Money in the Mail

July 4, 2006

What can you get with $25 and an afternoon on eBay?

A couple big packets of uncirculated world banknotes, and a bunch of mylar sleeves to protect such a substantial investment.

This is really quite exciting, which more or less proves my nerdiness. Regardless, here’s the loot:

  • A 10,000 “biletov” note from Russia’s MMM scandal. Post-communist Russia didn’t have the financial laws in place to prevent this very straight forward pyramid scheme from ensnaring millions of people and over a billion dollars. In the end, when the pyramid collapsed, these notes were everywhere and entirely worthless. Now they can be had for less than a buck, and make for an entertaining story if you have friends interested in history, Russia, economics, or scams.
  • A set of 12 “Saddam” Iraqi Dinars. The collection spans the original American Gulf War, and is remarkable in how the quality of currency changes between 1999 and 2002. The early bills are high quality and attractive — Swiss made, fine intaglio printing, rag paper, colorful, and pleasing to handle. After Operation Desert Storm the bills become … well … crap! Cheap Chinese lithographs with poor alignment, weak colors, blotchy textures, and wood based papers. Consequently, counterfeiting soared, and the dinars lost value rapidly. Interestingly, the original Swiss dinars retained their value, even through the issuing of the current, post-Saddam Dinar.
  • A set of 35 notes from all over the place (Belarus, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, China, Cambodia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Nicaragua, Myanmar, Laos, Argentina, Brazil, Transnistria, Tajikistan, Croatia, Peru, and a “bonus” German Notgeld). The range of quality and artistry is amazing — generally speaking, the south-east Asian bills are beautfully designed, and the ex-Soviet countries look much more formal and powerful … with the exception of Belarus, which printed a very cute squirrel on one of their notes. Go figure.

Anyhow, all of the notes in more or less perfect condition. Over the next few weeks I’ll be scanning and adding them to my Flickr account, and writing more about particularly noteworthy notes!

Update:  The biletov and some of the Saddam notes have been scanned.  Enjoy!

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