"Money, money, money; must be funny; in a rich man's world"
There seems to be no shortage of strange and weird varieties of coins and banknotes that are put in circulation around the world. In our previous article about unusual currency, we featured some of the more unusual items of currency, both past and present, from a range of different countries. This time we take another look at the fascinating, unusual and at times simply bizarre types of money that’s been issued over the course of the last hundred years or so. You can check out our first look at unusual currency here.
Here’s a banknote from the Russian Empire, featuring one of the realm’s most famous rulers, Catherine the Great. This 100 ruble banknote was issued in 1910, after which the empire would very soon be consigned to history:
Following the Russian Revolution in 1917, more than 3000 denominations of currency were issued during the chaos of the civil war. Banknotes would sometimes be legal tender all over the entire territory of the former empire from Europe to the Pacific and at others only be valid in certain regions. The text on these banknotes could have various meanings, such as the names of local government officials, words connected to the area where the currency was issued and so on. They also usually had text in a number of different languages encouraging workers of the world to unite.
Eventually, things settled down... However, like the Russian Empire that preceded it, the USSR also became a thing of the past as a variety of independent republics came into existence. When the region of Transnistria first broke free from Moldovan rule in the early 1990s, they didn’t have their own currency. The solution? Stick a Transnistrian postage stamp onto an old Soviet banknote:
Today, Transnistria located in a strip of territory between the Dniester River and Ukraine, isn’t recognized internationally as an independent state. They do however have all the trapping of a de facto country and use the Transnistrian ruble as their official currency:
The former European country of Yugoslavia experienced rampant hyperinflation from 1989 until currency reforms took place in 1994. The highest denomination in 1988 was 50,000 Dinara, but this had changed to 500,000,000,000 Dinara by 1994:
Another place that specializes in designing coins with a difference is the Republic of Palau in the Western Pacific. On the 150th anniversary of the first apparition witnessed by St. Bernadette at Lourdes in southern France, the Republic of Palau issued a commemorative coin. It has a pipette containing authentic Lourdes water, very handy if you’re not able to make the pilgrimage yourself:
Also from Palau, is this rather odd coin, commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, one of the largest battles in the medieval period, which took place in what is now northern Poland but was once part of German territory. Palau’s history as a former German colony doubtlessly has a lot to do with this choice of design (left image below):
And here's probably a pinnacle of custom coin design - a coin with the nano chip inside! And not just a nano chip: "The Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo's masterpiece, is entirely depicted on the Nano Chip embedded in the coin. Onto the size of a finger nail a very high resolution image is engraved with the technology of microelectronics on an ultra-planar Nano Chip, which is produced in a dust free environment out of high purity quartz and in an extreme vacuum.":
Easter Island is famous for its monumental statues and for these pop-up head coins. This silver crown was designed so that the miniature statues can be inserted vertically into a slot on the coin, creating a three-dimensional version of the famous Easter Island landmarks you can literally hold in the palm of your hand (below, left):
Right image above: Another Pacific island nation produced this oddly shaped coin in 2002. To commemorate the introduction of the Euro common currency, this Republic of Nauru coin is in the shape of the nations that comprise the European Union.
Speaking of the Euro, the adoption of the single currency saw the demise of the variety colourful banknotes and distinctive coins formerly used in the various European countries. People speaking many different languages, all across the continent, now use the same type of money.
Surprisingly, a similar concept was also in operation over a century ago. However, despite the many nationalities using the currency, the Empire’s monetary union only combined the financial systems of Austria and Hungary. In the modern Eurozone there are a lot more member states, each with their own parliaments, tax systems, banking regulations and so on. This 20 Kronen-banknote from Austria-Hungary in 1913 is in Czech, Polish, Ruthenian (Ukrainian), Italian, Slovene, Croatian, Serbian, Romanian, while the reverse side is in Hungarian:
Here is a coin that can talk. On June 26, 1963, US president John F. Kennedy spoke his historic words that “all free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner”. If you missed hearing it back then, you can always listen to it in Kennedy’s own voice on this commemorative silver coin from Mongolia:
This crown made of copper is known as the world’s first pyramid coin, although the shape is actually a triangle with rounded corners. You’d be forgiven for attributing this coin to modern or ancient Egypt, but it was in fact created in the Isle of Man in 2008 (below, left):
Right image above: Another triangular coin, and rather appropriate considering its place of origin, is this one from the home of the famous Bermuda Triangle.
What 1 million Dollars in a single coin look like:
And finally, there may have been some large denominations of currency due to hyperinflation but how about this? Shown here at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, this 100 kg coin has a face value of one million Canadian dollars and is made of 99.999% pure gold:
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