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One Trillion Dollars
Photography: Gabe Mandel

Who Wants to Be a Trillionaire?

It’s tax season. Not much fun, right? Perhaps, but I’d like to see if we can buck that trend and have some fun with numbers for a moment. A friend just sent me this photo of some actual paper money from Zimbabwe. One hundred trillion dollars, that’s more than a little mind-boggling. So, I turned to Dan, one of our Africa trip planners (who has actually lived in ‘Zim’) for a bit of context. Herewith some facts and figures:

  • In the early 1980s, the Zimbabwean dollar was more or less at par with the US dollar
  • When it was discontinued in 2008, this bill for one hundred trillion dollars was worth the equivalent of $1 US
  • In those days, it was common for people to bring a backpack of cash to go grocery shopping. Payment was counted in bricks of cash, not the number of notes.
  • Today, the official currency of Zimbabwe is the US dollar
  • There are no US metal coins in circulation in Zimbabwe. So if you pay for something in bills and are due change you’re either given South African rand coins or candy. Yes, candy. Many stores keep a bowl of candy by the till and simple scoop out an arbitrary handful of change.
  • It would take 382 trillion $1 US bills to cover the entire country of Zimbabwe with a thin layer of paper

It’s worth adding that the political and economic situation in Zimbabwe is not a laughing matter. Far from it. Rich in history, culture and wildlife, Zim has proven itself a remarkably resilient country. We’re hopeful that things will soon turn a corner and better sense will prevail.

Charlie is a proud trillionaire. 

Payment was counted in bricks of cash, not the number of notes.

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