Weird History

12 Times Currency Was Rendered Almost Worthless (and Why)

Some of the worst inflation in history has coincided with war, as several of the worthless (or nearly worthless) currencies on this list illustrate. Wars are massively expensive, and one of the fastest ways for a cash-strapped government to pay for one is to fire up the presses and churn out a pile of paper money. However, history's pretty clear that this tactic will get you stabbed in the back with the dull, rusty blade of inflation, and if that stab wound gets infected and turns into hyperinflation – which usually happens – your economy is toast. Which is doubly bad if you end up on the war's losing side.

But there are other times currency became worthless, simply because of ill-advised financial policy, or because people are crazy and will do crazy things, which is why one of the currencies below is literally a living thing. So, ready to burn through some cash? Great, because here are examples of worthless currency in history – some old, some new, all ultimately useless.

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