hungary-1020-or-100-quintillion-hungarian-pengc591-obverse-2

Hungary (1946) – The Days of Hyperinflation

Hungary 1 Millió B Pengő Banknote – Face and Back
Hungary 100 quintillion pengos banknote, front
Hungary (1946), Szazmillio B.-Pengo, FRONT, the highest denominated currency ever circulated.

This is a Szazmillio B.-Pengo banknote. “Szazmillio” is Hungarian for one hundred million, so, this is a hundred million B.-Pengos.  “B.-Pengo” means a billion pengo. But Hungary used the “long scale” as did much of eastern Europe at that time. Thus “billion” means a million million, or a trillion. (“Short scale” billion means a thousand million. See here and see below). Thus our banknote is the equivalent of 100 million million million pengos, or one hundred million trillion pengos, or one hundred quintillion pengos.

photograph of the earth as seen from space

How much is one hundred quintillion? If in individual pengo banknote was 2″ wide x 4″ long, 100 quintillion banknotes would completely cover our planet, 2000 layers deep!

photograph of Alpha Centauri star

If those individual banknotes were laid end to end, 100 quintillion banknotes would reach to our nearest star Alpha Centari and back again to Earth, 90 times!

Here is someone’s illustration of what just one quintillion pennies would look like……… 1 quintillion pennies. Envision that multiplied by one hundred!

But a pengo was worth far less than a penny in those days.

Hungary 100 quintillion pengos banknote, back
Hungary (1946), Szazmillio B.-Pengo, BACK, the highest denominated currency ever circulated. This is the Hungarian Parliament Building on the Danube River.

What did hyperinflation feel like? The worst year was from August 1945 through July 1946 during which prices increased an average of 19% per day. On the worst days, prices would triple from one day to the next. A loaf of bread that cost a dollar yesterday costs 3 dollars today and nine dollars tomorrow and 27 dollars the day after tomorrow.

Says the Technical People: “Hyperinflations are caused by extremely rapid growth in the supply of “paper” money. They occur when the monetary and fiscal authorities of a nation regularly issue large quantities of money to pay for a large stream of government expenditures. In effect, inflation is a form of taxation in which the government gains at the expense of those who hold money while its value is declining. Hyperinflations are very large taxation schemes.” http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Hyperinflation.html

How fast did they grow the money supply during that fateful year? How fast did they print more paper money? From what I’ve read, the money supply in July 1945 was 25 billion pengo, and then in January 1946 1,646 trillion pengo, and then in May 1946 65 quadrillion pengo and then in July 1946 47 septillion pengo. They were printing money like it was going out of style. They were printing money so fast that halfway through they stopped collecting taxes (now That had to be Fast!), because the tax value of collections one day late had lost so much value.

It stopped in August 1946 when a new currency was introduced, the florint, at the rate of 1 florint equal to one octillion pengos. And of course, they unplugged the printing presses too.

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 = 1 octillion

Whew!

From Wikipedia…..

“The long and short scales are two of several large-number naming systems for integer powers of ten that use the same words with different meanings. The long scale is based on powers of one million, whereas the short scale is based on powers of one thousand.

Short scale

Every new term greater than million is one thousand times larger than the previous term. Thus, billion means a thousand millions (109), trillion means a thousand billions (1012), and so on. Thus, an n-illion equals 103n + 3.

Long scale

Every new term greater than million is one million times larger than the previous term. Thus, billion means a million millions (1012), trillion means a million billions (1018), and so on. Thus, an n-illion equals 106n. “

…..from Wikipedia.

As always, if you have something to add to this story, or a recommended landmark for visiting, I welcome your comments!

For more stories from Central Europe on this website, click here.

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Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008 front (2), featuring balanced stones

Zimbabwe – The Signpost of the Balancing Rocks

Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar Banknote, Year 2008 – Face and Back
Balancing Rocks of Zimbabwe featured on Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008
Balancing Rocks of Zimbabwe featured on Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008 front

This stacked configuration of rocks is a common trail marker for hikers in North America, and, I’d guess, the rest of the world.  Two stones stacked might be a coincidence.  But three stones stacked, or more, isn’t considered natural.  Such stacking is an evidence of intent, and therefore, a signal, or signpost.  And so, such hand stacked stones are commonly used for trail markers in the wilderness.

But these rocks in Zimbabwe are massive. They weigh tons.  For a sense of scale, note in the image, the treetops surrounding the stones.

What giants stacked such stones?

And what sign did they wish to leave for us?  What trail did they intend to mark?

They are signposts of the constructing powers nature.  These stones congealed from molten lavas, as plutonic granites, within massive volcanic flows, just beneath the surface of the earth.  As subsequent ages of erosion by wind and water lowered the surface of the land, and scoured the soils between the stones, these giants of the past were left, revealed.

The travel brochures tell us that the stones symbolize a need for balance between development and ecological preservation.  That’s nice sentiment, and I am sure it is true.  But it’s a sentiment that feels somehow imposed, rather than derived; and more contrived to sell postcards rather than to communicate a wisdom learned.

 Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008 front , featuring balancing stones

Especially considering this simple 3 stone signpost of nature appears beside the number One Hundred Trillion on a Zimbabwe banknote.  “Trillion” is a word that was almost never heard a decade ago.  It was used for measurements in science but almost never for money.  A trillion is a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand.  It’s a number that we really cannot imagine.  A thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand dollar bills, stacked on top of each other, would reach over 60 miles high.  That number on a banknote indicates something seriously out of balance.

In the 1990s, president Robert Mugabe used monetary policy to rebalance the country’s culture after the serious racial imbalance of the past.  The adjustments created serious imbalances in other ways. and the national economy was impoverished.   The relation between a day’s labor, and the money received, became entirely out of balance. An imbalance of money was printed to offset the other imbalances; and the self-perpetuating cycle of hyperinflation took off, until the dollar was meaningless.  This 100 trillion dollar banknote, in just a short time, became equal to zero.

zimbabwe leagal scales in gold

Imagine placing 100 trillion dollars on one side of a balance scale and nothing on the other side, and the scale showing a perfect balance.

But those three stacked stones remain, balanced, an eternal signpost.

Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008 back
Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar banknote 2008 back

For more stories from Southern Africa in this website, click here.

closeup detail of venezuela 100000 back 2017 (5), featuring 2 birds

Venezuela – Look Alikes, Hyperinflation and Unconcerned Birds

Venezuela 100 Bolivares Banknote, Year 2013 – Face and Back
Venezuela 100 Bolivares Banknote, Year 2013 front
October 29, 2013 100 Bolivares banknote, front, Venezuela
December 7, 2017 100 Thousand Bolivares banknote, front, Venezuela

The banknote on the above top was issued in late 2013. The banknote above bottom was issued in late 2017.  The denominations, bolivares, are the same.

Venezuela 100 Bolivares Banknote, Year 2013 , back featuring birds
Venezuela 100 thousand Bolivares Banknote, Year 2017 , back, featuring birds

The front and back images are the same.  The top banknote is more beige in color and the bottom banknote is more yellow in color.

closeup detail of Venezuela 100 Bolivares Banknote, Year 2013 , back
closeup detail of Venezuela 100 thousand Bolivares Banknote, Year 2017 , back

Both banknotes have the numeral 100 displayed prominently.  The banknote on the right, however, adds the word “mil”, thousand, after the word “cien”, hundred.  The banknote on the left is 100 Bolivares.  The banknote on the right is 100,000 Bolivares.

At the time of issuance of the 100 bolivares banknote in 2013, it was equivalent to approximately 10 US dollars.  So that means that, at that time, 100,000 bolivares would buy pretty much the same thing as would 10,000 US dollars.

At the time of issuance of the 100,000 bolivares banknote in 2017, it was equivalent to about 1 US dollar.

That means that, in December 2017, it takes ten times 100,000 bolivares, or 1 million bolivares, to buy what could be bought for 100 bolivares just 4 years ago, in 2013.  Another way of saying this that the value of the bolivares has been divided by 10,000; or, yet another way of saying this, is that, the price of things to buy in Venezuela have gone up by a factor of 10,000, in 4 years.  Life today is ten thousand times more expensive then it was 4 years ago.  And, think of this, Venezuela has the largest known oil reserves in the world.  Why then, is it not among the richest nations of the world?

closeup detail of venezuela 100000 back 2017 (5), featuring 2 birds
detail from back of 100 bolivares banknote, Venezuela (2013)

Said a man of old: “Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?”  This is natural Law.  Hyperinflation occurs when men make a mess of things.

venezuela cardenalito (2)

The birds illustrated on the back of our banknotes are Cardenalitos.  They are native to Venezuela in Parque Nacional El Avila and found also in verly limited surrounding areas.

Yugoslavia 1993 500,000,000,000 front detail

Yugoslavia – The Days of Hyper Inflation

Yugoslavia 500 Billion Dinars Banknote, Year 1993 – Face and Back
Yugoslavia 500 Billion Dinars Banknote, Year 1993 front
500 BILLION Dinars, The largest nominated banknote ever issued in Yugoslavia. 1993

The number on this banknote is Five Hundred Billion.

That is 500 x 1000 x 1000 x 1000; that is, 500, 000, 000, 000.

It is one half trillion, a number I never even heard of in relation to money in the United States until the Crash of 2008.

But this was Yugoslavia, and it was 1993, and Yugoslavia was in the midst of strife and battles and wars that led to its dissolution by the end of the decade.

Yugoslavia 500 Billion Dinars Banknote, Year 1993 back
Back side of 500 Billion Dinar banknote. Issued by Yugoslavia in 1993. Withdrawn after 3 months.

My daughter’s language tutor who lived in Yugoslavia at the time, related the following story.  Inflation was so bad that she would run to the store to cash her paycheck and buy groceries as by the morning the value would be so much less.

An article by Thayer Watkins, PHD, relates many stories of the people who lived through, what he calls, the worst episode of Hyperinflation in history.  I wish he was correct on this.  Follow the tags in this website and consider some of the other episodes of hyperinflation our world has suffered.

For more stories from the Balkan Peninsula, click here.

For story tags, see bottom of this page.

Croatia 10000000000 Dinar 1993 banknote front (2)

Republika Srpska – The Fortress of Knin

Republic Of Serbia Krajina 10,000,000 Dinaris Banknote, Year 1993 – Face and Back
Republic Of Serbia Krajina 10,000,000 Dinaris Banknote, Year 1993, front
1993 Banknote of Republic Of Serbia Krajina, front. The nomination, 10,000,000 dinaris is believed to be the largest prepared.

It is doubtful, but uncertain, that the banknote featured on this post, was ever formally issued.  The huge nomination is similar to that of Yugoslavian banknotes of the same decade, and indicates that the new Republic of Serbia shared in the same woes of hyperinflation.  The number, deset milliard signifies Ten Billion, deset meaning ten, and milliard meaning billion.

table demonstrating yugoslavia nations and their currencies
table of Yugoslav nations and their currencies from Wikipedia

The table above illustrates the place of the short-lived Republic of Serbia during what came to be known as the Yugoslav Wars at the end of the 20th century.  These were considered the deadliest wars in Europe since WWII.

closeup detail of Republic Of Serbia Krajina 10,000,000 Dinaris Banknote, Year 1993, back, featuring fortress of Knin
detail from back of 10,000,000,000 dinari banknote

The ancient fortress of Knin is featured on the reverse of this banknote.  It is the 2nd largest in all of Europe.

Construction on the stronghold began in the 9th century.  In the 11th century it served as the royal residence.

It consists of 5 interconnected towers and towns.  They are named the Donji Grad (Lower Town), Srednji Grad (Middle Town), Gornji Grad (Upper Town) or Kaštel Knin, Kaštel lab or Bandijera, and Južni Grad (South Town) or station Belveder. It is about 1500 feet above sea level and 300 feet above the town of Knin below.  It is 1500 feet long and about 330 feet wide with walls as high as 60 feet in several areas.

Republic Of Serbia Krajina 10,000,000 Dinaris Banknote, Year 1993, back, featuring fortress of knin
10,000,000,000 banknote from Republika Srpska Krijana, back.

For more stories from the Balkan Peninsula in this website, click here.

For more stories from Yugoslavia in this website, click here.

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Greece 200 Drachma 1944 banknote back (2)

Greece – 1944 – Prelude to Civil War

Greece 200 Million Drachma Banknote, Year 1944 – Face and Back
Greece 200 Million Drachma Banknote, Year 1944 back, featuring the Parthenon
Greece, September 9, 1944, 200 million drachmas. The image is from the Parthenon, two thousand years before …..

Above the numeral 200 is the units of the currency of Greece, “drachma”, or, plural, “drachmai”.  Beneath the number 200, in the middle of this banknote, are the two words which may be translated as follows.  “Diakosia” equals “two hundred” in Greek.  “Ekatommusia” equals “million” in Greek.  The date is September 9, 1944.  Two hundred million anything is a quantity beyond the intuition of most everyday people.

The Nazis withdrew from Greece in this month, but left hyperinflation remained; and soon the whole would be engulfed in a civil war that would be considered the first proxy war of the cold war era, the first of many.

Greece 200 Million Drachma Banknote, Year 1944 front
Greece, 1944, 200 million drachmas

Readers with minds familiar with such numbers, hyperinflation, and hyperinflation’s societal ramifications; will rapidly move in their thoughts to the distress of the peoples who had no choice but to use these banknotes in their everyday lives.

From this website is the following 4 paragraphs beginning at our banknote’s date:

In September, 1944, after Germany’s withdrawal from Greece, British troops landed there. Greeks sniped at British soldiers, and the British arrested what was said to be 15,000 people and shipped them to a camp in a desert area in Eritrea. The Greek resistance retaliated by kidnapping 15,000 monarchists from Athens and marched them out of the city. Roughly 4,000 of the monarchists died during the march, and the Resistance lost support.

          Greece emerged from German occupation and British intervention with a civil war. Britain and the US supported Greece’s monarchical government. The rebels on the other side of the civil war included Communists. Greece’s king since 1947, Paul the First, was a determined enemy of the Communists, and he had the support of moderates.

        The war began winding down in 1948. The Communists in Greece were split between Stalinists and supporters of Yugoslavia’s Josip Tito. Stalin, meanwhile, was giving the resistance hardly any material support. He was unenthusiastic about the rebel cause in Greece – in keeping with an agreement between Stalin and Churchill during the world war. By September 1949 most of the rebels surrendered or escaped over the border into Albania, and the Albanian government, presumably with Soviet approval, prohibited the Greek rebels from launching military operations into Greece. The civil war had ended.

        Writes Elena Panaritis in 2011:
It was the bloodiest and most devastating war in the history of Greece considering the number of lives lost. The death toll reached nearly 10% of the Greek population.

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And now, let’s consider the image on our banknote, the Parthenon.  Towards the conclusion of the horriblest of wars, War World II, and, yet, at the beginning of “the bloodiest and most devastating war in the history of Greece”, our banknote is published; and, this image from the Parthenon is selected, constructed two thousand years previous.

Croatia 10000000000 Dinar 1993 banknote front (2)

Croatia – 1993

Croatia 50 Million Dinara Banknote – Face and Back
Croatia 50 Million Dinara Banknote
Croatia
Croatia 50 Million Dinara Banknote back
Croatia
Greece 1000000 Drachma 1944 banknote front (2)

Greece – 1944, WW2 and Hyperinflation

Greece 1,000,000 Drachmas Banknote, Year 1944 – Face and Back
Greece 1000000 Drachmas banknote, year 1944 front, featuring Antikythera Ephebe

Where the number on a banknote (after all, a piece of paper) is a Million, you can bet there is hyperinflation. The banknotes on this page are from the WW2 era, 1944. War may clarify a few things such as who one’s true friends are, but it distorts most other things, including money.

Greece 1000000 Drachmas banknote, year 1944 back, featuring the Temple of Poseidon
Million Drachmas, Greece 1944, back
Greece 500000 drachmas banknote, year 1944, front featuring Zeus
Half Million, 500,000 Drachmas, Greece 1944, front
Greece 500000 drachmas banknote, year 1944, back
Half Million, 500,000 Drachmas, Greece 1944, back

From Wikipedia article on Hyperinflation in Greece under the German-Italian occupation, (Reference and links in footnotes below):

With the German invasion in April 1941, there was an abrupt increase in prices. This was due to psychological factors related to the fear of shortages and to the hoarding of goods. During the German and Italian Axis occupation of Greece (1941-1944), the agricultural, mineral, industrial etc. production of Greece were used to sustain the occupation forces, but also to secure provisions for the Afrika Korps. One part of these “sales” of provisions was settled with bilateral clearing through the German DEGRIGES and the Italian Sagic companies at very low prices. As the value of Greek exports in drachmas fell, the demand for drachmas followed suit and so did its forex rate. While shortages started due to naval blockades and hoarding, the prices of commodities soared. The other part of the “purchases” was settled with drachmas secured from the Bank of Greece and printed for this purpose by private printing presses. As prices soared, the Germans and Italians started requesting more and more drachmas from the Bank of Greece to offset price increases; each time prices increased, the note circulation followed suit soon afterwards. For the year November 1943 – November 1944, the inflation rate was 2.5 × 1010%, the circulation was 6.28 × 1018 drachmae and one gold sovereign cost 43,167 billion drachmas. The hyperinflation started subsiding immediately after the departure of the German occupation forces, but inflation rates took several years before they fell below 50%.

Start and End Date: Jun. 1941 – Jan. 1946
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Dec. 1944, 3.0 × 1010%.1

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The Million drachma banknote features the head a bronze statue recovered from the Sea bottom in 1900, off the island of Antikythera, Greece. This small island, a little less than 8 square miles, is important to ornithologists. It is an important resting place for regional migratory birds and is also the largest breeding ground for a certain species of falcon known as Eleonora’s falcon.2

Antikythera Ephebe
But the tiny island is important to historians too. In 1900, sponge divers spotted the shipwreck off the island. In addition to many treasures and artifacts were two items of tremendous significance. One is a full size bronze statue of remarkable beauty and grace. The head of the Antikythera Ephebe is featured on our 1,000,000 drachma banknote.  The beauty of the artwork startled the artworld, revised art history and was featured prominently on our 1944 banknote.3

Antikythera Mechanism
But it wasn’t until years later that the greatest, perhaps, treasure of all was recognized in the recovered sea-soaked artifacts.  A small wooden box containing bronze items, corroding for two millenia beneath the sea, attracted little attention in the fifty years following its discovery.  Then in 1951 a Yale University professor and science historian began to study it. It has been intensely studied since, and has become known as the Antikythera mechanism.  It is considered by many to be the earliest analogue computer in the world. The technological skill and craftsmanship demonstrated in the mechanism became lost to history for reasons unknown. It wasn’t until the 14th century that anything comparable began to be produced.4

Temple of Poseidon
On the reverse of our 1,000,000 drachma banknote, is featured the Temple of Poseidon.5

Poseidon was the god of the Sea.  This temple is constructed on the bluff at the end of a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water, with a commanding view of the Sea, the dominion of Poseidon.6

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The Half Million drachma banknote in this post features Zeus on the front. One must hand it to the Greeks, whereas other nations feature renowned politicians and other leaders on their banknotes, the Greeks feature God Himself. This is Zeus, the god of Thunder, known by others as Jupiter, the greatest of the planets.  He resides on Mount Olympus as the King of the gods.7