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Worthless Note Becomes Valuable
By Patrick A. Heller
January 07, 2014

Can you name the numismatic item trading for less than $50 that has more than doubled in price in the past six months?

If you named the Zimbabwe Series 2008 100 trillion note in uncirculated condition, give yourself a pat on the back.

What was once just a warning against the perils of hyperinflation has now become a sought-after collectible in its own right.

The Zimbabwe note was demonetized in January 2009 when that nation’s currency failed. For a time, it could still be used to pay for a single bus fare, but not any longer.

The note has the distinction of being the highest denomination coin or paper money issue ever. Right after they became worthless, this note became an instant hit as a novelty item to the general public, especially since the denomination was stated in “dollars.” My company has sold hundreds of them every year. Initially, we were selling uncirculated specimens for $3 apiece.

As time went on, supplies became scarcer. By the end of 2013, we were retailing these for $7.99 each. But not any longer.

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These notes are not scarce, as demonstrated by the dozens of lots offered for sale on eBay and elsewhere. However, all the lower priced hoards are apparently gone. In closed auctions on eBay on Jan. 6, buyers paid between $14.95 and $27.56 to purchase uncirculated specimens. Of those listed at “Buy It Now” prices on the morning of January 7, the prices range from $17 to $32 per note.

It is easy to understand why the general public might find these notes a fun novelty item to buy when they didn’t cost very much. Now that they have to look at paying at least $15 to purchase one. Will this non-numismatic demand remain as strong? We will see.

Patrick A. Heller was the American Numismatic Association 2012 Harry Forman Numismatic Dealer of the Year Award winner. He owns Liberty Coin Service in Lansing, Mich., and writes Liberty’s Outlook, a monthly newsletter on rare coins and precious metals subjects.



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On January 7, 2014 Patrick said
Interesting article but the highest denomination banknote ever issue was Hungary (1946) 100 Quintillion Pengo (100,000,000,000,000,000,000)
On January 7, 2014 Paul said
Latest Ebay sales prices are in the $11-12 range on January 7th 2014 as individuals and $15 each (Jan 6 2014) when sold in bundles of 100 pieces.

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