Does having a really big banknote always mean you can buy a lot?
Aligned to elementary social studies learning standards, Really BIG Money teaches children about world cultures and supports the development of financial literacy.
How much you can buy with a banknote (a piece of paper money) depends on where and when you are using it. Banknotes with very big numbers on them can be clues that a country is suffering. Sometimes basic items like a loaf of bread cost millions, and then people go hungry because they can’t get enough banknotes to buy what they need. Countries that have experienced this include Germany (1923), Zimbabwe (2008), and Venezuela (2018).
Germany after World War I
After World War I, the German government had very little money left. To pay its bills, Germany printed more money with really big numbers on it. This new money was almost worthless, though, because the prices of things went up too. In 1923 Germans needed a wheelbarrow full of this money to buy a loaf of bread.
10 billion mark note, Germany, 1923
1 trillion mark coin, Germany, 1923
10,000 mark coin, Germany, 1923
Venezuela in 2018
Since 2018 Venezuelans have suffered through an economic crisis. It has made their paper money nearly worthless. Many people have left the country to look for work. In their new homes, some artists reuse Venezuelan paper money to make artwork and crafts to sell. A Venezuelan artist living in Colombia made these colorful origami swans from banknotes.