Cash, it would seem, is on its way out. From practically universal credit card acceptance in developed countries (most notably in Scandinavia) to mobile payments in Africa and the Philippines to the advent of completely new types of currency such as Bitcoin, paper currency notes (and, by extension, coins) are becoming a thing of the past. In a purely practical sense this thrills travelers, at least those who can't be bothered to go to an ATM unless they absolutely must.
Yet many travelers love currency notes, particularly the oddest ones from around the world. Continue reading to learn more about the world's most bizarre banknotes.
Zimbabwe Dollar – $100,000,000,000
Zimbabwe hasn't had a lot of positive press for...well, most of its existence. When the media hasn't been busy covering the dictatorial regime of its now-deposed "President" Robert Mugabe, it's been focusing on the country's many financial problems, which culminated in the late 2000s when hyperinflation led the currency to failure. Prior to this, the government of Zimbabwe issued a $100 trillion note. Its value? Just $300 U.S.—at its highest. Needless to say, it might be best to use Visa, American Express, Mastercard or Discover on your next trip to Zimbabwe, if you can.
Swiss Franc – CHF 50
You don't usually use the words "weird" and "Switzerland" in the same sentence unless you're talking about what might be the weirdest structure in the world's most normal nation. Another notable exception to this rule is the 50 Swiss franc bill, which features a portrait of artist Sophie Taeuber-Arp.
This earns her the distinction of being the only woman one Swiss currency, but the reason it's so bizarre is decidedly more hip, another word you might not associate with Switzerland. The portrait of Taueber-Arp on the back of the 50 CHF is one she did herself, which makes it the only known selfie to appear on currency yet. Pretty impressive, considering the times we live in and how long ago Mrs. Taueber-Arp died.
Zaire – 20,000 Zaires
Moving right along in our discussion of the currency woes of troubled African nations, feast your eyes on the 20,000 Zaire note, a currency piece of a country formerly known by the same name. The weird thing about this note is not the denomination, which is tiny compared to its Zimbabwean cousin, nor is it the fact that Zaire is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It's the fact that the face of former leader Joseph Mobuto was manually punched out of the bills after the coup that brought his government down in 1997.
Cook Islands Dollar – $10
Enough for tales of woe and despair—let's get back to female empowerment! Well, that's one way to look at the Cook Islands $10 note, which depicts a topless woman riding on a shark. Even if you find the woman's scantily-clad appearance to be offensive, there's no denying the tropical beauty of the banknote. Then again, if you've ever visited or Googled pictures of the Cook Islands, this beauty won't come as a surprise to you.
U.S. Dollar – $100
The United States dollar is the picture of boring money, but you have to admit: The latest series of the $100 bill, first introduced in 2009, is pretty bizarre looking. "Security" features like the honey-pot looking ink well and the "100" scrawled on the back in a contemporary-looking Arial or Helvetica font that looks absolutely out of place on the bill, which gives it an overall disjointed look, one the most negative among Americans might even call ugly, which is a shame considering that the $5, $10 and $20 are all in the process of re-calibrations one can only assume will be similar to the $100.
Then again, it had been rumored during the Obama years that all of the notes could be re-designed entirely—and confirmed that a woman would eventually appear on a bill—but it's unclear as to whether either of those eventualities will happen under the Trump administration.
On the surface, Venezuela's Bolivar notes are not remarkable, and could easily be confused with other South American currencies. Similar to the currency of Zimbabwe, however, the Venezuelan Bolivar is almost worthless, as the global press has widely reported. The currency is currently experiencing "hyperinflation": It takes more than 100,000 Bolivars to buy one US dollar as of August 2018; as of February 2018, that number was under 25,000; it was officially around 10 throughout all of 2017.