Tuesday, December 01, 2015

strange currencies

I've got a plastic cup on a shelf in my office with some assorted old foreign money in it - mostly coins but a few notes as well. I noticed today that Hazel seems to have stashed some of her old money in there as well, so let's have an audit:


  • 400 Hungarian forints. These would have been acquired on my trip to Budapest for my friend Andy's stag do in May 2005, during which we discovered the delights of Hungary's national drink, Unicum. An acquired taste, you might say, if you were the sort of person who might conceivably acquire a taste for a drink resembling nothing so much as a substantial amount of Kiwi Parade Gloss boot polish dissolved in vodka. Hungary isn't in the Euro, so this is still theoretically worth something; unfortunately that something turns out to be about 90p at today's exchange rates. The beardy chap depicted on the note is Károly Róbert, also known as Charles I of Hungary, a big noise round those parts in the 14th century. 
  • 15 New Zealand dollars, acquired on my trip there in early 2001. Current sterling value: £6.56. The man depicted on the 5-dollar note is Sir Edmund Hillary, whose implausibly large boots I have sunk a pint of Bass while sitting under in the Pen-y-Gwyrd Hotel in Snowdonia. He wasn't in them at the time, though.
  • 33 US dollars, acquired variously by myself and Hazel on a few different trips, including the one to New York for my 40th birthday in 2010. Current sterling value: £21.91. All US banknotes carry pictures of ex-Presidents or ex-Secretaries of the Treasury; our stash comprises three Washingtons, a Hamilton and a Jackson.
  • 5 Australian dollars, probably acquired by Hazel when she went to Australia for nine months shortly after we met on New Year's Eve 2005/2006. An extreme reaction to meeting me, you might say, and I wouldn't disagree with you. Needless to say the picture here is of our very own (and, currently at least, Australia's) Queen. Current sterling value: £2.40.
  • 200 Greek drachmas, acquired by Hazel many years ago, probably during her stint as a photographer on a cruise ship. No current value, since Greece joined the Euro in 2002, but based on the exchange rate at the time of its demise it would probably be about 40p. The splendidly-moustached chap on the note is Rigas Feraios, an 18th-century writer and revolutionary.
  • 9 Maltese lira, again probably acquired by Hazel during a cruise stopover and again currently worthless, since Malta joined the Euro in 2008. At the exchange rate at the time of its demise they'd be worth something like £2.70 today. According to Wikipedia the note depicts "a woman holding a rudder, symbolising Malta in control of her own destiny", so that's nice.
  • 100 Zimbabwean dollars, acquired by me on my trip to southern Africa in early 2000. At an exchange rate at the time of 400 dollars to the pound this was worth about 25p - since then the Zimbabwean dollar has ceased to be a currency in any meaningful sense after several bouts of hyperinflation, though no doubt the 100 trillion dollar banknotes retain some curiosity value. 
  • 10 Namibian dollars, from the same trip. Current sterling value: about 46p. The note depicts Hendrik Witbooi, an early fighter for independence from the German occupiers.
  • Finally, 120 Euros, acquired on various trips to European destinations over the years, and despite being worth £84.22 at current rates kept on the assumption that we will one day make it out of this country again and get a chance to spend it. 
So, including only stuff that's still technically money, that's £116.45 that could theoretically (less a bit of commission and other assorted expense) be realised in an emergency to pay for rusks or nappies or eye-wateringly expensive tiny shoes. Good to know.

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