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Strange currency: The world's weirdest coins and currencies

In a world that’s becoming increasingly cashless, actual coins and notes are slowly becoming a rare novelty. And with the rise of cryptocurrency, the definition of ‘money’ is loosening too.

When you look around the world, you’ll find all sorts of wonderful and strange currencies. Here are our favourites.

US dollar and Zimbabwe 100 trillion dollar bill 
 

Bottle caps in Cameroon

In 2005, a brewery in Cameroon started printing prize offers under beer bottle caps to boost sales.

Competitors followed suit until eventually, for the price of one beer, you were almost guaranteed to win anything from another beer to a sports car.

People then started using their bottle caps to pay their taxi fares. Taxi drivers used them to bribe the traffic police. Pretty soon they became a small part of the local economy.

 

The Zimbabwe 100 trillion dollar note

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe around 2008 led to bills ranging from 10 billion to 100 trillion dollars in value being printed.

Despite being able to call yourself a multi-trillionaire in Zimbabwe, the note was barely enough to buy a loaf of bread.

Things have calmed down a lot since then. You can pick up nearly 500 Zimbabwe dollars for £1.

Ironically, the 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note is something of a collector’s item.

 

Canadian $10 bill

Canadian dollar bills are among the most colourful in the world, often decorated with national pastimes like ice hockey.

Initially, Canadian dollars were considered unusual because they were made from plastic. But since the UK started making polymer notes in 2016, Canada’s unique status no longer applied.

So in 2019, Canada issued a $10 bill that was designed vertically.

It’s not completely unique, though. You can also find vertical banknotes in Switzerland.

 

The QUID

In 2007, Scientists from the National Space Centre and the University of Leicester designed the Quasi Universal Intergalactic Denomination (QUID). It was a proposed ‘space currency’ used for inter-planetary transactions.

The ‘coins’ were designed with smooth edges to avoid damaging spacecraft, and were made from teflon for durability. The currency was widely panned when it was introduced, with many calling the stunt ‘useless’. But they do look cool.

 

The American dollar

The American dollar is shrouded in conspiracy theories, because of the dozens of weird symbols across it. Take, for example, the Masonic ‘all-seeing eye’, a hidden spider, and a secret skull and crossbones.

They're called conspiracy ‘theories’ for a reason, so don’t get too excited. 

And with films like the National Treasure franchise adding fuel, there are no shortage of 'explainer' videos on YouTube. So when you're travelling to the USA, keep an eye out for any secrets. 

 

Dogecoin

You know you’ve reached peak internet when a meme about a confused dog becomes a legitimate currency.

Not satisfied with the rise of the intangible Bitcoin, cryptocurrency pioneers decided to use the famous Shiba Inu to create Dogecoin.

What was initially created as a joke quickly became an actual currency, and a number of online services actually accept Dogecoin as payment.

Wow. Much future. Very money. Wow.

 

Zairean Zaire

When Zaire’s (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) dictator Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled in 1997, the government needed money fast. But the only notes they had still bore the face of the former ruler. 

So they did the logical thing and punched out his face from all their banknotes.

As you might expect, these notes are now considered to be collector’s items.

 

Somalian colourful coins

Somalia has a tradition of producing colourful and oddly-shaped coins of all sorts, from guitars to animals, motorbikes and international flags.

Don’t expect these to be in regular circulation, though. These ‘coins’ were minted to celebrate special events and were limited in number.

 

2017 Norwegian krone

In 2017 Norway designed pixelated banknotes which were praised as works of art.

With a running theme of "the sea", the Viking warship, lighthouse and choppy ocean waves really are beautiful to look at.

It’s not every day you can put a banknote on your wall and call it a conversation piece.

 

Scottish Sterling

While Scottish coins are the same as in the rest of the UK, Scotland has its own notes in circulation.

They look quite different to what we see south of the wall, but they’ve been around since the 19th century. And you might have had an argument with the odd shopkeeper about Scottish notes being legal tender elsewhere in the UK.

But here’s the kicker - they’re not legal tender.

Shopkeepers in England and Wales aren’t legally obliged to accept Scottish banknotes. By the same token, they’re not legally obliged to take debit cards either.

According to the Bank of England, ‘legal tender’ only applies to Royal Mint coins and Bank of England notes.

Even then, 1p and 2p coins are only ‘legal tender’ if the total amount is less than 20p. So your local supermarket is within their rights to refuse your sock full of coppers.

 

Does travel insurance cover cash?

A standard travel insurance policy should cover you for loss or theft of your cash while on holiday. But this is up to a specific limit that should be listed on your travel insurance documents.

To claim for lost or stolen cash, you need to report it within 24 hours of it going missing.

Depending on your policy, there might be some exclusions. So you might not be able to claim for lost cash if:

  • The cash was left unattended

  • You weren’t carrying it when it was taken (money in a locked safe should still be covered).

  • You left the money in a car or in your checked-in luggage

  • If it was stolen from the beach or pool

It’s worth checking with your travel insurance provider in case any of these exclusions apply to you.

To lower your risk of making a claim on your travel insurance, you could:

  • Keep your cash locked in a safe in your hotel room, if you have one

  • When spending money abroad, only carry the cash you need for that day

  • Pay by card where you can - just make sure there aren’t extra charges for making payments abroad

  • Make sure any cash on you is secure - don’t put your wallet in your back pocket, for example

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