000 total), their face values are strictly pro forma. The silver ten-spot proofs, like that shown, typically bring about $200 apiece on the collectibles market. commemorating Abkhaz literary pioneer Dmitry Gulia.)

L+SMOM-crest.pngIn 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 Scudo is pegged to the Euro and 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 [<@>$SSC]. So in effect the Scudo’s smallest division is 1/1440 of it or about <@>$SSC/1440 at the present exchange rate.

wsc{{Western Sahara}} is a thoroughly dispiriting, heavily contested strip of desert and scrub on the northwest coast of Africa. Wherever there aren't unexploded landmines, the Sahrawi Peseta circulates alongside the Mauritanian Ouguiya (q.v.) and the Algerian Dinar in the regions of Western Sahara controlled by the {{Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic}}.

All your base are belong to us

Cryptocurrency is an exchange medium created, traded, and verified entirely in cyberspace using cryptographic algorithms. For all practical purposes it divides into two categories: (1) Bitcoin, and (2) everything other than Bitcoin. Bitcoin itself was the first, founded by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009.4+On 29 March 2016, “Satoshi Nakamoto” was widely reported to be Australian IT and security consultant Craig Wright, founder of the supercomputing firm Cloudcroft Pty Ltd.

L+doggy2.pngCryptocurrency is nominally legal in every country aside from Bolivia, Ecuador, and Iceland5+In many others it’s a muddle that, moreover, seems to change from one week to the next. As of this writing Bitcoin in particular, at least, is banned additionally in Bangladesh, Indonesia (sort of), Kyrgyzstan, Russia (de facto if not explicitly), Thailand, and Vietnam. 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 over 1650 cryptocurrencies as I write, many devoted to various charities, ideologies, or just plain will-o’-the-wisp gimmickry. Among those showing capitalizations of <@>$~record_min_cap or more, here are the exchange rates for the five largest and five smallest as of the most recent mid-month.

<@>~record_crypto_market_overall The biggest 30-day gainer and loser have been <@>record_rise, and <@>record_fall. 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.


More info on some of these places: {{Seborga}} | {{Transnistria}} | {{Nagorno-Karabakh}} | {{Abkhazia}} | {{SMOM}} | {{Western Sahara}}