The World’s Strangest Currencies

18 May

Source. Investopedia.


Canadian Million Dollar Coin

Canadian Million Dollar Coin


We often think of money as a means of exchange in paper and rounded metal form  with conventional denominations. Think again. In the long history of currency,  forms of payment that would appear stranger than fiction have appeared. Indeed,  before the advent of money, barter was the accepted means of payment where  anything could serve as “currency.” Here’s a brief tour through the quirkier  side of the medium’s history. Funny money, indeed.

Strange Coins

Rai Stone

Rai Stone

In Micronesia on the island of Yap, the Rai stone is legal tender and heavy at  that. The coins are rather large circular limestones with a hole in the center.  At between five and 20 feet in diameter, these numismatic colossi derive  their value not from monetary or fiscal policy, but rather from their size,  weight and effort to transport. In parts of West Africa up until the 20th  century, twisted iron barbs with a spatula at one end and a T at the other were  used to transact business, though they look more like a steel leader on a  fishing line. Known as Kissi money, broken pieces of it were deemed worthless  unless restored in ceremonial fashion by a witchdoctor, in a case of currency  rebasement. The Canadian $1 million coin weighs approximately 220 pounds, most  of which is comprised of gold bullion, and sells for roughly twice its face  value due to the high value of its content. Don’t plan on paying for sundry  items with this. You’ll empty the vendor’s till and everything in the bank. The  ancient south Indian Vijayanagara Empire lays claim to the smallest coin in  numismatic history. The Quarter silver Tara weighs .06 ounces and  measures four millimeters in diameter.

Edible currencies

Spices East Africa

Spices and Herbs East Africa

Extensively used in East Africa and in the Sahara desert centuries ago, salt is  one of the oldest forms of payment in the world, harking back to the barter  system. Turmeric spice wrapped in coconut fibers seems more like something you’d  see used on the Food Channel, but in the Solomon Islands it passes for currency.  In Central America and Mexico, cocoa beans were a delectable form of  payment.
Unlike the late 1990s magazine advertisement glorifying the  fermented curd, at one time the phrase could be taken quite literally.  Parmigiano Reggiano had been a currency and accepted bank collateral in Italy.  In Burma poisonous money seeds were used as a means of exchange at one time and  nothing else, lest it be the last time.

Quirky Currency

Palau Currency

Palau Currency

Light in weight, but heavy in value, cashmere is the prized export from  Mongolia, yet in 2007 the north Asian nation produced a unique 500 Tugrik coin  with the likeness of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy on one side and  equipped with a button that enables the holder to listen to a sound bite from  his famous 1961 “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. After the overthrow of Joseph  Mobutu Sese Seko in what is now the Congo (formerly Zaire), the successor  Congolese government removed his face from the existing currency rather than  print new bills. Palau in 2007 issued a silver dollar with the likeness of the  Virgin Mary and an embedded vial containing holy water from Lourdes, France.  Around 50 million Chilean pesos in 2008 were minted with the misspelled  “Republica de Chiie.”

Regional Variants

Ithaka Hours

Ithaka Hours

No romp through the world of money would be complete without a brief mention of  some regional forms of currency specific to certain parts of the world and  unique to certain times in history. Numerous towns and cities across America use  region-specific scrip ostensibly to support the local economy and insulate it  from a global economic meltdown. Examples include Berkshares, Bay Bucks, Ithaca  Hours and Potomacs.
A function of history: occupying governments issued  money that circulated in the regions that they controlled. Examples would  include military yen notes issued by the Japanese in the occupied regions of  Manchuria (Manchukuo), the Philippines and Hong Kong; 100 Kronen coins issued in  Soviet occupied Czechoslovakia in 1949 with a profile of Josef Stalin;  and military currency used by the German army in occupied Channel Islands.  Vietnamese Green Stamp money were notes with detachable coupons exchangeable for  specific items only (e.g. coupons for specific items of clothing which were not  fungible).

In Conclusion Money is perceived to have value if it can be used to purchase goods and  services. As you have read, its form and denomination are very much a function  of the culture and circumstances in which it exists.

Myself i wouldnt mind having that Canadian Million dollar Coin in my collections; as for the Rai stone i pass and the spice i love seeing them in my kitchen!





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: