Zimbabwean $100 trillion note

Zimbabwe's hyperinflation has become so extreme that the treasury there is set to print 100 trillion, 50 trillion, 20 trillion and 10 trillion notes. 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollars are worth about US$300. Wait. Now it's US$290. Quick, spend it, while there's still time.
Even vegetable vendors prefer the U.S. dollar, South African rand or Botswanan pula, and most workers now demand their salaries in foreign currency. Doctors and nurses have been on strike since last September, demanding salaries in U.S. dollars. The strike coincided with a cholera epidemic that now has claimed more than 2,000 lives.

Last week, the state media reported that most teachers had left their jobs. As a result, the end-of-year examinations taken in November are yet to be graded after the markers demanded their wages in foreign currency. Schools are yet to re-open this year awaiting the examination results

Zimbabwe to print first $100 trillion note


  1. Well I’ve been reading a lot about Zimbabwe and their problems and it’s sad how unvaluable their oney is. I saw pictures like this one:http://jugsi.com/?p=726 were people were paying for food with huge packs of money (and I mean huge).

  2. This may be wrong of me, but the first thought I had is this: in Civilization, the only way for your nation to fail is militarily. How could we model this kind of failure in a computer game? Because, honestly, this is about as thorough and epic a FAIL as I’ve yet to read about, country-wise.

    Not to make light of 2000 dead people, but wow. This is so sad it’s funny.

  3. It seem suspicious and kind of smug that people are assuming that the hyperinflation is driven by some failure by Zimbabwean leaders or the country in general. (not that Mugabe isn’t a bad dude…)

    I think that unfortunately we’ll learn the hard way that this sort of collapse can happen to the best of us. Perhaps there’s room to blame the local government, but only insofar as they’re participants in global “capitalism”.

  4. on CNN yesterday, I saw John Roberts (American Morning) speaking with some guests and he was casually saying “so it’s somewhere between 2 and 3 trillion dollars” (he and the guests were discussing bailouts and the economy, but I missed the exact point of this statement)… the difference between them is ONE TRILLION dollars (no Dr. Evil intended), or $1,000,000,000,000 (one million million dollars) – shocking to see this figure so easily brandished like he was saying ‘a sandwich is between 2 and 3 dollars’

  5. Um, Cory, I think you missed the usual link to the source article on CNN. With the same pic as the Beeb article Akadruid mentions.

    I have to wonder how the mint keeps going, the paper the money’s printed on must cost more than its face value.

  6. Money is myth — what’s really happened in Zimbabwe, at least to the people on the street, is a retreat to self-sufficiency and barter. At that rate (once interest tops 10000% or so) it becomes easier to make/cook/grow it yourself than to get a day’s pay that will tomorrow be worth a minute’s pay.

    All of this reportage smacks of imperialist condescension: “These poor savages need capitalist oversight by civilized people — we would never have let the cholera or inflation happen.”

    I’m not saying life is great there, only that the “funny money” argument is just that — nonsensical!

  7. Don’t forget, they already dropped 10-zeroes in July, so 100 tillion “new” Zimbabwe dollars is the same as 1 octillion “old” Zimbabwe dollars.

    Not everybody gets to say they’re an octillionaire .

  8. It sounds like the head of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is on top of the situation:

    “I am pleased to report that the invisible forces of destruction have been unmasked marking a turning point chapter when the fraudulent and speculative winds are cast into the inferno of extinction.”

    If that doesn’t instill a sense of confidence I don’t know what would. If Ben Bernanke had come out with a statement like that early on perhaps this crisis would be over by now.

  9. And @13: this is the THIRD version of the Z$. Last I othered to look (a couple weeks back), a 2001 Z$ was worth 10^31 new Z$, making most people multi-mole-ianaires,

  10. #9 ZikZak, don’t let your knee-jerk reaction to capitalism cloud your thinking. Global capitalism is working for them much better, as evidenced by the peoples’ willingness to use US dollars for transactions. How you can even begin to pin Zimbabwe’s troubles on this instead of the Zimbabwe leaders is more than a little silly.

  11. There are more than a couple of problems with the idea of white* guys with guns charging into Africa in order to bring peace and stability, but I still often wish when I read about Zimbabwe that we hadn’t pissed away all our regime change credits.

    *on average

  12. I have a 25 billion dollar note from last year. It’s the only currency I’ve ever seen that carried an expiration date.

  13. “The strike coincided with a cholera epidemic that now has claimed more than 2,000 lives.”

    That strike really stuck it to the right people, huh? :-(

  14. For those of you interested in the idiot behind this read up on Gideon Gono, Zimbabwe’s central bank chief. I would guess he is probably the world’s most incompetent man in any position.
    As said before in this thread nobody would want to belittle the incredible misery for ordinary Zimbabweans, but there is undeniably something laugh out loud funny about the man’s complete failure to comprehend what his job is really about.


  15. anybody know how to get a bag full of devalued zimbabwean currency? I’d pay some $USD for it to use in games & such not.

  16. O please follow starfish’s link — Zimbabwe’s banker is living better than not only Mugabe himself but also most other rich people on the planet! Surely Google Earth will reveal this mansion-enclave (remember Mugabe’s mansion is “almost as big”)

    No? Hmmm…

  17. Back when the Zimbabwean inflation rate was only 240,000,000% and they were using $100billion notes I tried to figure out how long it took for prices to double. I reckoned 90 minutes, but I’m no expert…

  18. re: doubling of prices.

    at the rate of inflation of 231 million percent mentioned in the article, prices double every 13.7 seconds.

  19. You would think they’d save some effort by printing a bill where the value is a function of the current date.

  20. No, these guys are on to something:

    I want to get a bill that says “one TRILLION dollars” and I might be willing to pay $290 for it.

    These guys may have stumbled upon a unique way to pump foreign currency into their ecnonomy: They’re leveraging the novelty factor!

    Right on!

  21. The thing that kills me about this, is that not too long ago Zimbabwe was *the* model of economic prosperity for the African continent.

  22. @Starfish and Coffee: I’d guess that Minister Gono has a very good grasp of his job: to do exactly what Robert Mugabe tells him to do, and do nothing that Mugabe thinks threatening to him.

    Setting Zimbabwean monetary policy is a minor part of the job compared to that.

  23. This could be a boon to their economy, like the African nation that made a Jerry Garcia stamp after he died– people will want them as collectors items.

  24. Subhan @22 That’s a great idea! Playing Monopoly with real trillion dollar bills would be fun. I wonder how much it would cost to get someone to pack up a few boxes of them and ship them to the US. I’d think they’d be happy to get some US dollars or Euros or whatever.

  25. Flosofl,
    O RLY? I’d have thought (and still do think) that South Africa is that. I’m starting to see products from So. Africa here in the US, including the “Bumbo” a clever little seat for babies.

  26. @ Zikzak #9 – Are you serious? This is absolutely to be laid at the feet of Mugabe. Zimbabwe used to be the breadbasket of Africa. Now its own people are starving and they have the highest rate of inflation in the world for no reason other than horrible leadership and policy. Blaming capitalism is strange in that all the capitalists fled years ago.

  27. I’m profoundly ignorant of the recent history of Zimbabwe, anyone have a link to resource that can give a balanced overview of how it was and how it came to be what it is today?

  28. #35

    From what I understand, Mugabe was actually a hero during their long revolution in the 70’s (the Chimurenga War) before becoming president. Then Mugabe got corrupt (no surprises there) but the real problems started when there were various “land reforms” around 1997-2001 which meant that the minority whites who owned farms were kicked off their land. Mugabe (with help from others) pushed through “reforms” that basically took the land away from whites and gave it to “veterans” (many of whom were not veterans of anything other than being quasi-terrorists, perhaps supported by Mugabe). The “veterans” of course knew nothing about running farms, and the shortages began. Zimbabwe was once one of the most agriculturally productive countries of Africa, and it plummeted to the bottom.

    1. Bob Mugabe picked up the leadership of ZANU when the much-beloved Herbert Chitepo died in the 1970s. Some of his political opponents died in questionable circumstances at the time. Mugabe had street cred for his time in jail and he was a good propagandist, so he basically got credit for ousting the white settler regime.

      The land reforms were a disaster. White-owned farms were split up and parcels given to veterans or friends. Unfortunately, large working farms are not homogeneous with respect to subdivision and veterans who grew up in Harare wouldn’t know which end of a pitchfork to grab, so Zimbabwe’s farms ceased to grow food.

      My take on Mugabe is that he probably suffers from some mental illness or personality disorder, either of which could be exacerbated by age and being surrounded by toadies.

  29. Interesting. Histor like that should be taught as a part of high school civics classes here in the US. I never learned any of the interesting things about how governments fail in school.

  30. #40 Takuan,

    As they ought to have. The Horatio oath still stands. Saving his life means that he will be fit to stand trial at some point.

  31. For anybody who’s interested in getting their hands on some of the huge valued bills, I recommend checking ebay. Right before they dropped the extra zeroes off a few months ago, there were pages of auctions up for Billion dollar notes.

    Some of those notes go for pretty much money though, because apparently there’s a lot of money collectors out there.

  32. @35/37/38: codesuidae, Ill Lich Antinous: It’s also worth including the Ndebele massacres/genocide in that timeline. That was immediately post-revolution (1980-1988), and well before the land reforms.

    Antinous, interestingly, back in 1999, I had a chat with a political science researcher who opined that part of his psychopathology may be latent homosexuality. The man is a serious, foaming-at-the-mouth gay basher.

    Also, on the topic of war veterans, there’s been a lot of suggestion that that is just a veneer – many of the “veterans” are in their 30s…

  33. @40: What do you mean when you say maliciously? Do you mean they shouldn’t have saved him, so they saved his life wrongly or mistakenly?
    I’m not sure I like the idea that a doctor is seriously malicious when they’re saving someone’s life. The two words do not compute in most circumstances.

    Do you think they were they being malicious to Zimbabwe (giving them back their corrupt leader who will probably mess up more) or to Mugabe (keeping him alive so he can stand trial)? Your comment can be read both ways.


    I do not think the Horatio Oath is really relevant here – this is what the Oath of the Horatii is, that’s a painting held at the Louvre, no doctors present.

    However, the Hippocratic Oath (first do no harm) does apply and you’re prefectly right – doctors and surgeons aren’t the people to decide if someone should die for their actions. It’s like blaming lawyers who defend the guilty, it’s not up to the lawyer who gets the benefit of a professional service

  34. (note to moderators: when I try to log in, I get a “Forbidden/You don’t have permission to access /cgi-bin/mt/plugins/Profile/profile.cgi on this server” page. — anwaya)

    I was in Zimbabwe in 1989 on my way to Mozambique. I spoke to a white farmer there, who was wary then of the effect that the constitutionally-mandated land redistribution reforms would have. I was told that the fear was that farms would be taken from farmers and given to those who directly supported Mugabe’s hold on power. They would know nothing about farming, and agricultural production would collapse.

    At the time, Zimbabwe had immense potential. The seige by South Africa had been lifted, and it was no longer necessary for them to defend the Beira Corridor through Mozambique from Renamo. Beefsteak and ostrich was on the menu in the restaurants in Harare, and in Bulawayo on a Friday evening the stores poured dance music out onto the streets to draw people in. As a result of the seige and the history of economic blockades, recycling meant full-on reuse: the deposit on the bottle that held a coke was greater than the cost of the coke it contained, and all the bottles were translucent instead of clear. All the cars ran on acrid-smelling blend, alcohols and gasoline, many of them Peugeots and Dyanes from the 1970’s when the French ignored UN sanctions.

    There was hope, there was a sense of community and common purpose, and the one thing that I saw standing in their way was that Bob was mad. I do not know how they can get out of the terrible mess Bob has made for the people of Zimbabwe.

  35. The best and fastest way for Zimbabwe to begin improving is to send get that madman Mugabe to his maker, where he can join Idi in a lake of fire.

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