Visitors to Zimbabwe are snapping up old, defunct Zimbabwe bank notes, preferring them to some traditional African curios and souvenirs of the country’s acclaimed stone sculpture.
Most sought after is the one hundred trillion Zimbabwe dollar bill, the highest denomination when the currency was abandoned in 2009 and the American dollar became legal tender.
It sells for anything around US$10, depending on its condition.
“I had to have one. The numbers are mind bending,” said one visitor at the northwestern resort town of Victoria Falls. She got hers, in pristine condition, from a street vendor who usually sells African carvings.
Numerically, one hundred trillion is 100 followed by 12 zeros on the bills.
“It’s perfect if you like puzzles, calculus and things like Rubik’s Cube,” she said.
With the population of the world at 7 billion people, every single person on earth could have been given thousands of old Zimbabwe dollars from a single 100 trillion note. Beggars at home billionaires.
Visitors buy the bills for their curiosity value. An Australian wanted one to display in his local bar back home.
Vendors said visitors have been so intrigued by the Zimbabwe bills that they are now running out of them.
At the height of Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown in 2008 Zimbabwe’s world record inflation was running into the billions in percent annually and prices were climbing each hour.
Teachers reported the printing of bank notes from millions to billions and then trillions skewed their pupils’ sense of numeracy, making them fail to grasp the realities of numbers.
On one geography field trip, students scoffed at being told granite rocks swept over Zimbabwe by ancient glaciers were 700 million years old. That time frame seemed insignificant.
“Only 700 million years old, sir!”
Back in 2008, 700 million Zimbabwe dollars bought a loaf of bread when shop shelves were not completely empty.
The central bank earlier sliced off several zeros from astronomical notes, but large transactions were still calculated in quadrillions (15 zeros) and quintillions (18 zeros) until the demise of the local currency.
Now here’s a numbers puzzle: If the pyramids in Egypt are 5,000 years old, there are 155 billion seconds in 5,000 years and 1,000 billion make a trillion. How many years are there in 100 trillion seconds?