Inflation is an economic term that we often hear in the news or discussions related to the economy. It refers to the increase in the general price level of goods and services over time. While moderate levels of inflation are considered normal for a healthy economy, hyperinflation is an entirely different beast that can wreak havoc on a nation’s economy and its citizens. In this multi part blog we’ll show off some of the worst cases of hyperinflation and the largest banknotes ever printed.

German Banknotes Became Worthless & People Used Them As Wallpaper | Source: Wikipedia

Hyperinflation occurs when a country experiences an extremely rapid and out-of-control increase in prices. While there is no universally agreed-upon threshold for what constitutes hyperinflation, it is often characterized by inflation rates that exceed 50% per month. In extreme cases, hyperinflation can reach levels of millions or even billions, percent per month.

One Modern Example of the Worst Cases of Hyperinflation is Venezuela | Source: AS

There have been many instances of hyperinflation throughout history, especially after wars and sociopolitical unrest. However, these countries experienced the worst hyperinflation in all of history.

Greece

When the Greek government regained control of Athens from the Germans in October 1944, prices rose by 13,800%. A month later, prices rose to another 1,600 %. On November 11, 1944, the government revalued the drachma at a rate of 50 billion to one. However, the public continued to use British military pounds as the de facto currency until 1945.

Greece 2 Billion Drachmai Banknote, 1944 | Source: Banknote World

The largest denomination in circulation was the 100 Billion Drachmai note. The 100 billion drachmai note was a red note that featured the nymph Deidamia and an ancient coin from Dodoni. The only security feature of the note was serial numbers. It was demonetized during the revaluation of the drachma.

Greece 100 Billion Drachmai Banknote, 1944 | Source: Banknote World Educational

Weimar Germany

Prior to the First World War, Germany abandoned backing its currency with gold and began financing their war operations through borrowing. When Germany lost the war, they had to pay reparations to France and Belgian through the Treaty of Versailles. The reparations were to be paid in gold or a foreign currency equivalent instead of German mark notes. The government purchased foreign currencies with debt-backed marks, accelerating the devaluation of their currency.

Hyperinflation in Weimar Germany, 12 Banknote Set | Source: Banknote World

By November 1923, inflation rates reached 29,525 %. Prices doubled every 4 days. The government adopted the rentenmark, replacing the papiermark and cutting 12 zeros off the papiermark’s value. Though the rentenmark stabilized the currency, the Weimar Republic continued to exist until 1933, where the economic scars of hyperinflation gave rise to the Nazi party.

Germany 1 Milliarde – Billion Mark Banknote, 1923 | Source: Banknote World

The largest denomination that circulated in Weimar Germany was the 500 billion mark note from 1923. There were two versions of the note—one was a provisional note that featured the painting “Man with Child” by Barthel Belham, and another one that looked like a promissory note. These notes were demonetized during the introduction of the rentenmark.

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