Zimbabwe's Billion-Dollar Bill Nearly Worthless

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In Zimbabwe, banknotes issued a few months ago are worth only a fraction of a percentage of what they were originally. The Zimbabwean $50 billion bill is worth 33 U.S. cents; and it takes 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars to make up about $4,000 U.S.

SCOTT SIMON, host: ..TEXT: This is how grave the economic crisis in Zimbabwe has become. Banknotes issued just a few months ago are not enough to buy even a single sheet of toilet tissue. And this week, the Mail & Guardian newspaper of South Africa reported that, in any case, there is no toilet tissue to be found in the stores of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean 50-billion-dollar note is worth just 33 U.S. cents. By the time you hear this, possibly even less than that. ..TEXT: The financial throes of Zimbabwe are so severe that officials have had to find new language to express it. This week, the Harare Herald advertised the Lotto bonanza prize being offered was 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. Now, quadrillion is what comes after a trillion, and 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars are worth about 4,000 U.S. dollars. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: If 50 billion Zimbabwe dollars are worth 33 U.S. cents, then 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars would be worth $8000.]

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Correction July 22, 2008

The story includes two inconsistent exchange rates between the U.S. and Zimbabwe currencies. If 50 billion Zimbabwe dollars are worth 33 U.S. cents, then 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars would be worth $8,000.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor

Support comes from