What happens when you combine Acceptable Targets and the classic fascination tourists have with foreign currency? This trope, of course.
Jokes about the worthlessness of Ruritanian currency are a comedy staple. Sadly, with the advent of the Euro and the retirement of the Italian lira, some favorite targets have gone. Other currencies lost include the Belgian Franc and the Slovene tolar.
Fortunately for comedians, there are always more countries competing to have the most absurd exchange rates. Or the highest number of zeroes after that first 1.
However, jokes where a small amount of American currency makes a tourist one of the wealthiest people in the country are a serious case of Artistic License – Economics.
See also Ridiculous Future Inflation. Not to be confused with money printed via counterfeiting, which is sometimes referred to as "funny money". If the money is literally worthless and completely useless as currency, it fits better under Worthless Currency.
- In the Anzio Battle OVA of Girls und Panzer, Yukari infiltrates Anzio's school-ship for reconnaissance purposes. While there, she buys lunch at a stall, and is told that it's 3 million liras. When asked what that is in local currency, the price changes to 300 yen (somewhere between $2.50 and $3.00 depending on exchange rates).
- In Hetalia: Axis Powers, Germany is in a lot of debt to France and all his money is worthless. So Germany gets Italy to make cuckoo clocks for him, and pays him to do so. Italy is thrilled to receive all this money, even though he knows it's worth less than the paper it's printed on.
- In One Piece, Luffy and his fellow Straw Hats enter Skypiea, a nation ten thousand meters in the air. The Skypieans use the "extol", which is fixed at 10,000 to the beli, the usual currency on the Grand Line. Usopp takes advantage of the ignorance Skypieans have about the relative prices of goods in the different currencies to be able to get away with trading rubber bands for "Dials", which are manufactured for different purposes (for example, a Tone Dial records and plays back voices). In a scene early in the Skypiea arc, Gan Fall states that he charges five million extols when he gets called by a device he leaves with the Straw Hats. It sounds like a huge amount until later on the characters are informed of the exchange rate; he was effectively charging only 500 beli.
- When the New Zealand dollar was going really strong a little while ago, the morning news made some jokes like this at the expense of the U.S. dollar... even though the NZ dollar was still only about 85 U.S. cents.
- Since the British pound sterling is one of the largest units of currency in the world, jokes like this come up from time to time in British comedy, along the lines of, "I know a couple of people who just made $100 million US, which I think, if I've done the maths correctly, is roundabout £7.50".
- A show called Goodness Gracious Me (about Indian immigrants in Britain) included "The Six Million Rupee Man".
"We can rebuild him. We have the technology: we just don't have the ideal exchange rate."
- Australian comedian Adam Hills often jokes about the Barmy Army taunting Australian cricket fans in a bar in Newcastle by singing, "We get three dollars to the pound!"
"When you're heckling the exchange rate, that's creative!"
- One comedian's bit on pesos: "I love shopping in Mexico. It's like a giant dollar store. At what point does your money become so worthless that you just say 'Okay, we have to go back to trading chickens; this just isn't working.'"
- The Canadian dollar was the butt of jokes back when the exchange rate was particularly abysmal. For instance, comedian Simon Cotter recounts his first time travelling as a Canadian citizen after moving there from the US.
Cotter: On a trip to Mexico, they gave us all Canadian flag pins and told us to wear them everywhere. They never did that in America. They never said, "Hey, you're going to another country. Wear an American flag pin!" It made me feel so patriotic, until they explained to me, "We gave that to you because Mexicans prefer to rob Americans, and this lets them you you aren't American." And my first thought was, "Oh, that's really clever." But my second thought was, "Oh my God... how bad is the Canadian dollar? You can't even get robbed in Mexico!"
- Comedian Arj Barker on a trip to South Africa:
Barker: When I was in South Africa, I learned something. I learned that if you live in a crappy economy, that's terrible... but if you're just visiting a crappy economy for a couple of days, it's awesome. I was listening to the radio and the guy said "...And the South African Rand has slipped another 30% on the dollar today!" ...But that's not what I heard. What I heard was, "BIG SALE TODAY! 30% OFF FREAKIN' EVERYTHING! ALL WOODEN HIPPO STATUETTES AND SEMI-AUTOMATIC WEAPONS MUST GO! IT'S CRAZY SOUTH AFRICAN DOLLAR DAYS!"
- Bill Cosby pokes fun at foreign currency systems on his album It's True! It's True!:
Cosby: [on UK currency] Before you travel, if you travel, before you go, learn the money, please. Because they have the pound and the shilling and the tuppence and the dubs and the bob, one shilling-worth link, and one half-crown bob of it. You know, and the only thing you can do if you're as dumb as I am, when you get out of the cab, you just take a handful of change and you look at the cabbie, you say, "Don't hurt me." ... I go in the store and say, "How much is that?" "That's one bob, six links, four buttons, and one crack. Of it."noteCosby: [on Japanese currency] What is it, 600 yen to the dollar? ... 380? You gotta have a truck to carry around your pay. You gotta have a truck following you, you're walking down the street, gonna buy something. "How much is a pair of shoes?" "Four billion, 600 yen." "Carry it out, boys." [imitates tipping dump truck] And you go to a restaurant, and the tab is 14,000 yen. And you gotta tip the guy 6,000 yen, and that means that you gotta bring the truck in twice. That's a small Volkswagen full of yen. Of it.Cosby: [on foreign money in general] I had so many little brown coins that I couldn't turn in, you know, when I cashed the money in. I had 50 tons of little brown coins from Greece, Mexico, Spain, Italy, all over. And I cashed 'em in, they gave me 35 cents.
- In one issue of Will Eisner's The Spirit, The Spirit's sidekick Ebony White travels to a desert kingdom to sell a valuable jewel. In exchange, he receives one billion of that country's currency. When he gets back home, he discovers the exchange rate for all that money is about 1.25¢. He promptly spends it all on hot dogs and ice cream at a local diner.
- Disney Ducks Comic Universe:
- In "Volcano Valley" Donald orders a model plane for his nephews but is sent a real plane by mistake. He initially refuses to sell it for three dollars, but accepts 300,000 Volcanovian pezozies- which turns out to be worth about three dollars.
- One Don Rosa Donald Duck story featured a wanted poster citing a reward of "one bajillion pecos ($20)".
- In "The Lentils of Babylon" the Beagle Boys shamelessly took advantage of it: unable to grow more of the titular lentils, their scheme was to export them to Duckburg where they'd can them with linel oil to make sure nobody would eat them and sell them to a certain African country, who'd sell it to their neighbours, and so on until the Beagle Boys buy them back... And due how the exchange rates interacted with each other they ended up having ten times what they spent to export them to Duckburg and can them, at which point they'd export them back to Duckburg and start back over. Their scheme would have generated an infinite and legal profit had Scrooge not happened to like the taste of the lentils with linen oil and decided to make an economic empire out of it...
- "Awful Flight", a Funny Animal parody of the Canadian supehero team Alpha Flight that appeared in an issue of The Spectacular Spider-Ham back in The '80s, has one of the team excitedly point out a dollar on the ground. When the others ask what the big deal is, he explains that it's a US dollar! They're rich!
- In one of the Richie Rich adventures, a would-be revolutionary in an unnamed Eastern-ish European country accidentally sets off his superweapon and levels an enormous swath of the country (luckily, Nobody Can Die, or even get hurt beyond scrapes and comically shredded clothes). As the leaders wail that it will cost billions to rebuild, Richie asks how much that is, to which his local companion says, "About 23 dollars." Richie promptly pulls a stack of bills from his pocket and everyone rejoices.
- The Italian series Gli Aristocratici once made a jab at the Turkish Lira (pre-2005, thus before it was revalued, see below). What makes it painful is that the currency the Turkish Lira was compared to was the Italian Lira, itself a frequent target of such jokes that at the time just happened to be worth about eight times the Turkish currency.
- Marjane's mother is described in Persepolis as having issues with the way the prices are rising in the 1980s Iran.
- In one arc of The Tick, Tick and Arthur go adventuring in a fictional African nation called Van Buria (founded by US President Martin Van Buren) and come back with a briefcase full of local currency. It turns out to be worth $8 US.
- In the last issue of Sonic Universe, the Chaotix Detective Agency receives a large reward of Meropan Sand Dollars for successfully solving a case. To their dismay, Meropan Sand Dollars are sand dollar exoskeletons, and have such a miserable exchange rate that the reward is effectively worthless.
- If Mortadelo y Filemón ever get paid for being successful in a mission in foreign currency, expect the exchange rate to drop from fantastical to abysmal in the course of the story. For example, in Los mercenarios, they are initially offered 100,000 percebos, equivalent to about a million pesetas. When they complete the mission and go to exchange the money, they learn that the currency has devalued so much that 100,000 percebos are now worth 17.50 pesetas.
- FoxTrot used this: Jason gets paid $10, adds it to the money he had under his mattress, and announces that he's a millionaire (in Turkish lira). He spends the rest of the week running around acting like a stereotypical rich guy, reverting back to his normal self after he spends his money ("Wow, five whole comic books," snarks Peter).
- Dilbert has the fictional country of Elbonia, where someone wanted to buy something, and asked if "this" was enough, however much he actually had. The reply was something along the lines of "a minute ago, yes, but now it costs a hundred times more". The inflation rate has risen to one billion percent daily in these strips.
- In one strip of Piranha Club (back when it was Ernie) sleazy con man Sid Fernwilter tries to pay with various rather obviously phony credit cards; the proprietor of the store refuses. He wants to write a check; the proprietor, who knows Sid's reputation, refuses. Finally Sid asks if the proprietor would accept "cold hard cash" and confirms that this is "actual money". The proprietor accepts... and is paid in 30000 "Irkutskian Slobotniks".
- In Euro Trip, the characters make it to Slovakia by accident and find they only have $1.83 US on them — which, apparently, makes them close to being millionaires and grants them access to a lavish hotel room. (Naturally, this joke doesn't work anymore since Slovakia adopted the euro.)
- In Canadian Bacon, Bud (John Candy) and co. get pulled over for driving a truck covered in Canadian insult graffiti written in English, but not French. The fine is $1,000 Canadian, or $10 American... and they have to add the French translations to the truck.
- The film version of The Dukes of Hazzard has this exchange between the Dukes and a college kid they've suckered into analyzing a core sample they've given him: "How does 24,000 yen a year sound?" "Sounds like 40 bucks." It's actually about $240.
- Street Fighter: Two of Bison's mooks steal a chest-full of his money at the end of the movie, only to find out that it's just worthless notes with Bison's face on them (intended to be made official currency after he conquers the world). When Sagat finds out that Bison was attempting to pay him with Bison Dollars earlier, he points out the money isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Bison them explains each Bison Dollar shall be worth 5 British Pounds. For that is the exchange rate the Bank of England will set once he kidnaps their queen! Which is not how currency exchange rates are determined at all. Not even close. But then, that's the joke.note
- In The Icicle Thief, a time-traveler innocently puts ten thousand lire into a collection for a wedding gift circa 1948, bringing him under suspicion both for the amount and because it's a note from 1989.
- Early on in DodgeBall: A True Underdog Story, Owen proposes that they pay the mortgage off in Canadian dollars, presumably thinking they're worth less. Peter corrects him, and Owen then thinks they have to pay $120,000 (Gordon tells him he didn't need to add the numbers together).
- In the Laurel and Hardy film Swiss Miss, they are tricked into accepting "no good Bovanian francs" as payment, which gets them into trouble when they try to spend them.
- A girl finishing her vacation in a third world country comes into a bank with a thick wad of local cash.
Bank worker: Converted to USA currency, that would be 27$.Girl: Damn! And I brought that bastard breakfast to bed, too.
- In The Fifth Elephant, Wolfgang von Uberwald mentions that the winner of a deadly contest gets the considerable sum of four hundred crowns. Our hero, Commander Vimes, determined to show no fear, sneers: "What is that in Ankh-Morpork dollars, do you know? About a dollar fifty?"
- A justified example can be found in The Colour of Magic. Twoflower comes from a land where gold is about as valuable as lead, and the gold coins he's using as money are supposed to be fiat currency (later books revealed it's backed by silver). As a result what he thinks is enough travel money for a few weeks visiting Ankh-Morpork has enough value locally to purchase half the city outright. He never actually figures this out, and continues to tip people more than the value of a house.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Number of the Beast it notes that the alternate-future U.S. went through a huge hyperinflation, and one New Dollar is worth 1,000 "old" dollars. Except that 1000-times redenominations are dime a dozen and don't mean that there was any huge hyperinflation, just a pretty ordinary one. Serious hyperinflation starts when your currency devalues by a billion times, and doesn't hit the "huge" mark until you get to Weimar Republic level.
- In an Older Than Radio moment Mark Twain, in The Innocents Abroad, was on a cruise that stopped at the Azores, where many of the passengers went ashore to a restaurant. Clearly not having been adequately briefed on the concept of exchange rates, when the bill was presented for "2,500 reis" for cigars, and "13,200 reis" for wine, and so on, the passenger who had offered to pay paled in horror, gave the proprietor of the place $150 in gold, and informed him that he will pay no more. The proprietor had to go and get someone else to translate the amounts of local currency to dollars before the situation stabilized — at a price amounted to about $21.
- In Snow Crash, most world currencies are exchangeable, with the exception of Federal Reserve Notes, which are used pretty much exclusively by employees of the almost-defunct US Government and considered effectively worthless by everyone else. The remains of the US government draft a memo to prevent old billion-dollar bills from being used as toilet paper, because a single square of toilet paper is worth more more than a $1bn bill.
- Lois McMaster Bujold's The Warrior's Apprentice: After having more or less accidentally wound up in charge of a mercenary company, protagonist Miles Vorkosigan, is rather alarmed to learn that he's being paid in a local currency called "millifenigs" that he's never even heard of. They are described as making "an eye-catching toilet paper"' and their value is tacitly confirmed when the Felician paymaster doesn't bother to get a receipt from Miles for a pallet of banknote bundles; turns out that their official exchange rate (which wasn't that bad before the war) is currently zero, because the government that issues them is cut off from the wider galaxy by an interdiction fleet. 'Millifenig' becomes a swear word within a page of their introduction. After Miles wins the war he was hired to fight, millifenigs begin to be traded again, at about a tenth their prewar rate.
- Being Miles Vorkosigan, Miles' response to not having usable cash is to delay payday and immediately launch an operation to steal the payroll the interdiction fleet was using to pay the other mercenaries they had hired.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Guide: In fact there are three freely convertible currencies in the Galaxy, but none of them count. The Altairian Dollar has recently collapsed, the Flainian Pobble Bead is only exchangeable for other Flainian Pobble Beads, and the Triganic Pu has its own very special problems.note Its exchange rate of eight Ningis to one Pu is simple enough, but since a Ningi is a triangular rubber coin six thousand eight hundred miles along each side, no one has ever collected enough to own one Pu. Ningis are not negotiable currency, because the Galactibanks refuse to deal in fiddling small change. From this basic premise it is very simple to prove that the Galactibanks are also the product of a deranged imagination.
- This quote from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy mentions three cases of funny money:
- This is also some Self-Deprecating Humor, since the Galactibanks are the products of Douglas Adams' imagination.
- Another bit in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe has the survivors of a colony ship crash (who were deemed a completely useless chunk of their home planet's population) have a fiscal policy update at their staff meeting. They note that since they have chosen the leaf as their form of currency, everyone is extremely rich. Unfortunately, this has resulted in a bit of inflation, with current exchange rates being three deciduous forests per ship's peanut. The proposed solution is a massive deforestation campaign to increase the value of currently held leaves.
- In the Timeline-191 series, the Confederate States of America win the Civil War and remain their own country, but then lose the world's equivalent of World War I. This causes Confederate banknotes to rapidly decrease in value, to the point where people have to race to spend any money they get their hands on before prices rise again. It takes a few years to get the economy under control again, by which time the banks had started printing one billion dollar notes (now rendered worthless themselves by federal decree, not that anyone would be able to give change for them anyway). At one point in the economic collapse, the Hitler Expy jokes about it at a political rally by saying "Bet you a million dollars", then taking a million dollar bill out of his pocket and throwing it away.
- Parodied in Dave Barry's Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need, according to which the exchange rate for Italian currency is "1,000,000,000,000,000 lire = Nothing."
- In Broken Angels Sanction IV's economy is so bad, on account of the nuclear civil war going on, that their Standard Archaeological Find Token (saft) exchanges with the UN Protectorate dollar on a 230 to 1 basis. Kovacs gets a bit riled up when a crime boss offers just five million for a spaceship he'd just stolen, and even more when he says that was in saft, not dollars.
- The Guns of the South highlights the discrepancy in value between the Confederate paper dollar and the gold dollar.
- One of the things that baffles the Confederates about the Rivington Men is their insistence on the equal value of Confederate paper money and gold, something even the staunchest Confederate fire-eater won't. This includes charging fifty dollars in paper for a repeating rifle. Fifty gold dollars is a reasonable price for a high-end off-the-shelf rifle, but fifty paper dollars might not be enough for a pocket knife. It is implied (while never stated outright) that the time-travelers might be taking the Confederate bills back to their own time and selling them to collectors, thus recouping their value (and perhaps more, since the bills are in new or nearly-new condition.) And, as they hail from South Africa, gold is readily available to them.
- Earlier in the narrative, Nate spends a gold dollar in a tavern, which gets him a quart of whiskey, a room for the night, a cooked breakfast for two and (most importantly in this context) ten dollars in paper in change.
- Later on, Nate goes to buy a hat, and ends up paying ten dollars in paper for it. He notes that he could have paid a dollar and some change in silver instead, but that no-one spends metal money unless they absolutely have to.
- In An American in Canada, the titular character is mocking the strength of the Canadian dollar by giving the bartender an American twenty and getting back a Canadian twenty and a Canadian beer, as his Canadian friend watches. Of course, being an American, he does not realize that there is more alcohol in the beer, so he immediately passes out.
- An episode of Breaker High (a high school on a cruise ship) took the cast to a far off country in Africa or something. Two characters eventually get conned out of thousands of dollars by a shady business man saying the smallest amount of money he has is 1,000,000. It eventually turns out to be worth $7.50 US.
- Inverted in an episode of Cheers: Frasier tips a bellhop the equivalent of $100 US because he's overestimated the exchange rate. Soon the entire staff of the hotel shows up hoping for extravagant tips.
- Early in The Daily Show, they would regularly do a graphic reporting the U.S. domestic box office take over the last week in Italian lira. This was for the inevitable joke about how the films in question were grossing billions, potentially even trillions. Obviously, dropped when Italy adopted the euro.
- Doctor Who: Played with on an intergalactic level in "Voyage of the Damned". Mr. Copper, a tour guide on an alien cruise ship, has a credit card loaded with "Earth currency" for the guests to buy souvenirs with. At the end of the episode he decides to stay on Earth and build a life with the money. When the Doctor asks how much he put on the credit card Mr. Copper reveals it has £1 million, which he assumed wasn't much.
Doctor: Mr. Copper, a million pounds is worth fifty million credits.
- This also creates an unintentionally ridiculous situation thanks to Writers Cannot Do Math. Earlier in the episode a debt of 5000 credits was stated to be an insane amount that a working class family could never pay back, but by that conversion it's only £100.
- Because Due South came out when the Canadian dollar was worth quite a bit less than the American dollar, this came up a lot. In particular during a car chase in a taxi:
Fraser: I only have Canadian money on me.
Cab Driver: Fine, I'll drive 30% slower.
- In an episode of Family Matters, Waldo is sent to prison in the fictional country of "Santo Porto" for trying to steal treasured artifact: A cheesy "I Heart Santo Porto" salsa bowl, technically the oldest bowl in the country. Carl and Urkel spend the episode trying to break Waldo out of jail until they're told that his bail is only $30 in US currency.
- Flight of the Conchords: Bret and Jemaine somehow rent their small New York City apartment on the salaries of holding signs and playing gigs to a single audience member. In the final episode, it's revealed that they've been paying their rent with New Zealand dollars instead of American, so they owe a huge sum of back rent.
- Friends also jokes about the Italian lira. After Monica's new rich boyfriend Pete invites her for Italian food and then takes her to a restaurant in Italy, she insists on paying for the meal. He advises her to "throw another thousand on that" because so far she's paid "about 60 cents".
- Horrible Histories: Interbellum hyperinflation complicates an episode of “Who Wants to Be a German Millionaire?”, as the purchasing power of the Mark keeps dropping between rounds until it is not enough to buy the wheelbarrow the contestant needs to carry the money home. It start at 64 million German Marks, then 128 million, then 128 billion, then 128 trillion, all which can afford just a wheelbarrow, then that not being enough to afford the wheelbarrow just a few seconds later.
Host: You've won 64 millions German Marks. Unfortunately, due to the state of the German economy, that's probably only enough to buy you a wheelbarrow.
Contestant: But I need to buy a wheelbarrow to carry that much cash.
Host: Well, we don't want to give that. We want you to give you this: 128 million German Marks. That's enough cash to buy you a wheelbarrow.
Contestant: You just said that I could get a wheelbarrow for 64 million Marks?
- On I Love Lucy, Ricky freaks out over Lucy's 1,000 franc spending spree during their trip to France. She reminds him that it's a much smaller amount in U.S. dollars.
- Invoked and then Averted in an episode of JAG. Harm ends up in a fender bender caused by a beautiful Italian girl, who doesn't want any legal trouble and offers him several thousand Lira (in the form of a wad of cash) as compensation. Harm points out that she's offering him less than twenty dollars. It's only later that Harm learns she is Admiral Chegwidden's daughter, of course.
- In The Mandalorian, the value of Imperial credits has gone down the crapper now that The Empire is no more. The titular Bounty Hunter is willing to take half the value of the commissions in another currency just so he won't have to take the credits. When he's hired for a job by a surviving cell of the Empire, they pay him with pure metal ingots instead of credits, implicitly because any money they do have is worthless now. Also keep in mind the metal, Beskar, holds special significance to Mandalorians (They craft their armour from it) so it was especially likely to get one to work for them.
- M*A*S*H episode "Change Day": The Army issues new scrip (Military Payment Certificates, meant to be used in place of US currency), and everyone at the base has to trade in their old scrip on a certain day, after which it becomes worthless. Soldiers aren't supposed to use scrip to buy from local merchants, but they do it anyway. Charles devises a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme to buy the old scrip from the merchants for cash at 10% of face value, then trade it in and pocket a 900% profit. Hawkeye and B.J. get an MP to block the road so Charles can't make it back to camp for the exchange, buy $400 in old scrip from him for $40 cash, and trade that in to replace a soldier's stolen money, leaving Charles to eat a huge loss. If this seems uncharacteristically mercenary of Charles, that's because it was a leftover script where he took the place of Frank Burns.
- Referenced on one episode of Mock the Week during "If This Is The Answer, What Is The Question?" One of the guesses was "How much does a KitKat cost in Zimbabwe?", the answer was 691 million.
- The Renford Rejects featured a joke about the Italian lira.
"I've just won 10,000 lira!" "That's £3.50".
- The well-meaning Kramer takes a trip of Japanese tourists all over the city, not realizing that their several thousand yen is only a few hundred US dollars. Sure enough, they run out of money very quickly.
- In another episode, he and Jerry go to Italy and he's aghast at Jerry paying the taxi driver several thousand lira, again not realizing that it's only a few American dollars.
- One episode of Simon & Simon saw the brothers imprisoned in an imaginary Latin American dictatorship, sentenced to pay a hefty fine (something like "a hundred thousand pistartes", or whatever the fake currency was). While in jail, they meet an ex-pat American and relate to them their doubts about paying such a "large" amount. When told about the fine, the ex-pat says, "Guys... that's about fifty bucks!" The brothers Simon are soon out of jail.
- Played with in the Top Gear Vietnam special, where the presenters were sent to Vietnam and given 15 million đồng to buy a vehicle (complete with said đồng being delivered to them in shoe boxes full of paper cash). The presenters' initial glee at finally being given a reasonable budget for one of these challenges quickly fizzled out when they realized that it equated to about $1,000 US (or £487 in their case).
- The Canadian dollar having Ridiculous Exchange Rates was a running gag on Whose Line Is It Anyway?, mostly because regular Colin Mochrie was Canadian.
- Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?: When the show picked up popularity in other countries, it became an Artifact Title because of this trope. A bit of controversy happened in certain countries when contestants won the grand prize, only to find out that 1 Million in their own currency resulted in a very comparatively small amount of money (Greece and Portugal changed their top prizes to €250,000; for example.) Contestants were outraged and demanded that they be paid the equivalent of 1 Million US Dollars. Some countries changed their show's title to reflect this outcome, such as "Who Wants To Be a Euro-Millionare".
- There's an Art Brut song called "18,000 Lira" about a failed bank robbery, which concludes: "sounds like a lot of money."
- In The Goon Show episode "Robin Hood and his Mirry Mon", the Sheriff makes Robin an offer: Two shirts for five shillings and eleven pence. "Or in Canadian money, $6000".
- In the Shadowrun campaign "Virtual Seattle", the setting is a somewhat post-apocalyptic America where the currency is the New-Yen and the dominant global economy is Japanese. In one event, the players are trying to steal information from a military ship when a Russian submarine unrelated to either party attacks. The Russians, if communicated with, will offer to pay the PCs one million Rubles if they join forces and let the Russians keep the ship once the PCs get the information they are after. Even though there was no published New-Yen to Ruble exchange rate, the players all assumed it was a Funny Money offer and declined the alliance.
- Ironically, a later supplement established an exchange rate of 3 Rubles = 1 Nuyen, meaning that the offer was, if anything, grotesquely highballed.
- In Warhammer, the Border Principalities have known for their instability and consequently any currency issued by them is viewed as worthless.
- Solaris VII, The Game World of BattleTech is one of the few planets explicitly mentioned to print its own money. However, due to the proliferation of H-bills and the universally accepted C-Bill, Solaris scrip is only good on Solaris, and while it has some value for betting, there are a few snide references to the fact that to be worth anything, Solaris scrip must be spent in fairly large numbers and that as singles they might as well be given away. It's so bad that the local's nicknamed the scrip "Teep", from "T.P", the only thing Solaris VII residents think it's good for. Oddly enough, no explicit exchange rates have ever been canonized, only the aforementioned implications. Most House currencies have much more favorable exchange rates.
- In Tropico 3 Absolute Power El Presidente can choose to print more money; while giving money in the short term, it permanently raises the price of everything else, the more money printed the more the economy becomes inflated. Eventually everything becomes too expensive to afford.
- The browser-based Kingdom of Loathing has a contributor reward called "Mr. Accessory" (nicknamed "Mr. A") that gives a + 15 to all stats for the price of $10. Those who donated $10 Canadian could receive a "Mr. Eh?", that initially gave a + 12 to stats, which was meant to reflect its relative monetary value. As implied, the value of the bonus is adjusted upwards as the Canadian dollar rises (and downwards as it falls) — eventually requiring a Word of God acknowledgment that it would never be more powerful than a Mr. A.
- In the online game/community NationStates, each nation can name its own currency, whose value — relative to other in-game currencies and real-world currencies — is determined by the player's policy decisions. Quite a few fall into this territory.
- In Dubloon, there's a man who is eager to sell you his goodies for 1 million Farquads (he doesn't accept dubloons). Once an exchange service is open, you can find out that 1 million Farquads is worth 1 dubloon.
- In Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, the exchange rate between Mushroom Kingdom coins and Beanbean Kingdom coins is absolutely insane. In the beginning of the game, however many Mushroom coins you have — usually at least a hundred — turns out to be worth exactly ten Beanbean coins. By the end, however, the Mushroom currency has apparently devalued off-screen dramatically, to the point where 99,999,999,999,999 Mushroom coins is equal to 99 Beanbean coins — which causes Mario and Luigi to Face Fault in shock.
- Inflation exists as a mechanic in Europa Universalis; while the player is unlikely to let it get too out of hand, some AI can get into a bankruptcy loop that results in both an incredibly unstable country and having to pay three or four times as much as everyone else for everything. (Inflation points increase the price of all things that cost money by 1% each, and are gained by event, reliance on gold, or minting coins — the equivalent of printing money).
- In the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC for Portal 2, Cave Johnson reminds the test subjects that he's transporting into alternate dimensions to let him know if they come across any dimensions that are made entirely out of money. He then quickly adds that he's only interested if they're made of U.S. currency and if they encounter any made of pesos, they should just "keep walking".
- After some really stupid decisions by the managers of Gaia Online, namely the creation of an insane quantity of gold generators, the amount of gold accrued without any adequate Money Sink, making the prices soar (see here).
- Neopets has serious issues with hyperinflation, caused by the fact winning Neopets is a walk in the park, although the staff introduced policies aiming to reduce this amount, such as the selling of an item by a NPC account (read here for more details).
- Team Fortress 2's economy has suffered from inflation issues for as long as it's existed. The primary currency is metal (the game's main crafting component). The exchange rate for a single key (the other main currency) went from around eight refined metal in 2014 to fifty in 2019. Keep in mind that producing a single piece of refined metal through conventional drops can take weeks, and that a key is worth $2.50; trying to hack out a profit in more than pennies without buying a few keys is borderline impossible. This owes to the fact that metal is produced by Random Drops, while keys need to be bought from the ingame store—the playerbase (especially bots) is constantly pumping more metal into the economy, leading to its value slowly cratering. On the bright side, this means that you can buy every single actual stat-affecting weapon for basically nothing.
- Civilization IV has inflation as a feature. Even if you're playing solo for practice, don't put off building those wonders; they become much, much, much more expensive as you progress up the tech tree.
- In Going Under, the Styxcoin dungeon's unique mechanic involves the titular Styxcoin, a nigh-worthless cryptocurrency that is the only form of money dropped in that dungeon. The Styxcoin can be exchanged for the normal in-game currency in shops, but it takes several hundred Styxcoin to make $1 (the rate varies a bit).
- From Kid Radd: Radd is thrilled to get a $1,000 paycheck from his first week. Bogey says the amount is in binary, meaning it's really $8.
- Megatokyo has an exchange where Largo returns from his new job as "Great Teacher Largo", bragging about the money he made. Piro scans the bills and notes that Largo's salary for the day is 5,000 yen, or 50 US dollars.
- Something*Positive had a gag where PeeJee gave Davan her lucky (Canadian) quarter. It didn't work—and PeeJee and Aubrey got mad, his apparently negative karma having killed the coin's good luck. Davan shoots back that it's "not like it was real money anyway", to which Aubrey grudgingly agrees.
- In this Touhou Project doujin 4koma, Reimu convinces Marisa to donate to her shrine through use of one of her birds. Marisa drops a bill for 10,000 Zimbabwean dollars into Reimu's donation box (not even worth a single yen). The next strip has Reimu going on the warpath.
- Linus Tech Tips: The Techquickie episode "Nvidia's on a roll..." (October 5, 2020) has Linus say Apple is suing an Ontario recycling firm for reselling over 100,000 Apple products that should have been recycled. He also says that Apple is suing for 23 million US dollars in damages, which he says is about "100 trillion Canadian shillings". Doing the math, one US dollar is approximately 4.3 million Canadian shillings.
- Parodied in Season 0 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, where Ushio charges Yugi 20,000 yen for beating up Joey and Tristan. A panicked Yugi then remarks "That's like a whole dollar!" note
- In the Joe Oriolo Felix the Cat cartoon "Penelope the Elephant", Rock Bottom kidnaps a lost elephant from Felix that he intended to return to her Rajah for a 50,000,000 bakshee reward. Rock Bottom makes it there ahead of Felix, but to the former's shock, it turns out the reward money is worthless—50,000,000 bakshee is only worth 10 cents in American money. He's so flabbergasted at this outcome, he angrily throws the meager award aside and goes into shock, while Felix gets the last laugh.
- In the Reality Show parody cartoon Drawn Together, when Toot Braunstein and Ling Ling accidentally kill the hottest prostitute in Mexico, they are given 24 hours to pay the fine of 500 billion pesos. Horrified, Ling Ling yells "That's almost 12 american dollars!"
- In an episode of Cow and Chicken, the two titular characters take a plane towards Canada after entering a funny home video contest, and they win 20,000 Canadian dollars... but little did they knew, that the exchange rate was $1 US = $80,000 Canadian, which means they just won 25 American cents.
- In an episode of Family Guy, when on a South American island Peter gets $37 out of his wallet. This makes him the richest man on the island.
- The Simpsons:
- In "The Old Man and the C Student", a representative for Russia asks the Olympic committee for Russia to host the Olympics as it would stimulate its economy and help its exchange rate of 1 US dollar to 7 rubles... which quickly escalates to over a thousand rubles.
Where the American dollar buys seven rubles." *pager beeps* Twelve rubles! *pager beeps* Sixty rubles! *pager beeps* "One THOUSAND rubles... I MUST GO!"
- In another episode, the family visits Canada. They pay for some cheap trinket with American cash, causing the shocked Canadian who took their money to proclaim that he was now set for life. (This was before the 2000s decline of the U.S. Dollar's trading power, when "Oh, it's only a Canadian dollar" actually meant something.)
- In the season 2 episode "Three Men and a Comic Book", Bart takes an old foreign coin collection of his to a bank to exchange it for American currency. He is disappointed to find out that the whole collection is only worth three cents. Then again, the collection (a gift from his aunts) was likely a cheap airport souvenir and probably just as worthless in its country of origin.
- Played with in "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo". When Homer exchanges his American dollars into Japanese yen, he (and the rest of the family) thinks that everything in Japan is very expensive because of the large prices. In reality though: 100 yen is worth about 1 American dollar. This doesn't stop Homer from buying what he calls a "50 dollar pretzel."
- In one of the Halloween episodes, Homer attempts to smuggle souvenirs out of an unidentified Middle Eastern country without paying export duties. When he is caught, he is surrounded by armed policemen who demand he pay a fine "... of two American dollars!"
- In "The Old Man and the C Student", a representative for Russia asks the Olympic committee for Russia to host the Olympics as it would stimulate its economy and help its exchange rate of 1 US dollar to 7 rubles... which quickly escalates to over a thousand rubles.
- In the DuckTales (1987) episode "Dough Ray Me", the boys want extra allowance money, and go to Gyro's place in the hope of getting some cash for chores, but stumble into an invention that uses sound to duplicate objects, which they use to multiply a dollar coin Mrs. Beakly gave them earlier to leave her alone. Unfortunately, the sound of any bell causes the coins to multiply, and soon after Duckburg is buried in dollar coins, driving up costs, and rendering McDuck's fortune worthless.
- In The New Woody Woodpecker Show, Woody once found a Russian satellite that crashed and then he sold it to the junkyard for a few dollars. Later on, he learned the Russian Government offered five million units of their currency and he tried to get it back. After managing to get it back and take it to the Russians, he learned the money was worth less than the money he got when he sold it to the junkyard.
- The Jetsons: George once won the lottery. The prize was worth 7.5 million dollars when he won. However, the economy of Venus suffered a collapse before he exchanged it in American dollars, turning the prize worthless.
- In an episode of Metalocalypse, Nathan, now the governor of Florida, tries to solve the US' funding problem by introducing a new currency called Death Dollars and printing a lot of them. Needless to say, the money was totally worthless and ruined the already mostly destroyed state by driving them into an irreparable recession.
- Robot Chicken spoofed The Six Million Dollar Man with the Six Million Peso Man (who upon being completed immediately disappears past the US border).
Mexican Government Man: "That's 283 American dollars we won't see again..."
- The Venture Brothers: Dr. Venture is initially very pleased at the amount of the check he receives for lecturing at a Mexican university, then he dejectedly notes it's in pesos.
Dr. Venture: "All these zeroes are meaningless."
- TaleSpin: When Baloo recovers an idol from Colonel Spigot he trades it in for a 13 million torbit reward. He calls Rebecca, bragging that he's going to buy the Sea Duck back, while Louie figures out the exchange rate from torbits to shaboozis (Cape Suzette currency). Eight shaboozis worth of gas (plus ice cream tab, tax, and tip) wipes out the whole reward. Suddenly completely broke, Baloo is forced to do an immediate about-face, meekly telling Rebecca he'll be back to work tomorrow and asking if he can reverse charges on the call.
- Home: Adventures with Tip & Oh: Tip tries to make some spare money by taxing Boov around all day; at the end of the day she and Oh count the large piles of currency they have collected only to find out the 6,034 Gleeblos they have are worth $3.00 USD.
Some currencies, though, are actually quite stable; they just have a lot of zeroes attached to the end. Either way, if you're used to dollars, euros, or pounds, life can get a little weird in those countries.
- Zimbabwe is the by-word for hyperinflation, giving us the page image at the top. The 100 trillion-dollar bill◊ from 2009 set a record for the most zeroes ever put on a banknote with 14 — and this was after two revaluations that cut 13 more zeroes. Inflation rates were in the millions of percent (sometimes billions), and it became more appropriate to speak of the currency's "half-life" (i.e. how long it takes for it to lose half its value) — a stable currency might last 35 years, but the Zimbabwe dollar's half-life at its worst was just 24 hours. People were withdrawing money so much that ATMs started malfunctioning just from an inability to handle the ridiculous numbers. 2009 was the last straw, when the Zimbabwe government just gave up and made the U.S. dollar (alongside other reserve currencies such as the South African rand, Chinese yuan, Pound sterling and Japanese yen) the official currency. Today, they use the U.S. dollar, and a new Zimbabwean dollar.
- In Zaire in 1993, longtime dictator Mobutu Sese Seko replaced the currency with the "nouveau zaire", which was worth three million old zaire.
- The Mozambique metical was the lowest-valued currency in the world in 2004 (i.e. before Zimbabwe started going to shit), with the exchange rate hitting a low of 24,500 meticais per dollar. In 2006, Mozambique redenominated the metical at a rate of 1000:1.
- The São Tomé and Príncipe dobra fell from 12,000 dobras per euro in 2004 to about 24,500 per euro in 2009, when the country signed a deal with Portugal to peg the dobra to the euro at that rate. Then they revalued the currency at the rate of 1,000 old dobras to one new dobra in 2018.
- The Indonesian rupiah was hugely devalued during the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, to the point that Indonesian students started making a habit of taking part-time jobs in Singapore at places like McDonald's, so they could get paid in Singapore dollars and exchange them for millions of rupiah. It's stabilized since then, but the exchange rate is still pretty ridiculous, at between 14,000 and 15,000 rupiah per U.S. dollar.
- The South Korean won is another stable currency with a ridiculous exchange rate of about 1,000 won per U.S. dollar. South Korea is a very industrialized and developed economy, so it doesn't rely too much on cash, but you might still find yourself in a situation where you need to pay with a proverbial Briefcase Full of Money. (U.S. military in Korea particularly have to deal with this, as Korean landlords prefer soldiers to pay the year's rent up front in cash.)
- North Korea also has a won, and given the nature of the country's famously strict command economy, it's worth a lot less on the open market (read: the country's huge and poorly controlled Black Market) than the North Korean government says it does. The biggest shock came in 2009, when the government not only chopped two zeroes off the currency, but at the same time also instituted wage hikes (ostensibly to illustrate the nation's "prosperity") — the real goal of it was to wait for the currency's black market rate to collapse back to "normal" and, in so doing, wipe out the population's savings and thus eliminate any illusion of financial independence from the system.
- The Japanese yen has had an interesting history. World War II precipitated a huge decline in the yen to fund the war effort, and Imperial Japan exacerbated the problem by printing "banana money" for use in its occupied territories, which had no serial numbers and were thus trivially easy to counterfeit — by the time the war ended, those yen were totally worthless. Also totally worthless were the sen (1/100 yen) and rin (1/1000 yen) coins. After the war, the Japan fixed the yen to the U.S. dollar at 360:1,note but as the country recovered and industrialized, the currency strengthened dramatically, and by the time Japan was ready to take over the world it was only about 80 yen to the U.S. dollar. Now it's somewhere between 100 and 120 yen to the dollar, and while it's not thought of as a particularly valuable currency, it's actually one of the most traded currencies in the world. Incidentally, Japan likes to keep the yen relatively weaker, because its economy relies heavily on exports, and people are always going to want to buy more of your stuff if it's cheaper. Its low inflation also makes Japan popular with international tourists, who are able to travel over and afford plenty of things with any money they convert into yen.
- The Philippine peso was pegged to the U.S. dollar at 1:1, the Philippines long having been tight with the U.S. (having once been an American colony and relying on American help to fend off the Japanese), but it's now somewhere between 40 and 50 pesos per dollar with a roller-coaster ride through practically every value along the way.
- The Vietnamese đồngnote is worth somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 to the U.S. dollar. It's gotten worse over time, even though the country's economy has been supposedly "ready to take off" for the last decade; when Top Gear (UK) did their Vietnam special in 2008 (and Jeremy bragged about his shoebox full of cash before realizing it would only buy him a motorcycle), it was closer to 15,000 to the dollar.
- China during the Chinese Civil War was not a politically stable place, especially during the 1940s, when the Communists, Nationalists, and various warlords were all vying for power in different bits of the country. The currency during this time was so mistrusted that smart Chinese businessmen preferred to be paid in gold, silver (still plenty of Qing-era ingots left), or opium.
- The Weimar Republic's Deutsche mark was one of the best known examples. The common story is that Weimar Germany, saddled with huge debts and reparations from World War I, ran the presses until the whole debt was paid, but the famous 1923 hyperinflation was more acutely caused by the Ruhr Crisis, when the country missed a reparations payment, and the French and Belgians teamed up to occupy the Ruhr Valley, which was Germany's industrial heartland and crippled the country's economy. At its worst, one U.S. dollar was worth 420 quadrillion marks (that's a 42 and 16 zeroes), the country at one point printed a 100 quadrillion mark banknote, and even postage stamps said 20 billion marks. There are a ton of famous anecdotes about the worthlessness of the Weimar mark, such as being better suited for firewood or wallpaper◊, or the story of someone who forgets a wheelbarrow full of money and comes back to find the money dumped on the ground with the wheelbarrow stolen.
- The post-war Hungarian pengő experienced the single worst hyperinflation in history. The largest banknote◊ was worth 100 quintillion pengő (that's a 1 followed by 20 zeroes), which is the single highest denomination banknote ever issuednote — and even that was effectively worthless. The currency's "half-life" was as low as fifteen hours at its worst. The pengő was eventually replaced by the forint in August 1946 at a rate of 400 octillionnote pengő to the forint, and to give you an idea of just how ridiculous this number is: if you could buy one atom of hydrogen for one pengő — just one atom — you could fill The Hindenburg for twenty-five forints. (And, at 2010 exchange rates, that would run you a little over 12¢ US, less than a tenth of a euro.) Following the end of the hyperinflation, the next currency-related problem Hungary had to deal with was a shortage of currency-quality paper.
- In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Poland was just getting used to the whole "market economy" thing, and the value of the Polish zloty fell so badly that before the redenomination in 1995, the largest bill in circulation (introduced in 1992) was "only" two million zlotys◊, roughly 80 U.S. dollars at the time. The new zloty was established by dropping four zeroes from the old zloty.
- In Yugoslavia, right as the country started to fall apart, the Yugoslav dinar experienced extreme hyperinflation as well, leading to the printing of the 500 billion dinar note◊, which with 12 zeroes broke the record for most zeroes ever printed on a banknote before Zimbabwe beat that in 2009.
- Russia has seen every currency fluctuation you can think of:
- During the Russian Civil War, not only was the ruble notoriously worthless (even post-revaluation, a million rubles was petty change; before then, it was pretty much toilet paper), but its rate wasn't even unified. Every town or petty government issued its own scrip, resulting in thousands of currency units in one country. The most notorious was the kerenki, the scrip of the Provisional Government; it was so poorly made that any printing device could (and did) make indistinguishable counterfeits, and they eventually became so worthless that they weren't even cut into individual banknotes, but rather used as 1x1 meter uncut sheets, leading to the money unit being "meters of kerenki".
- The Soviet Union was a strict command economy, and there was a huge disparity between the "official" exchange rate for the Soviet ruble and the black market exchange rate, the latter of which was much more commensurate with the currency's real value. If you managed to get into the Soviet Union with foreign currency (or cool Western goods like jeans), and you could exchange it on the black market, your purchasing power in the Soviet Union was near limitless.
- The New Russia was hit by another round of hyperinflation, and although not quite as bad as before, prices had skyrocketed to there being four more zeroes compared to the Soviet era. The government tried a couple of stopgap measures which failed miserably (like the "Ural franc", an attempt to reintroduce local scrip), before it relented in 1998 and revalued the ruble. It's now relatively stable at 60-70 rubles per U.S. dollar, although it's sometimes seen as a "petrocurrency" and not particularly trusted in the global market. It tanked after the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and now sits at 90 rubles per $1, though thanks to sanctions on Russia a large portion of the world is forbidden to deal in rubles anyway.
- The old Italian lira was a longtime easy target for this trope, particularly given the notoriously dysfunctional government and Obstructive Bureaucracy and the country's popularity with American tourists, which gave the impression that it was worth whatever the government felt it was worth this week. That bureaucracy actually stymied attempts to revalue the currency in the 1980s by slashing three zeroes from it. By the time it was replaced by the euro, one euro was worth almost 2000 lira.
- Axis-occupied Greece witnessed one of the worst hyperinflations in history — in October 1944, it hit a monthly rate of 13,800%, which works out to a half-life of about 4.3 days.
- Revolutionary France issued the assignats, so named because they "assigned" the value of the church's estates. But they issued so many of them that their value collapsed, to the point that the State had to order the death penalty for those who refused to accept it.
- The French franc would have similar issues through the first half of the 20th century, and especially after 1945, with the exchange rate reaching 980 francs to the British pound by 1949. Revaluation in 1960 would reduce the imbalance, with one new franc equalling 100 old francs.
- The Romanian leu was briefly the world's least valued currency, trading at 36,000 per euro. It was redenominated at a rate of 10,000 old lei per new leu.
- A couple of subversions: the old Cyprus pound, Maltese lira, and Latvian lat were all worth more than the British pound — and British tourists, used to the notion that their own currency was the world's strongest, tended not to find out the truth until after a night of drinking. They got the last laugh, though, when all three currencies were dropped in favour of the euro, which (until Brexit at least) was not as strong as the pound.
The Middle East
- The Turkish lira was even more of a Butt-Monkey currency than the Italian lira. It was the least valued currency in the world until 2005, trading at about 2 million lira per British pound, when it was revalued by dropping six zeroes. The Howard Stern Show had a bit called "Who Wants to Be a Turkish Millionaire?", where the winner would receive a million Turkish lira — at the time, worth about fifty cents.
- Israel used to have its own pound, which was replaced by the shekel at 10 pounds per shekel in 1980. The shekel lasted until 1985 before it was replaced by the new shekel at a rate of 1,000 old shekels per new shekel.
- The Egyptian pound trades at about 16-17 per U.S. dollar, which doesn't sound so bad — until you realize that it was once worth as many as two or even three British pounds. In fact, it was originally pegged to exactly one British guinea (a pound and a shilling, or £1.05 post-decimalisation), and currency controls allowed it to appreciate, before Anwar Sadat initiated economic restructuring in The '70s which allowed the currency to float — all the way down to where it is now. Some Egyptians with very long-term real estate "leases" were quite lucky to see this happen.
- The Iranian rial lost 80% of its value between January and October 2012, and during this period it saw several days of double-digit losses. It is currently worth around 42,000 per U.S. dollar in the official exchange rate, but trades over ten times that number in the black market, due to the continuing sanctions slapped by the U.S. towards Iran, and hyperinflation has led to a few protests. The toman reckoning of chopping off a zero is common.
- The Iraqi dinar has, since the 2003 invasion, been worth ~0.00084 USD. According to speculators, if one were to purchase millions of Iraqi dinar, and then if the Dinar was revalued to be the same as the USD, you'd be worth billions. Of course, this will not happen, regardless of what scammers say.
- The Middle East is also home to a few subversions, featuring the top four strongest currencies in the world — the Jordanian dinar, the Bahraini dinar, the Kuwaiti dinar, and the Omani rial. Again, British tourists convinced that their own currency is the world's strongest tend to get burned in these countries — especially in Kuwait, where one dinar is worth about 2.70 GBP (3.30 USD).
- The United States not only proudly has a "reserve currency", but through such global events as the Bretton Woods conference and the "Nixon shock" of the 1970s has basically been setting the rules for global currency trading over the last few decades. It's naturally got a lot of experience with when to print money and when not to print money, but some of this it learned the hard way:
- The Articles of Confederation basically left printing money to the individual states; the Continental Congress issued its own currency too. Nobody, however, printed anything worth a damn, except perhaps to lend the phrase "not worth a Continental". Most Americans, if they needed an actual currency, would use the existing Spanish real coins that were pervasive in the Americas at the time. George Washington complained once that one needed a wagon of money to buy a wagon of hay. This is why the modern Constitution specifically prohibits the states from issuing paper money.
- Even after the Constitution was implemented, states realized that although they couldn't issue paper money, they could issue charters to banks and allow them to issue banknotes, which could be exchanged on demand for gold and silver U.S. dollar coins (practically identical to the Spanish "dollar", or 8-real piece). This led to nearly a thousand different institutions issuing such banknotes, whether or not they had the actual gold and silver reserves to exchange them — and they were so commonly counterfeited that people started rejecting real ones, especially if they came from an institution they hadn't heard of. Americans kept using Spanish coins until the Civil War, when the U.S. government — needing a way to actually fund the war effort — established a standardized U.S. currency that's the predecessor to the modern greenback.
- During The American Civil War, Confederate paper money was notoriously worthless (although now some rare bills might be valuable collector's items). The Union tried printing counterfeit bills to undermine the Confederate dollar, but success was hard to gauge — even though they were poor and cheap fakes, nobody valued them any less than the real thing. The counterfeit bills are sometimes even more valuable as collector's items than the real bills (and they also don't run afoul of U.S. law prohibiting ownership of counterfeit currency, since even real Confederate money isn't legal tendernote ). The Confederacy didn't last long enough to make its own coins to go with the paper money (though a silver half-dollar and a one cent coin were designed and had a handful of prototypes struck), instead just using U.S. dollar coins, since the Confederate dollar was meant to have the same value as the U.S. dollar. In fact, the Confederate dollar was more like a bond or promissory note than actual currency: It simply represented a promise that it could be redeemed for hard currency once the South gained independence. As the fortunes of war turned against them, Southerners lost faith that it could ever be redeemed, and inflation soared.
- During Texas's brief stint as an independent republic, the Texan dollar (colloquially the "redback") became so inflated that even the Texan government wouldn't accept it for payment of taxes, insisting instead on U.S. dollars, gold, or silver.
- Subverted (against all logic) by San Francisco "Emperor" Joshua Norton I, who printed scrip or bonds in the 1870s and used them to pay for things — successfully, as he was a cult figure in the city, and businesses liked to show that they had his "Imperial" approval. Local businesses accepted them at fifty cents' face value, and when the time came for Norton to pay up, he printed even more scrip and used that instead. It still worked. When he died, all the scrip instantly became worthless; however, nowadays surviving Norton scrip can be worth tens of thousands of dollars as collectibles.
- The Mexican peso occasionally gets this treatment, partly from some historical inflationary episodes, but mostly from its status as an acceptable target for Americans. The worst was between 1982 and 1994, when the peso was essentially a "petrocurrency", and when the price of oil fell, the peso collapsed and the entire economy went with it.note In 1993, the "new peso" was issued at an exchange rate of 1,000:1; the "new" was dropped in 1996. The current exchange rate is around 18 pesos to the U.S. dollar, but Americans still get confused sometimes, because both the peso and dollar use the "$" symbol,note and you're never quite sure which one they want.
- The Canadian dollar is often thought of by Americans as "funny money", but again, this has more to do with the country's Butt-Monkey neighbor status among Americans than anything else. The Canadian dollar has never fallen below about 0.61 U.S. dollars, and on a few rare occasions has been even stronger than the U.S. dollar. (Fluctuations are the result of things like global oil price changes.) For much of the late 2000s and early 2010s, the U.S. and Canadian dollars were within just a few cents of each other in value. But its pretty colours, evocative names (the "loonie" and "toonie"), and general lack of usefulness outside of Canadanote fit it in with the general "Canada is weird" aesthetic in the States. The main issue with the Canadian dollar is that entities that do a lot of business in the U.S. tend to get a lot of U.S. dollars and are thus more exposed to currency risk — Canadians mostly care that this discrepancy forced two NHL teams to move from Canada to the U.S. in The '90s, and they still haven't forgiven the Yanks for that (even after they got one back).note
South AmericaThe problem seems to be endemic in South America:
- The Chilean escudo, first issued in 1960, was replaced in 1975 by the "new peso" at a rate of around 1000 escudos per peso. The Chilean peso is now one of the single most stable currencies in Latin America, and it's still around 600 pesos to the U.S. dollar; even during the government-shaking 2019 protests, it peaked at around 830. The one quirk is the 50 peso coin that's worth around 50 dollars because the government misspelled the country's name on it.
- Brazil faced hyperinflation several times over the 20th century, each time introducing a new currency only to see it lose value again. The ended in 1994 with the Plano Real, when (as This American Life once put it) the government lied to the people to restore confidence in the currency... and it worked. If you're counting, one modern real equals 2,750 cruzeiros reais (1993-94), and if you want to go back to the colonial era real, one modern real is 2.75 quintillion colonial reais.
- Argentina seems to go through currency collapses as a matter of course. The country was quite prosperous in the early part of the 20th century, and in 1944, a U.S. dollar was worth 4 Argentine pesos — this being the moneda nacional, which after several rounds of revaluation equals 10 trillion modern Argentine pesos. It came to a head around 2002, when after a disastrous experiment in pegging the peso to the U.S. dollar, Argentina gave up, put its currency on the float, and saw the bottom utterly fall out, with a peak monthly inflation of 10.4% in April 2002.
- Ecuador abandoned its own currency and uses the U.S. dollar. At the time it did so, one U.S. dollar was worth 25,000 sucres.
- The Peruvian inti was subject to such extreme inflation in the 1980s that by 1991, having already printed a 5 million inti banknote, the country introduced the nuevo sol at the rate of one million inti per sol.
- Venezuela is a byword for hyperinflation, especially among Communist-hating Americans who see it as a textbook example of what happens when you go Communist (or more accurately, when self-proclaimed Socialists try to regulate a market through wishful thinking, combined with an economy based almost entirely on oil exports, while failing to invest in maintaining oil production facilities). It started with president Hugo Chávez and continued under his successor Nicolás Maduro — neither saw a need to let the global market decide their currency's value, and the bolivar was worth whatever they said it was worth. They didn't take the black market into account — ignoring the market won't make it go away, it just pushes it off the books. By 2016, inflation was around 700% — by July 2018, Maduro's opposition was claiming it was over 80,000% per year, and the black market exchange rate was six million new bolivars (or six billion pre-2008 bolivars) per U.S. dollar. A further redenomination took place in 2018, with one bolivar soberano (sovereign bolivar) equaling 100,000 bolivares fuertes. The country's famously antagonistic relationship with the U.S. has led it to abandon any outside help, and the extreme corruption, currency controls, and disparity between official and unofficial exchange rates has led to government and police getting very rich at the expense of people who can't afford basic necessities. Maduro tried to solve this problem by proposing the "petro", essentially a petroleum-backed currency pegged at 60 U.S. dollars per "petro", then nominally pegging the sovereign bolivar at the rate of 1 petro to 3600 sovereign bolivars. This didn't work. In August 2021, six zeroes were dropped off.
- Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, is not a "real" currency by many definitions — and if you treated it like it was, you could get some ridiculous exchange rates. Cryptocurrencies' decentralised nature means they're often extremely volatile — one unit may be worth thousands of dollars one day and only a hundred the next. But many of them, at their height, were indeed worth thousands of dollars — for instance, at the beginning of 2021, one Bitcoin was worth more than $30,000. Because of this, Bitcoin is usually divided into sub-denominations, many of which are much smaller than they would be for traditional currencies — for instance, there are a hundred million "satoshis" in each Bitcoin (about 33,000 satoshis to the dollar).