The 500 Euro note is being viewed increasingly as an instrument for illegal activities. That’s why the European Central Bank is examining ditching the purple ‘500’ and that’s why I thought to compose a ranking of ‘The Highest Valued Banknotes in The World’ currently in circulation before the 500 EUR bill is withdrawn – as it happened for instance with the 1000 Canadian-Dollar-note a few years ago.
However, the highest valued Canadian banknote, nicknamed ‘pinkies’ by gangsters because of the pinkish-purple ink, remain legal tender (that’s why the note is part of the ranking below) although they will be disposed of by the Bank of Canada when returned to them.
No plans to withdraw their highest valued banknotes in regular circulation are known from Singapore, Brunei and Switzerland, the three countries who have currently the banknotes with the worldwide highest ‘nominal’ value issued.
10’000 SIngapore Dollar
- current value 7’415 USD. The man on the note is Yusof Ishak, the first president of Singapore from 1965 to his dead in 1970.
10’000 Brunei Dollar
- current value 7’415 USD, since the Brunei Dollar (which is locally used under the Malayan name ringgit Brunei) is pegged 1:1 to the Singapore Dollar. With the exception of the 500 Dollar/Ringgit note, the current Ruler of Brunei, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkia, appears on every banknote of the small country with a population of about 500’000, located on the north coast of the island of Borneo in Southeast Asia.
1’000 Swiss Francs
- current value 1027 USD. The man on the cover is Carl Jacob Christoph Burckhardt (1818-1897), a Swiss historian from Basel in the fields of art and culture, best known for his work ‘The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy’.
1’000 Canadian Dollar
- current value 787 USD. As mentioned above, the note is officially whitdrawn by the Bank of Canada but still a legal tender. The motifs of the bill contain a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II, while the reverse has two pine grosbeaks, found in woods across Alaska, Siberia or the western mountains of the US and Canada, sitting on a branch in the winter.
- current value 565 USD. Instead of the usual ‘heads’, for the Euro banknotes, a series of fictional structures from different architectural periods in Europe, were selected. In case of the 500-euro-note, it’s the ‘Modern Architecture’ of the 20th/21th Century’.
Another high valued note in circulation until recently was the 500 Lat note in Latvia. On the last day of circulation (Dec 31, 2013) the note was valued about 980 USD. On Jan 1, 2014, the Baltic country became member of the euro zone.
Aside from this bank notes with the highest ‘nominal’ value, let’s have a glance at the history of some bills with the highest ‘denomination’ value.
The United States once printed 500, 1’000, 5’000, and 10’000 USD-bills until the 1940s. However, the largest denomination bill printed by the US was the 100’000 USD certificate, with a portrait of President Woodrow Wilson. In 1969, denominations of US currency over 100 USD were declared obsolete by executive order of President Nixon.
In terms of recently issued banknotes with the highest denomination value, the dubious privilege goes probably to the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, who in 2009 had printed bills up to a denomination value of 100 trillion Dollar (that’s a 1, followed by 14 zeroes) to keep up with the rampant hyperinflation. However, even this bill would not be sufficient to cover a simple bus fare in the country’s capital Harare at the time.
But the world’s worst case of hyperinflation was not in Africa, but in Europe, in post-war Hungary until 1946 to be precise. Collectors recognize some Hungarian ‘pengő’- bills as those with the highest denomination ever. During this period a 100-quintillion-note (that’s a 1, followed by 20 zeroes) was issued.
Hungary introduced its new currency, the forint, in August 1946. 1 new forint was exchangeable for 400 octillion pengő (that’s a 4, followed by 29 zeroes) causing the street sweepers in Budapest a lot of work sending the very large denominated, yet basically worthless pengő-bills into the sewer.
- 10’000 Singapore Dollar
- 10’000 Brunei Dollar
- 1’000 Swiss Francs
- 1’000 Canadian Dollar
- 500 Euro
- 100’000 US Dollar
- 100 trillion Zimbabwe Dollar
- 100 quintillion pengő