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50 Interesting Facts about the World Currencies


  • The first form of metal money was used in ancient Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq. The value depended on the weight of the metal.
  • Ancient religious temples were the first buildings to be used as banks – people would store grain, other products or precious metals that they used as money in these temples.
  • Evidence suggests that as far back as 9000 BCE both grain and cattle were used as a form of early trade to barter goods.
  • In ancient times people used a variety of objects and animals to trade: animal skin, feathers, elephant tail hairs, bird claws, cattle, goats and sheep. Even today, in more remote parts of the world like the Sahara Desert, for instance, products from camels are often exchanged for food and small luxuries.
  • The earliest recorded currency forgery is traced back to Polycrates the Tyrant of the Greek island Samos who used fake gold coins in 540 B.C. to settle a debt he owed to Sparta.
  • The first living person whose face was featured on a coin was Julius Caesar in 44 B.C. after being victorious in war.
  • Egypt’s Queen Cleopatra who was famed for her beauty and seducing powerful statesmen may, after all, not have been the stunning woman the world was led to believe by Shakespeare and Chaucer, the latter describing her as ‘’fair as is the rose in May.’’ In February 2007 a coin from 32 B.C. went on display at Newcastle University in the UK. The coin suggests the lady had thin lips, shallow forehead, long nose and a sharp chin. Nothing like Elizabeth Taylor in fact. However, she must have been very charming, seducing both Julius Caesar and Mark Antony.
  • China takes credit for being the first country in the world to use paper money – as far back as the Tang Dynasty of the 7th century. Paper certificates were introduced to assist merchants who had to carry heavy coins over long distances – it was lighter and considered to be safer.
  • The history of the word ‘’cash’’ is also traced back to China, it seems. In ancient times coins were carried in bundles on strings: a bundle containing 100 coins was called a ‘’cash’’.  However, the Chinese may have borrowed this word from the Portuguese who called their coins ‘’caixa’’ (pronounced ‘’cash-a’’).
  • The first gold coins were minted in 1252 in the Italian city of Florence and each coin was known as a florin.
  • Although modern France starting using the Euro as currency on 1 January 1999, she used the franc as official currency for many centuries – the first coin that was called a ‘franc’ was introduced in 1360 during the Hundred Years’ War.
  • The first franc notes used in France were issued by the Bank of France and introduced in 1800 in denominations of 500 and 1000 francs.
  • The world’s oldest surviving bank dates back to 1472 when it was founded in Siena, Italy by the magistrate of the state. It is the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and the 3rd largest in Italy. The 1st bank on record (no longer in operation) was the Taula de la Ciutat in Barcelona.
  • The peso was first minted in Spain from the mid-16th century and was later introduced to South American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Uruguay that still use it as their currency. Countries which in the past used it, but now have their own currencies, include Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru. Spain today uses the Euro.
  • The word ‘’millionaire’’ has its origins in French and was first used in 1719; the first time it was recorded in English was in a letter by Lord Byron; the first time it was recorded in literature was in the 1826 novel ‘’Vivian Grey’’ by Benjamin Disraeli.
  • The word ‘cent’, which is used as 100th of many of the world’s currencies, comes from the Latin word ‘centum’ and literally means ‘’hundredth part’’.
  • Germany, boasting one of the 21st century’s strongest European economies, suffered so badly from hyperinflation in 1923 that its money was virtually worthless – it became a toy for children and was also used as wall paper.
  • Israel used the lira as its currency between 1948 and 1980. Then it introduced the shekel which devalued at an alarming rate against the US Dollar resulting in the introduction of the so-called ‘’New Shekel’’ which was worth a 1,000 times more. The currency has a small Star of David in its lower left hand corner.
  • Burma, (also known as Myanmar) bordering countries such as India and Thailand in Southeast Asia, has the kyat as official currency. The military ruler, General Ne Win (between 1962 and 1988) decided in 1987 that 9 was a lucky number; therefore only notes divisible by that number would be used. This was one of the reasons for student uprisings in that country in 1988.
  • It seems the dollar is the world’s most popular currency, with 22 countries using their own version. Of course the USD is the best known – some others include: Australian Dollar; Canadian Dollar; Hong Kong Dollar; Namibian Dollar; Taiwanese Dollar
  • The first US money came in the form of coins: in 1792. Only in 1862, during the Civil War, did the American Treasury start to produce paper money – well, actually cotton.
  • Queen Elizabeth II holds a few records, one being for having her face on more currency than any other person – in fact on the currency of more than 30 countries.
  • The pound sterling, which is the official currency of the United Kingdom, is the world’s oldest currency and traces its beginnings back to continental Europe. The first pound coin made its appearance in 1489 during the reign of Henry VII. The decimal system was introduced in 1971 and replaced the rather ‘complicated’ shillings and pennies.
  • For the most perfectly forged British pounds (an amazing £ 134, 610, 810) in history, turn back the clock to World War II – exactly what the Nazis did to destabilise the British economy. The forged notes, apparently, look almost just like the real thing.
  • In 1940 the citizens of Gorky, Russia, could not believe their eyes when silver coins started raining down on them from the sky. A tornado had lifted up an old money chest – the wind carried it along and dropped the coins all over the city.
  • The first credit card as we know them today was introduced by American Express and came out in 1951.
  • In America the average adult today carries between 8 and 10 credit cards and roughly 44 million holders pay their balance every month.
  • The idea of the ATM was dreamed up by John Shepherd-Barron, OBE, as he was taking a bath. He allowed British bank Barclays to use his idea – the first one was built and used in 1967 in London.
  • For the smallest bank note in the world you’ll travel to Romania to satisfy your curiosity: It is just 1.75 inches by 1.3 inches big – or rather small.
  • All values change with time, and money is no exception. In the early 1920’s, for example, a brand new car cost no more than 300 Dollars. Today that would not buy you much more than an evening at the movies – and maybe a meal afterwards.
  • Tell your young children that the word ‘piggy bank’ goes back to the Middle Ages – roughly the 15th century – when dishes and pots were made of clay called PYGG. When people wanted to save a coin or two, they would drop them into their clay pygg – the piggy bank.
  • In this day and age 40% of women earn more than their male counterparts which, according to research, leads to episodes of anxiety and erectile dysfunction. This, in turn, may lead to male infidelity.
  • The world of money has given us many clichés: Money makes the world go round; money can burn holes through your pocket; money does not grow on trees; a fool and his money are soon parted; money is the root of all evil; bet your bottom dollar; to live on the breadline; to be someone’s cash cow; to go Dutch with someone – the list goes on and on.
  • When people flip a coin at – for instance – sports meets, the likelihood that they’ll choose heads over tails is three times higher than the other way round.
  • Do you know what the term ‘numismatics’ refers to? You were correct if you answered the study of the history, or the collection, of coins and notes.
  • Detroit, Michigan in the US played host to the first international convention for coin collectors between 15 and 18 August 1962. It is estimated that 40,000 people attended.
  • The world’s richest people in 2016 are, from 5th to 1st: Jeff Bezos (American), Carlos Slim Helu (Mexican), Amancio Ortega (Spanish), Warren Buffett (American) and Bill Gates (American).  Mark Zuckerberg (American), co-founder and CEO of Facebook takes 6th place.
  • Wealth distribution tells us that 20% of the world’s citizens own 94% of everything, and only 1% own 46% of all wealth. The 85 richest people have more money than the poorest 3.5 billion people.
  • Poland’s currency is known as the zloty for which the ‘zl’ symbol is used; it is divided into 100 grosze or groszey with the ‘gr’ as symbol.
  • It was estimated that in 2016, if all the money in the world was distributed equally among the total world population of 7.4 billion, every individual would have $11,000.
  • The largest jackpot in the pan-European EuroMillions was won in the UK on 10 August 2012, a very handsome € 190 million (£148.7 million). It happened again on 24 October 2014 – this time by a ticket bought in Portugal.
  • Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe reached its peak in mid-November 2008 at which time it was estimated at 79.6 billion per cent. It caused the country’s central bank to create the Z$ 100 trillion banknote. It now – in 2016 – uses the USD as its official currency and also accepts currencies from a further six countries as payment for goods and services.
  • If the British pound is the world’s oldest currency, then the Sudanese pound is the newest.
  • If you want to rent a whole country for a night, you certainly can: the small Western European principality of Liechtenstein – bordered by Austria and Switzerland – is available at the rate of $70,000 (£43,000) per night, and that includes accommodation for 150 people. However, just remember that the 35,000 permanent citizens would not leave but remain.
  • Turkey use the lira as currency. From trading at 9 Turkish lira to the USD in 1966, it started losing its value at a rate that saw it plummet to 1,650,000 against the USD in 2001. In fact, for two periods – first in 1995 and 1996 and then again between 1999 and 2004 it held the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s least valuable currency.
  • The first ever coins with their value printed on them hail from ancient Lydia (modern day Turkey) and were produced around 600 BCE.
  • South Africa’s currency is known as the ‘Rand’ – recognised by its ‘’R’’ symbol – and was established in 1961. The currency is used widely in southern Africa by the Common Monetary Area which includes South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. Together with the USD, it is also widely traded in its neighbour, Zimbabwe, whose Zimbabwean Dollar has become all but worthless.
  • The Indian rupee, which is divided into 100 paisa, is the currency of the Republic of India. It is also used in Bhutan and unofficially in Zimbabwe and Nepal. It was first issued as a silver coin by Sultan Sher Shah Suri who ruled between 1540 and 1545. Its influence has been felt in many countries: At different stages it was also the official currency of countries like Aden, Kuwait, Kenya, Uganda and Mauritius.
  • In French Polynesia the concept of tipping as a sign of appreciation is quite uncommon. You pay the quoted price and that is acceptable behaviour. The currency is the cours de franc Pacific or ‘Pacific franc’ and is pegged to the Euro.
  • FOREX is responsible for transactions to the value of more than $5.3 trillion every day, which translates to $220 billion per hour.


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