In 1965 Mobutu Sese Seko seized power in the Republic of the Congo, Africa.
In 1967, his new country's National Bank introduced notes for 10, 20 and 50 makuta; plus 1 and 5 Zaires, with Mobutu's likeness prominently displayed on all the new currency.
However the new economy as it struggled to gain a foundation suffered expected start up inflation. Happens as currency rates seek a natural market place value.
So thirteen years later in 1980, 50 Zaire notes were introduced.
The government was obviously corrupt and its economy could not find its footing. International markets lost faith in the government behind the currency and inflation took on a life of its own.
In 1983, 100 Zaire notes were introduced.
We were on assignment to Africa about this time so we were aware of the corruption in Kinshasa, Congo government and its spiral inflation.
500 Zaire currency notes were introduced in 1984,
1,000 Zaire notes in 1985,
5,000 Zaire notes in 1988,
10,000 Zaire notes in 1989 and
50,000 Zaire notes in 1991
In 1992, with a pending economic collapse at hand, 100,000 notes were introduced, then 200,000, 500,000, 1,000,000 and 5,000,000 by year’s end,
The 5,000,000 Zaire note was not accepted as legal tender for several weeks in some parts of the country, notably in the north-east. In other parts of the country it was accepted for only part of its value. One reason for this mistrust was a grammatical error in the French number on the note, which read "cinq millions zaïres" instead of "cinq millions de zaïres".
Whatever, by all accounts the inflation situation was absolutely crazy… hyperinflation of enormous proportions. The cost of a meal would often rise from the time it was ordered, until the time it was served.
Folks had to carry the old Zaire notes in wheelbarrows to go shopping at the market
So in 1993 a new Zaire (French: Nouveau Zaïre), symbol ZNR , replaced the old 1992 Zaire at an exchange rate of 1 new Zaire = 3,000,000 old Zaires.
You following me here?
The new Zaire unfortunately suffered from the super high inflation as its predecessor because the foreign exchange rate was affected by the internationally recognized fact the government had little resources/reserves to stand behind its currency.
With the Zaire worth less and less, the government printed more and more.
In 1998, five years after the new Zaire was introduced, it was replaced by the Congolese franc (CF) at an exchange rate of 1 franc = 100,000 new Zaires.
Or one CF equaled 300,000,000,000 old 1983 Zaires.
Still with me?
2017 has not been a good year for the CFs. The rate of exchange is currently 1,445 CF to one US dollar.
That means one old Zaire equals 1,445 times 300,000,000,000 or about 450,000,000,000,000th of one dollar.
So that 1983 100 Zaire note you saw at the top of this piece is now worth, at the current international rate of exchange, $ .00000000002838 of one dollar.
I defy you to find something more worthless.
More to the point of this essay... I invested in several of these bills back in the day... which should put me at the top of someone’s worst investor list.