Money doesn’t grow on trees
In the record books, again for all the wrong reasons. Until September, Zimbabweans can cash in their old defunct local currency, the Zimbabwe dollar. The biggest bank note, ZD 100 trillion, gets US 40 cents.
(Contemporary Zimbabwean Art Deco)
Just how much is 100 trillion mathematically? If the pyramids in Egypt are 5,000 years old, there are about 155 billion seconds in 5,000 years and 1,000 billion make a trillion. How many years are there, then, in 100 trillion seconds?
Alison wrote to say: “I make it 3,225,806.45 years!” That’s three million, two hundred and twenty five thousand and eight hundred and six years and five months and four days.
She’s spot on. There are 3,600 seconds in an hour, 86,400 in a day and 31.5 million seconds in a year. So it’s about 155 billion seconds in 5,000 years.
1,000 billion make a trillion and there are 6.4516 batches of 155 billion in a trillion. Multiply 6.4516 by 5,000 years and multiply that result by 100. There it is. Three million plus years in 100 trillion seconds.
Our cash equivalent of three million years is US 40 cents.
There are 400 billion Zimbabwe dollars in the hanging basket in the picture above – about 13,000 years in seconds – and a few cent coins used as weights. The outer notes are ZD 200 million, 5 billion notes are behind them.
Here are more brain breakers too. In finally withdrawing the old local monetary unit abandoned during hyperinflation in 2009 in favour mostly of the American dollar and the South African rand, ZD 175 quadrillion held in dormant bank accounts – that’s 175,000,000,000,000,000 (15 zeros) in Zimbabwe dollars – pays out US$5. An additional ZD 35 quadrillion in the same account gets US$ 1
A modest one million has 6 zeros, one billion has 9 zeros and one trillion has 12 zeros. A quadrillion, therefore, with 15 zeros, is the next quantum up from a trillion. Get it?
Now ZD 25 trillion in a bank, in a credit not paper notes – 25tn is 80 million years in seconds – gets US$ 1.
Souvenir hunters and collectors on the Internet will pay at least US$ 30 apiece for a ZD 100 trillion bank note and much more if there is a set or range of other astronomical denominations that are in good condition.
The last official inflation in Zimbabwe dollars was given as 230 million percent, but then the fiscal authorities gave up counting. At the end, a ZD 100 trillion note barely bought a loaf of bread.
What could you buy with quadrillions, quintillions (18 zeros) or sextillions (21 zeros)? A house, a car, a container of raw materials? It’s anyone’s guess. It would have been crazy to buy or sell anything at all when the pundits said runaway inflation finally reached its peak of 500 billion percent and it was cheaper to pay for a meal in a restaurant before eating it rather than afterwards.
Before the Zimbabwe dollar began its world record decline a decade earlier, a modest, brand new four door saloon car cost about ZD 140,000 – 38 minutes counted in seconds, or US$ 17,500 at the official exchange rate.