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Not to be confused with Hyperaeration.
Sweeping up the banknotes from the street after the Hungarian pengő was replaced in 1946.
Certain figures in this article use scientific notation for readability.

In economics, hyperinflation occurs when a country experiences very high and usually accelerating rates of inflation, rapidly eroding the real value of the local currency, and causing the population to minimize their holdings of the local money. The population normally switch to holding relatively stable foreign currencies (such as the US Dollar). Under such conditions, the general price level within an economy increases rapidly as the official currency quickly loses real value.[1] The value of economic items remains relatively more stable in terms of foreign currencies. However, relative prices do change over the course of the hyperinflationary period; for instance food prices in Germany during 1913–1923 rose 43% less than those of clothing, whereas they increased 80 times more than rents and 24 times more than the price index of shares.[2]

Unlike low inflation, where the process of rising prices is protracted and not generally noticeable except by studying past market prices, hyperinflation sees a rapid and continuing increase in nominal prices and in the supply of money,[3] and the nominal cost of goods. But typically the general price level rises even more rapidly than the money supply since people try to get rid of the devaluing money as quickly as possible. The real stock of money, that is the amount of circulating money divided by the price level, decreases.[4]

Hyperinflations are usually caused by large persistent government deficits financed primarily by money creation (rather than taxation or borrowing). As such, hyperinflation is often associated with wars, their aftermath, sociopolitical upheavals, or other crises that make it difficult for the government to tax the population. A sharp decrease in real tax revenue coupled with a strong need to maintain the status quo, together with an inability or unwillingness to borrow, can lead a country into hyperinflation.[4]

Definitions[edit]

In 1956, Phillip Cagan wrote The Monetary Dynamics of Hyperinflation, the book often regarded as the first serious study of hyperinflation and its effects (though "The Economics of Inflation" by C. Bresciani-Turroni on the German hyperinflation was published in Italian in 1931). In his book, Cagan defined a hyperinflationary episode as starting in the month that the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50%, and as ending when the monthly inflation rate drops below 50% and stays that way for at least a year.[5] Economists and journalists usually follow Cagan’s description that hyperinflation occurs when the monthly inflation rate exceeds 50%.

The International Accounting Standards Board has issued guidance on accounting rules in a hyperinflationary environment. It does not establish an absolute rule on when hyperinflation arises. Instead, it lists factors that indicate the existence of hyperinflation:[6]

  • The general population prefers to keep its wealth in non-monetary assets or in a relatively stable foreign currency. Amounts of local currency held are immediately invested to maintain purchasing power
  • The general population regards monetary amounts not in terms of the local currency but in terms of a relatively stable foreign currency. Prices may be quoted in that currency;
  • Sales and purchases on credit take place at prices that compensate for the expected loss of purchasing power during the credit period, even if the period is short;
  • Interest rates, wages, and prices are linked to a price index; and
  • The cumulative inflation rate over three years approaches, or exceeds, 100%.

Causes[edit]

There are a number of theories on the causes of high and/or hyper inflation.[7] But nearly all hyperinflations have been caused by government budget deficits financed by money creation. After an analysis of 29 hyperinflations (following Cagan's definition) Bernholz concludes that at least 25 of them have been caused in this way.[8] Moreover, a necessary condition for hyperinflation has been the existence of fiat money not convertible at a fixed parity into gold or silver. This is suggested by the fact that all hyperinflations in history with the exception of the French hyperinflation of 1789-1796 occurred after the break-down of the gold standard during World War I. And the French hyperinflation also took place after the introduction of an inconvertible paper money, the assignats.[citation needed]

Supply shocks[edit]

This theory, based on historical analysis, claims that past hyperinflations were caused by some sort of extreme negative supply shock, often but not always associated with wars, the breakdown of the communist system or natural disasters.[9]

Money supply[edit]

This theory claims that hyperinflation occurs when there is a continuing (and often accelerating) rapid increase in the amount of money that is not supported by a corresponding growth in the output of goods and services.

The price increases that result from the rapid money creation creates a vicious circle, requiring ever growing amounts of new money creation to fund government deficits. Hence both monetary inflation and price inflation proceed at a rapid pace. Such rapidly increasing prices cause widespread unwillingness of the local population to hold the local currency as it rapidly loses its buying power. Instead they quickly spend any money they receive, which increases the velocity of money flow; this in turn causes further acceleration in prices. This means that the increase in the price level is greater than that of the money supply [10] The real stock of money, M/P, decreases. Here M refers to the money stock and P to the price level.

This results in an imbalance between the supply and demand for the money (including currency and bank deposits), causing rapid inflation. Very high inflation rates can result in a loss of confidence in the currency, similar to a bank run. Usually, the excessive money supply growth results from the government being either unable or unwilling to fully finance the government budget through taxation or borrowing, and instead it finances the government budget deficit through the printing of money.[11]

Governments have sometimes resorted to excessively loose monetary policy, as it allows a government to devalue its debts and reduce (or avoid) a tax increase. Inflation is effectively a regressive tax on the users of money,[12] but less overt than levied taxes and is therefore harder to understand by ordinary citizens. Inflation can obscure quantitative assessments of the true cost of living, as published price indices only look at data in retrospect, so may increase only months later. Monetary inflation can become hyperinflation if monetary authorities fail to fund increasing government expenses from taxes, government debt, cost cutting, or by other means, because either

  • during the time between recording or levying taxable transactions and collecting the taxes due, the value of the taxes collected falls in real value to a small fraction of the original taxes receivable; or
  • government debt issues fail to find buyers except at very deep discounts; or
  • a combination of the above.

Theories of hyperinflation generally look for a relationship between seigniorage and the inflation tax. In both Cagan's model and the neo-classical models, a tipping point occurs when the increase in money supply or the drop in the monetary base makes it impossible for a government to improve its financial position. Thus when fiat money is printed, government obligations that are not denominated in money increase in cost by more than the value of the money created.

From this, it might be wondered why any rational government would engage in actions that cause or continue hyperinflation. One reason for such actions is that often the alternative to hyperinflation is either depression or military defeat. The root cause is a matter of more dispute. In both classical economics and monetarism, it is always the result of the monetary authority irresponsibly borrowing money to pay all its expenses. These models focus on the unrestrained seigniorage of the monetary authority, and the gains from the inflation tax.

The price of gold in Germany, 1 January 1918 – 30 November 1923. Note that the vertical scale is logarithmic.

In neo-classical economic theory, hyperinflation is rooted in a deterioration of the monetary base, that is the confidence that there is a store of value which the currency will be able to command later. In this model, the perceived risk of holding currency rises dramatically, and sellers demand increasingly high premiums to accept the currency. This in turn leads to a greater fear that the currency will collapse, causing even higher premiums. One example of this is during periods of warfare, civil war, or intense internal conflict of other kinds: governments need to do whatever is necessary to continue fighting, since the alternative is defeat. Expenses cannot be cut significantly since the main outlay is armaments. Further, a civil war may make it difficult to raise taxes or to collect existing taxes. While in peacetime the deficit is financed by selling bonds, during a war it is typically difficult and expensive to borrow, especially if the war is going poorly for the government in question. The banking authorities, whether central or not, "monetize" the deficit, printing money to pay for the government's efforts to survive. The hyperinflation under the Chinese Nationalists from 1939 to 1945 is a classic example of a government printing money to pay civil war costs. By the end, currency was flown in over the Himalayas, and then old currency was flown out to be destroyed.

Hyperinflation is regarded as a complex phenomenon and one explanation may not be applicable to all cases. However, in both of these models, whether loss of confidence comes first, or central bank seigniorage, the other phase is ignited. In the case of rapid expansion of the money supply, prices rise rapidly in response to the increased supply of money relative to the supply of goods and services, and in the case of loss of confidence, the monetary authority responds to the risk premiums it has to pay by "running the printing presses."

Nevertheless the immense acceleration process that occurs during hyperinflation (such as during the German hyperinflation of 1922/23) still remains unclear and unpredictable. The transformation of an inflationary development into the hyperinflation has to be identified as a very complex phenomenon, which could be a further advanced research avenue of the complexity economics in conjunction with research areas like mass hysteria, bandwagon effect, social brain and mirror neurons.[13]

Models[edit]

Since hyperinflation is visible as a monetary effect, models of hyperinflation center on the demand for money. Economists see both a rapid increase in the money supply and an increase in the velocity of money if the (monetary) inflating is not stopped. Either one, or both of these together are the root causes of inflation and hyperinflation. A dramatic increase in the velocity of money as the cause of hyperinflation is central to the "crisis of confidence" model of hyperinflation, where the risk premium that sellers demand for the paper currency over the nominal value grows rapidly. The second theory is that there is first a radical increase in the amount of circulating medium, which can be called the "monetary model" of hyperinflation. In either model, the second effect then follows from the first—either too little confidence forcing an increase in the money supply, or too much money destroying confidence.

In the confidence model, some event, or series of events, such as defeats in battle, or a run on stocks of the specie which back a currency, removes the belief that the authority issuing the money will remain solvent—whether a bank or a government. Because people do not want to hold notes which may become valueless, they want to spend them. Sellers, realizing that there is a higher risk for the currency, demand a greater and greater premium over the original value. Under this model, the method of ending hyperinflation is to change the backing of the currency, often by issuing a completely new one. War is one commonly cited cause of crisis of confidence, particularly losing in a war, as occurred during Napoleonic Vienna, and capital flight, sometimes because of "contagion" is another. In this view, the increase in the circulating medium is the result of the government attempting to buy time without coming to terms with the root cause of the lack of confidence itself.

In the monetary model, hyperinflation is a positive feedback cycle of rapid monetary expansion. It has the same cause as all other inflation: money-issuing bodies, central or otherwise, produce currency to pay spiralling costs, often from lax fiscal policy, or the mounting costs of warfare. When businesspeople perceive that the issuer is committed to a policy of rapid currency expansion, they mark up prices to cover the expected decay in the currency's value. The issuer must then accelerate its expansion to cover these prices, which pushes the currency value down even faster than before. According to this model the issuer cannot "win" and the only solution is to abruptly stop expanding the currency. Unfortunately, the end of expansion can cause a severe financial shock to those using the currency as expectations are suddenly adjusted. This policy, combined with reductions of pensions, wages, and government outlays, formed part of the Washington consensus of the 1990s.

Whatever the cause, hyperinflation involves both the supply and velocity of money. Which comes first is a matter of debate, and there may be no universal story that applies to all cases. But once the hyperinflation is established, the pattern of increasing the money stock, by whichever agencies are allowed to do so, is universal. Because this practice increases the supply of currency without any matching increase in demand for it, the price of the currency, that is the exchange rate, naturally falls relative to other currencies. Inflation becomes hyperinflation when the increase in money supply turns specific areas of pricing power into a general frenzy of spending quickly before money becomes worthless. The purchasing power of the currency drops so rapidly that holding cash for even a day is an unacceptable loss of purchasing power. As a result, no one holds currency, which increases the velocity of money, and worsens the crisis.

Because rapidly rising prices undermine the role of money as a store of value, people try to spend it on real goods or services as quickly as possible. Thus, the monetary model predicts that the velocity of money will increase as a result of an excessive increase in the money supply. At the point when money velocity and prices rapidly accelerate in a vicious circle, hyperinflation is out of control, because ordinary policy mechanisms, such as increasing reserve requirements, raising interest rates, or cutting government spending will be ineffective and be responded to by shifting away from the rapidly devalued money and towards other means of exchange.

During a period of hyperinflation, bank runs, loans for 24-hour periods, switching to alternate currencies, the return to use of gold or silver or even barter become common. Many of the people who hoard gold today expect hyperinflation, and are hedging against it by holding specie. There may also be extensive capital flight or flight to a "hard" currency such as the US dollar. This is sometimes met with capital controls, an idea which has swung from standard, to anathema, and back into semi-respectability. All of this constitutes an economy which is operating in an "abnormal" way, which may lead to decreases in real production. If so, that intensifies the hyperinflation, since it means that the amount of goods in "too much money chasing too few goods" formulation is also reduced. This is also part of the vicious circle of hyperinflation.

Once the vicious circle of hyperinflation has been ignited, dramatic policy means are almost always required. Simply raising interest rates is insufficient. Bolivia, for example, underwent a period of hyperinflation in 1985, where prices increased 12,000% in the space of less than a year. The government raised the price of gasoline, which it had been selling at a huge loss to quiet popular discontent, and the hyperinflation came to a halt almost immediately, since it was able to bring in hard currency by selling its oil abroad. The crisis of confidence ended, and people returned deposits to banks. The German hyperinflation (1919–November 1923) was ended by producing a currency based on assets loaned against by banks, called the Rentenmark. Hyperinflation often ends when a civil conflict ends with one side winning.

Although wage and price controls are sometimes used to control or prevent inflation, no episode of hyperinflation has been ended by the use of price controls alone, because price controls that force merchants to sell at prices far below their restocking costs result in shortages that cause prices to rise still further.

Nobel prize winner Milton Friedman said "We economists don't know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can't sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you'll have a tomato shortage. It's the same with oil or gas."[14]

Effects[edit]

Hyperinflation effectively wipes out the purchasing power of private and public savings, distorts the economy in favor of the hoarding of real assets, causes the monetary base, whether specie or hard currency, to flee the country, and makes the afflicted area anathema to investment. But one of the most important characteristics of hyperinflation is the accelerating substitution of the inflating money by stable money, gold and silver in former times, but relatively stable foreign currencies after the breakdown of the gold or silver standards (Thiers' Law). If inflation is high enough all government regulations like heavy penalties and fines often combined with exchange controls cannot prevent this currency substitution. As a consequence the inflating currency is usually heavily undervalued compared to stable foreign money and in terms of purchasing power parity. As a consequence foreigners can live cheaply and buy at cheap prices in the countries hit by high inflation. It follows that governments who do not succeed to engineer in time a successful currency reform have finally to legalize the stable foreign currencies (or formerly gold and silver) which is threatening to fully substitute the inflating money. Otherwise their tax revenues including the inflation tax will approach zero.[15] The last hyperinflation where this process could be observed, took place in Zimbabwe in the first decade of the 21st century. In this case the local money was mainly driven out by the US dollar and the South African rand.

Enactment of price controls to prevent discounting the value of paper money relative to gold, silver, hard currency, or commodities, fail to force acceptance of a paper money which lacks intrinsic value. If the entity responsible for printing a currency promotes excessive money printing, with other factors contributing a reinforcing effect, hyperinflation usually continues. Hyperinflation is generally associated with paper money, which can easily be used to increase the money supply: add more zeros to the plates and print, or even stamp old notes with new numbers.[16] Historically, there have been numerous episodes of hyperinflation in various countries followed by a return to "hard money". Older economies would revert to hard currency and barter when the circulating medium became excessively devalued, generally following a "run" on the store of value.

Much attention on hyperinflation centers on the effect on savers whose investment becomes worthless. Academic economists seem not to have devoted much study on the (positive) effect on debtors. This may be due to the widespread perception that consistently saving a portion of one's income in monetary investments such as bonds or interest-bearing accounts is almost always a wise policy, and usually beneficial to the society of the savers. By contrast, incurring large or long-term debts (though sometimes unavoidable) is viewed as often resulting from irresponsibility or self-indulgence.[citation needed] Interest rate changes often cannot keep up with hyperinflation or even high inflation, certainly with contractually fixed interest rates. (For example, in the 1970s in the United Kingdom inflation reached 25% per annum, yet interest rates did not rise above 15%—and then only briefly—and many fixed interest rate loans existed). Contractually there is often no bar to a debtor clearing his long term debt with "hyperinflated-cash" nor could a lender simply somehow suspend the loan. "Early redemption penalties" were (and still are) often based on a penalty of x months of interest/payment; again no real bar to paying off what had been a large loan. In interwar Germany, for example, much private and corporate debt was effectively wiped out; certainly for those holding fixed interest rate loans.

Aftermath[edit]

Hyperinflation is ended with drastic remedies, such as imposing the shock therapy of slashing government expenditures or altering the currency basis. One form this may take is dollarization, the use of a foreign currency (not necessarily the U.S. dollar) as a national unit of currency. An example was dollarization in Ecuador, initiated in September 2000 in response to a 75% loss of value of the Ecuadorian sucre in early 2000. But usually the "dollarization" takes place in spite of all efforts of the government to prevent it by exchange controls, heavy fines and penalties. The government has thus to try to engineer a successful currency reform stabilizing the value of the money. If it does not succeed with this reform the substitution of the inflating by stable money goes on. Thus it is not surprising that there exist at least seven historical cases in which the good (foreign) money did fully drive out the use of the inflating currency. In the end the government had to legalize the former, for otherwise its revenues would have fallen to zero.[15]

Hyperinflation has always been a traumatic experience for the area which suffers it, and the next policy regime almost always enacts policies to prevent its recurrence. Often this means making the central bank very aggressive about maintaining price stability, as was the case with the German Bundesbank or moving to some hard basis of currency such as a currency board. Many governments have enacted extremely stiff wage and price controls in the wake of hyperinflation but this does not prevent further inflating of the money supply by its central bank, and always leads to widespread shortages of consumer goods if the controls are rigidly enforced.

Currency[edit]

Germany, 1923: banknotes had lost so much value that they were used as wallpaper.

In countries experiencing hyperinflation, the central bank often prints money in larger and larger denominations as the smaller denomination notes become worthless. This can result in the production of some interesting banknotes, including those denominated in amounts of 1,000,000,000 or more.

  • By late 1923, the Weimar Republic of Germany was issuing two-trillion Mark banknotes and postage stamps with a face value of fifty billion Mark. The highest value banknote issued by the Weimar government's Reichsbank had a face value of 100 trillion Mark (100,000,000,000,000; 100 million million).[17][18] At the height of the inflation, one US dollar was worth 4 trillion German marks. One of the firms printing these notes submitted an invoice for the work to the Reichsbank for 32,776,899,763,734,490,417.05 (3.28 × 1019, or 33 quintillion) Marks.[19]
  • The largest denomination banknote ever officially issued for circulation was in 1946 by the Hungarian National Bank for the amount of 100 quintillion pengő (100,000,000,000,000,000,000, or 1020; 100 million million million) image. (There was even a banknote worth 10 times more, i.e. 1021 (1 sextillion) pengő, printed, but not issued image.) The banknotes however did not depict the numbers, "hundred million b.-pengő" ("hundred million trillion pengő") and "one milliard b.-pengő" were spelled out instead. This makes the 100,000,000,000,000 Zimbabwean dollar banknotes the note with the greatest number of zeros shown.
  • The Post-World War II hyperinflation of Hungary held the record for the most extreme monthly inflation rate ever — 41,900,000,000,000,000% (4.19 × 1016% or 41.9 quadrillion percent) for July 1946, amounting to prices doubling every 15.3 hours. By comparison, recent figures (as of 14 November 2008) estimate Zimbabwe's annual inflation rate at 89.7 sextillion (1021) percent.,[20] which corresponds to a monthly rate of 79.6 billion percent, and a doubling time of 24.7 hours. In figures, that is 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000%.

One way to avoid the use of large numbers is by declaring a new unit of currency (an example being, instead of 10,000,000,000 Dollars, a bank might set 1 new dollar = 1,000,000,000 old dollars, so the new note would read "10 new dollars.") An example of this would be Turkey's revaluation of the Lira on 1 January 2005, when the old Turkish lira (TRL) was converted to the New Turkish lira (TRY) at a rate of 1,000,000 old to 1 new Turkish Lira. While this does not lessen the actual value of a currency, it is called redenomination or revaluation and also happens over time in countries with standard inflation levels. During hyperinflation, currency inflation happens so quickly that bills reach large numbers before revaluation.

Some banknotes were stamped to indicate changes of denomination. This is because it would take too long to print new notes. By the time new notes were printed, they would be obsolete (that is, they would be of too low a denomination to be useful).

Metallic coins were rapid casualties of hyperinflation, as the scrap value of metal enormously exceeded the face value. Massive amounts of coinage were melted down, usually illicitly, and exported for hard currency.

Governments will often try to disguise the true rate of inflation through a variety of techniques. None of these actions address the root causes of inflation and if discovered, they tend to further undermine trust in the currency, causing further increases in inflation. Price controls will generally result in shortages and hoarding and extremely high demand for the controlled goods, causing disruptions of supply chains. Products available to consumers may diminish or disappear as businesses no longer find it sufficiently profitable (or may be operating at a loss) to continue producing and/or distributing such goods at the legal prices, further exacerbating the shortages.

There are also issues with computerized money-handling systems. In Zimbabwe, during the hyperinflation of the Zimbabwe dollar, many automated teller machines and payment card machines struggled with arithmetic overflow errors as customers required many billions and trillions of dollars at one time.[21]

Hyperinflationary episodes[edit]

Hanke Krus Hyperinflation Table that lists 56 episodes of hyperinflation (following Cagan's definition)

Angola[edit]

Angola experienced high inflation from 1991 to 1995. It was a result of exchange restrictions following the introduction of the novo kwanza (AON) to replace the original kwanza (AOK) in 1990. At the first months of 1991, the highest denomination was 50 000 AON. By 1994, the highest denomination was 500 000 kwanzas. In the 1995 currency reform, the readjusted kwanza (AOR) replaced the novo kwanza at the ratio of 1 000 AON to 1 AOR, but hyperinflation continued as further denominations of up to 5 000 000 AOR were issued. In the 1999 currency reform, the kwanza (AOA) was reintroduced at the ratio of 1 million AOR to 1 AOA. Currently, the highest denomination banknote is 2 000 AOA and the overall impact of hyperinflation was 1 AOA = 1 billion AOK.

Start and End Date: Dec. 1994 – Jan. 1997
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: May 1996, 84.1%[22]

Argentina[edit]

Argentina went through steady inflation from 1975 to 1991. Democratically elected on December 10, 1983, President Alfonsin inherited a foreign debt crisis and record budget deficits, resulting in US$43 billion foreign debt, with Argentina's entire trade surplus going to debt service. The situation worsened markedly on "Black Tuesday," February 7, 1989, when the U.S. dollar gained around 40% against the austral. As a result, the World Bank recalled a large tranche of loans, sending the austral into the void[clarification needed] and igniting hyperinflation by Election Day, May 14, 1989. By June 1989 social unrest was widespread and included instances of rioting and looting of supermarkets.[23] At the beginning of 1975, the highest denomination was 1,000 pesos. In late 1976, the highest denomination was 5,000 pesos. In early 1979, the highest denomination was 10,000 pesos. By the end of 1981, the highest denomination was 1,000,000 pesos. In the 1983 currency reform, 1 peso argentino was exchanged for 10,000 pesos. In the 1985 currency reform, 1 austral was exchanged for 1,000 pesos argentinos. In the 1992 currency reform, 1 new peso was exchanged for 10,000 australes. The overall impact of hyperinflation: 1 (1992) peso = 100,000,000,000 pre-1983 pesos. Annual inflation hit 12,000% in 1989.[24]

Start and End Date: May 1989 – Mar. 1990
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mar. 1990, 197%[22]

Armenia[edit]

Armenia experienced high inflation and hyperinflation from January 1992 – December 1994. Its first episode of hyperinflation was due to the use of the Russian ruble after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The second episode was due to an unstable Armenian dram.

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Feb. 1993
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 73.1%
(2) Start and End Date: Oct. 1993 – Dec. 1994
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1993, 438%[22]

Austria[edit]

In 1922, inflation in Austria reached 1426%, and from 1914 to January 1923, the consumer price index rose by a factor of 11836, with the highest banknote in denominations of 500,000 krones.[25]

Start and End Date: Oct. 1921 – Sep. 1922
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Aug. 1922, 129%[26]

Political ineptitude in Post WWI Austria comprised political expedience and Socialist benevolence. Thus, essentially all State enterprises ran at a loss and the number of State employees in Vienna, the capital of the post WWI republic was greater than that of the earlier monarchy, even though they served a population base nearly eight times smaller.[27]

Observing the Austrian response to developing hyperinflation, fueled by selfishness and political ineptitude, including the hoarding of food and the speculation in foreign currencies, Owen S. Phillpotts, the Commercial Secretary at the British Legation in Vienna wrote: “The Austrians are like men on a ship who cannot manage it, and are continually signalling for help. While waiting, however, most of them begin to cut rafts, each for himself, out of the sides and decks. The ship has not yet sunk despite the leaks so caused, and those who have acquired stores of wood in this way may use them to cook their food, while the more seamanlike look on cold and hungry. The population lack courage and energy as well as patriotism”.[28]

Azerbaijan[edit]

Azerbaijan experienced inflation from January 1992 until December 1994. It first circulated the Russian ruble until August 1992 when it introduced the Azerbaijani manat.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1991 – Dec. 1994
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 118%[29]

Belarus[edit]

Belarus experienced steady inflation from 1994 to 2002. In 1993, the highest denomination was 5,000 rublei. By 1999, it was 5,000,000 rublei. In the 2000 currency reform, the ruble was replaced by the new ruble at an exchange rate of 1 new ruble = 1,000 old rublei. The highest denomination in 2008 was 100,000 rublei, equal to 100,000,000 pre-2000 rublei. New 200,000 bill was introduced in 2012.

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Feb. 1992
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 159%
(2) Start and End Date: Aug. 1994 – Aug. 1994
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Aug. 1994, 53.4%[30]

Bolivia[edit]

Bolivia experienced its worst inflation between 1984 and 1986. Hyperinflation in Bolivia lasted from April 1984 to September 1985 and was the worst in the history of Latin America. The coalition government of Siles Suazo faced a perfect storm of financial and political challenges upon assuming power in October 1982. With GNP declining (real GNP fell 6.6% in 1982), historically high interest rates and declining commodity prices, international debt became unserviceable and access to international capital markets dried up. Additionally, the coalition government was effectively pressured by the left for social spending while lacking the political base to enact new taxes. Accelerating inflation caused a virtual collapse of the tax system, with taxes declining from 9% of GNP in 1981 to about 1.3% of GNP in the first half of 1985.[31] Before 1984, the highest denomination was 1,000 Bolivian pesos. By 1985, the highest denomination was 10 million Bolivian pesos. In 1985, a Bolivian note for 1 million pesos was worth 55 cents in US dollars, one-thousandth of its exchange value of $5,000 less than three years previously.[32] In the 1987 currency reform, the Peso Boliviano was replaced by the Boliviano at a rate of 1,000,000:1.

Start and End Date: Apr. 1984 – Sep. 1985
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Feb. 1985, 183%[22]

Bosnia and Herzegovina[edit]

Bosnia and Herzegovina went through its worst inflation in 1992. In 1992, the highest denomination was 1,000 dinara. By 1993, the highest denomination was 100,000,000 dinara. In the Republika Srpska, the highest denomination was 10,000 dinara in 1992 and 10,000,000,000 dinara in 1993. 50,000,000,000 dinara notes were also printed in 1993 but never issued.

Start and End Date: Apr. 1992 – Jun. 1993
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jun. 1992, 322%[33]

Brazil[edit]

From 1967–1994, the base currency unit was shifted seven times to adjust for inflation in the final years of the Brazilian military dictatorship era. A 1967 cruzeiro was, in 1994, worth less than one trillionth of a US cent, after adjusting for multiple devaluations and note changes. In that same year, inflation reached a record 2,075.8%. A new currency called real was adopted in 1994, and hyperinflation was eventually brought under control.[34] The real was also the currency in use until 1942; 1 (current) real is the equivalent of 2,750,000,000,000,000,000 of Brazil's first currency (called réis in Portuguese).

Start and End Date: Dec. 1989 – Mar. 1990
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mar. 1990, 82.4%[22]

Bulgaria[edit]

Bulgaria experienced its highest levels of inflation in February 1997. However, it had high inflation for many years before and after this episode. In order to curb inflation, Bulgaria implemented a currency board in July of that year. Inflation subsequently dropped almost immediately.

Start and End Date: Feb. 1997 – Feb. 1997
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Feb. 1997, 123%[22]

Chile[edit]

In 1973, Chile had experienced hyperinflation that had hit 700 percent, at a time when the country, under high protectionist barriers, had no foreign reserves, and GDP was falling.[35] Despite very severe government cuts and attempted monetary targeting under the Pinochet dictatorship inflation remained extremely high throughout the 1970s.

Start and End Date: Oct. 1973 – Oct. 1973
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Oct. 1973, 87.6%[36]

China[edit]

As the first user of fiat currency, China has had an early history of troubles caused by hyperinflation. The Yuan Dynasty printed huge amounts of fiat paper money to fund their wars, and the resulting hyperinflation, coupled with other factors, led to its demise at the hands of a revolution. The Republic of China went through the worst inflation 1948–49. In 1947, the highest denomination was 50,000 yuan. By mid-1948, the highest denomination was 180,000,000 yuan. The 1948 currency reform replaced the yuan by the gold yuan at an exchange rate of 1 gold yuan = 3,000,000 yuan. In less than a year, the highest denomination was 10,000,000 gold yuan. In the final days of the civil war, the Silver Yuan was briefly introduced at the rate of 500,000,000 Gold Yuan. Meanwhile the highest denomination issued by a regional bank was 6,000,000,000 yuan (issued by Xinjiang Provincial Bank in 1949). After the renminbi was instituted by the new communist government, hyperinflation ceased with a revaluation of 1:10,000 old Renminbi in 1955. The overall impact of inflation was 1 Renminbi = 15,000,000,000,000,000,000 pre-1948 yuan.

(1) Start and End Date: Jul. 1943 – Aug. 1945
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jun. 1945, 302%
(2) Start and End Date: Oct. 1947 – Mid. May 1949
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Apr. 5070%[37]

Estonia[edit]

Estonia experienced hyperinflation as a result of using the Russian ruble after the fall of the Soviet Union. However, it was the first post-Soviet union country to implement a currency reform by installing a currency board. It began circulation of the Estonian kroon in April 1992, ridding the country of high inflation.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Feb. 1992
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 87.2%[38]

France[edit]

During the French Revolution and first Republic, the National Assembly issued bonds, some backed by seized church property, called Assignats.[39] These evolved into fiat legal tender money, were overprinted and caused hyperinflation. Napoleon replaced them with the franc in 1803, at which time the assignats were basically worthless. Despite the fact that the assignat is normally considered to be the currency of this time, it was actually the mandat the experienced the peak month of hyperinflation.

Start and End Date: May 1795 – Nov. 1796
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mid-Aug. 1796, 304%[40]

Free City of Danzig[edit]

The Free City of Danzig went through its worst inflation in 1923. In 1922, the highest denomination was 1,000 Mark. By 1923, the highest denomination was 10,000,000,000 Mark.

Start and End Date: Aug. 1922 – Mid. Oct. 1923
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Sep. 1923, 2,437%[26]

Georgia[edit]

Georgia went through its worst inflation in 1994. In 1993, the highest denomination was 100,000 coupons [kuponi]. By 1994, the highest denomination was 1,000,000 coupons. In the 1995 currency reform, a new currency, the lari, was introduced with 1 lari exchanged for 1,000,000 coupons.

(1) Start and End Date: Mar. 1992 – Apr. 1992
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mar. 1992, 198%
(2) Start and End Date: Sep. 1993 – Sep. 1994
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Sep. 1994, 211%[41]

Germany (Weimar Republic)[edit]

5 Million Mark coin Would have been worth $714.29 in Jan 1923, about 1 thousandth of one cent by Oct 1923.

By November 1922 the gold value of money in circulation fell from £300 million before WWI to £20 million. The Reichsbank responded by the unlimited printing of notes, thereby accelerating the devaluation of the mark. In his report to London, Lord D'Abernon wrote: "In the whole course of history, no dog has ever run after its own tail with the speed of the Reichsbank."[42][43] Germany went through its worst inflation in 1923. In 1922, the highest denomination was 50,000 Mark. By 1923, the highest denomination was 100,000,000,000,000 Mark. In December 1923 the exchange rate was 4,200,000,000,000 Marks to 1 US dollar.[44] In 1923, the rate of inflation hit 3.25 × 106 percent per month (prices double every two days). Beginning on 20 November 1923, 1,000,000,000,000 old Marks were exchanged for 1 Rentenmark so that 4.2 Rentenmarks were worth 1 US dollar, exactly the same rate the Mark had in 1914.[44]

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1920 – Jan. 1920
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1920, 56.9%
(2) Start and End Date: Aug. 1922 – Dec. 1923
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1923, 29,525%[26]

Greece[edit]

Greece went through its worst inflation in 1944. In 1942, the highest denomination was 50,000 drachmai. By 1944, the highest denomination was 100,000,000,000 drachmai. In the 1944 currency reform, 1 new drachma was exchanged for 50,000,000,000 drachmai. Another currency reform in 1953 replaced the drachma at an exchange rate of 1 new drachma = 1,000 old drachmai. The overall impact of hyperinflation: 1 (1953) drachma = 50,000,000,000,000 pre 1944 drachmai. The Greek monthly inflation rate reached 8.5 billion percent in October 1944.

Start and End Date: May 1941 – Dec. 1945
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1944, 13,800%[45]

Hungary, 1923–24[edit]

The 100 million b.-pengő note was the highest denomination of banknote ever issued, worth 1020 or 100 quintillion Hungarian pengő (1946). B.-pengő was short for "billió pengő", which in English means trillion pengő.

The Treaty of Trianon and political instability between 1919 and 1924 led to a major inflation of Hungary's currency. In 1921, in an attempt to arrest Post WWI inflation, the national assembly of Hungary passed the Hegedüs reforms, including a 20% levy on bank deposits. This action precipitated a mistrust of banks by the public, especially the peasants, and resulted in a reduction savings and the amount of currency in circulation.[46] Unable to tax adequately, the government resorted to printing money and by 1923 inflation in Hungary had reached 98% per month.

Start and End Date: Mar. 1923 – Feb. 1924
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jul. 1923, 97.9%[47]

Hungary, 1945–46[edit]

Hungary went through the worst inflation ever recorded in the world between the end of 1945 and July 1946. In 1944, the highest denomination was 1,000 pengő. By the end of 1945, it was 10,000,000 pengő. The highest denomination in mid-1946 was 100,000,000,000,000,000,000 pengő. A special currency the adópengő – or tax pengő – was created for tax and postal payments.[48] The value of the adópengő was adjusted each day, by radio announcement. On 1 January 1946 one adópengő equaled one pengő. By late July, one adópengő equaled 2,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 or 2×1021 (2 sextillion) pengő. When the pengő was replaced in August 1946 by the forint, the total value of all Hungarian banknotes in circulation amounted to 1/1,000 of one US dollar.[49] It is the most severe known incident of inflation recorded, peaking at 1.3 × 1016 percent per month (prices double every 15 hours).[50] The overall impact of hyperinflation: On 18 August 1946, 4×1029 (four hundred quadrilliard on the long scale used in Hungary; four hundred octillion on short scale) pengő became 1 forint.

Start and End Date: Aug. 1945 – Jul. 1946
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jul. 1946, 41.9 quadrillion percent[51]

Kazakhstan[edit]

Kazakhstan experienced two episodes of hyperinflation. The first was in 1992. A feature that most post-Soviet Union countries experienced. The second episode was in November 1993 with the implementation of the Kazakhstani tenge.

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Jan. 1992
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 141%
(2) Start and End Date: Nov. 1993 – Nov. 1993
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: 55.5%[52]

Kyrgyzstan[edit]

Kyrgyzstan experienced hyperinflation in Jan. 1992 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Jan. 1992
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 157%[52]

Serbian Krajina[edit]

The Republic of Serbian Krajina went through its worst inflation in 1993. In 1992, the highest denomination was 50,000 dinara. By 1993, the highest denomination was 50,000,000,000 dinara. Note that this unrecognized country was reincorporated into Croatia in 1995.

North Korea[edit]

North Korea most likely experienced hyperinflation from December 2009 to mid-January 2011. Based on the price of rice, North Korea's hyperinflation peaked in mid-January 2010, but according to black market exchange-rate data, and calculations base on purchasing power parity, North Korea experienced its peak month of inflation in early March 2010. However, this data is unofficial and therefore must be treated with a degree of caution.[53]

Nicaragua[edit]

Nicaragua went through the worst inflation from 1986 to 1990. From 1943 to April 1971, one US dollar equalled 7 córdobas. From April 1971 – early 1978, one US dollar was worth 10 córdobas. In early 1986, the highest denomination was 10,000 córdobas. By 1987, it was 1,000,000 córdobas. In the 1988 currency reform, 1 new córdoba was exchanged for 10,000 old córdobas. The highest denomination in 1990 was 100,000,000 new córdobas. In the 1991 currency reform, 1 new córdoba was exchanged for 5,000,000 old córdobas. The overall impact of hyperinflation: 1 (1991) córdoba = 50,000,000,000 pre-1988 córdobas.

Start and End Date: Jun. 1986 – Mar. 1991
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mar. 1991, 261%[54]

Peru[edit]

Peru experienced its worst inflation from 1988–1990. In the 1985 currency reform, 1 inti was exchanged for 1,000 soles. In 1986, the highest denomination was 1,000 intis. But in September 1988, monthly inflation went to 114%. In August 1990, monthly inflation was 397%. The highest denomination was 5,000,000 intis by 1991. In the 1991 currency reform, 1 nuevo sol was exchanged for 1,000,000 intis. The overall impact of hyperinflation: 1 nuevo sol = 1,000,000,000 (old) soles.

(1) Start and End Date: Sep. 1988 – Sep. 1988
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Sep. 1988, 114%
(2) Start and End Date: Jul. 1990 – Aug. 1990
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Aug. 1990, 397%[54]

Philippines[edit]

The Japanese government occupying the Philippines during the World War II issued fiat currencies for general circulation. The Japanese-sponsored Second Philippine Republic government led by Jose P. Laurel at the same time outlawed possession of other currencies, most especially "guerilla money." The fiat money was dubbed "Mickey Mouse Money" because it is similar to play money and is next to worthless. Survivors of the war often tell tales of bringing suitcase or bayong (native bags made of woven coconut or buri leaf strips) overflowing with Japanese-issued bills. In the early times, 75 Mickey Mouse pesos could buy one duck egg.[55] In 1944, a box of matches cost more than 100 Mickey Mouse pesos.[56]

In 1942, the highest denomination available was 10 pesos. Before the end of the war, because of inflation, the Japanese government was forced to issue 100, 500 and 1000 peso notes.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1944 – Dec. 1944
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1944, 60%[57]

Poland, 1923–1924[edit]

After Poland's independence in 1918, the country soon began experiencing extreme inflation. By 1921, prices had already risen 251 times above those of 1914, but in the following three years they rose by 988,223%[58] with a peak rate in late 1923 of prices doubling every nineteen and a half days.[59] At independence there was 8 marek per US dollar, but by 1923 the exchange rate was 6,375,000 marek (mkp) for 1 US dollar. The highest denomination was 10,000,000 mkp. In the 1924 currency reform there was a new currency introduced: 1 zloty = 1,800,000 mkp.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1923 – Jan. 1924
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1923, 275%[47]

Poland, 1989–1990[edit]

Poland experienced a second hyperinflation between 1989 and 1990. Developing inflation and shortages in Poland in the eighties were exacerbated by excessive and growing subsidies to state sector production. In this environment, in August 1989, the government "marketized" agriculture, resulting in the liberalization of retail food prices and profit margins and an immediate 40% jump in prices from July to August. The acceleration of inflation was fueled by wage and income indexation won by the Solidarity-led opposition and led to hyperinflation by October 1989.[60] The highest denomination in 1989 was 200,000 zlotych. It was 1,000,000 zlotych in 1991 and 2,000,000 zlotych in 1992; the exchange rate was 9500 zlotych for 1 US dollar in January 1990 and 19600 zlotych at the end of August 1992. In the 1994 currency reform, 1 new zloty was exchanged for 10,000 old zlotych and 1 US$ exchange rate was ca. 2.5 zlotych (new).

Start and End Date: Oct. 1989 – Jan. 1990
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1990, 77.3%[22]

Republika Srpska[edit]

Republika Srpska was a breakaway region of Bosnia. As with Krajina, it pegged its currency, the Republika Srpska dinar, to that of Yugoslavia. Their bills were almost the same as Krajina's, but they issued fewer and did not issue currency after 1993.

Start and End Date: Apr. 1992 – Jan. 1994
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1994, 297 million percent[61]

Soviet Union / Russian Federation[edit]

Main article: Hyperinflation in early Soviet Russia. See also: Soviet ruble.

Between 1921 and 1922, inflation in the Soviet Union reached 213%.

In 1992, the first year of the post-Soviet economic reform, inflation levels went up to 2,520%. In 1993, the annual rate was 840%, and in 1994, 224%. The ruble devalued from about 40 r/$ in 1991 to about 5,000 r/$ in late 1997. In 1998, a denominated ruble was introduced at the exchange rate of 1 new ruble = 1,000 pre-1998 rubles. In the second half of the same year, ruble fell to about 30 r/$ as a result of financial crisis.[62]

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1922 – Feb. 1924
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Feb. 1924
(2) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Jan. 1992, 212%
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 245%[38]

Taiwan[edit]

As the Chinese Civil War reached its peak, Taiwan also suffered from the hyperinflation that has ravaged China in late 1940s. Highest denomination issued was a 1,000,000 Dollar Bearer's Cheque. Inflation was finally brought under control at introduction of New Taiwan Dollar in 15 June 1949 at rate of 40,000 old Dollar = 1 New Dollar.

(1) Start and End Date: Aug. 1945 – Sep. 1945
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Aug. 1945, 399%
(2) Start and End Date: Feb. 1947 – Feb. 1947
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Feb. 1947, 50.8%
(3) Start and End Date: Oct. 1948 – May 1949
(3) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: October. 1948 399%[63]

Tajikistan[edit]

Tajikistan experienced two episodes of hyperinflation. One episode following the break-up of the Soviet Union that lasted longer than many of its neighboring countries. The second episode was in 1995 following the circulation of their new ruble.

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Oct. 1993
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 201%
(2) Start and End Date: Oct. 1995 – Nov. 1995
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1995, 65.2%[64]

Turkmenistan[edit]

Turkmenistan experienced two episodes of hyperinflation as well. Similar to Takjikistan it experienced one episode in 1992 and one in 1995 following the introduction of its currency, the manat.

(1) Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Nov. 1993
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1993, 429%
(2) Start and End Date: Nov. 1995 – Jan. 1996
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1996, 62.5%[64]

Ukraine[edit]

Ukraine experienced its worst inflation between 1992 and 1994. In 1992, the Ukrainian karbovanets was introduced, which was exchanged with the defunct Soviet ruble at a rate of 1 UAK = 1 SUR. Before 1993, the highest denomination was 1,000 karbovantsiv. By 1995, it was 1,000,000 karbovantsiv. In 1996, during the transition to the Hryvnya and the subsequent phase out of the karbovanets, the exchange rate was 100,000 UAK = 1 UAH. By some estimates, inflation for the entire calendar year of 1993 was 10,000% or higher, with retail prices reaching over 100 times their pre-1993 level by the end of the year.[65]

A 100,000 Ukrainian karbovantsi (used between 1992 and 1996).

In 1996, it was taken out of circulation, and was replaced by the Hryvnya at an exchange rate of 100,000 karbovantsi = 1 Hryvnya (approx. USD 0.50 at that time, about USD 0.20 as of 2007).

Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Nov. 1994
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 285%[52]

Uzbekistan[edit]

Like many of the post-Soviet Union countries, Uzbekistan also experienced hyperinflation following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1992.

Start and End Date: Jan. 1992 – Feb. 1992
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1992, 118%[52]

Yugoslavia[edit]

A 500 billion Yugoslav dinar banknote circa 1993, the largest nominal value ever officially printed in Yugoslavia, the final result of hyperinflation.

Yugoslavia went through a period of hyperinflation and subsequent currency reforms from 1989–1994. One of several regional conflicts accompanying the dissolution of Yugoslavia was the Bosnian War (1992–1995). The Belgrade government of Slobodan Milošević backed ethnic Serbian secessionist forces in the conflict, resulting in a United Nations boycott of Yugoslavia. The UN boycott collapsed an economy already weakened by regional war, with the projected monthly inflation rate accelerating to one million percent by December, 1993 (prices double every 2.3 days).[66] The highest denomination in 1988 was 50,000 dinars. By 1989 it was 2,000,000 dinars. In the 1990 currency reform, 1 new dinar was exchanged for 10,000 old dinars. In the 1992 currency reform, 1 new dinar was exchanged for 10 old dinars. The highest denomination in 1992 was 50,000 dinars. By 1993, it was 10,000,000,000 dinars. In the 1993 currency reform, 1 new dinar was exchanged for 1,000,000 old dinars. However, before the year was over, the highest denomination was 500,000,000,000 dinars. In the 1994 currency reform, 1 new dinar was exchanged for 1,000,000,000 old dinars. In another currency reform a month later, 1 novi dinar was exchanged for 13 million dinars (1 novi dinar = 1 German mark at the time of exchange). The overall impact of hyperinflation: 1 novi dinar = 1 × 1027~1.3 × 1027 pre 1990 dinars. Yugoslavia's rate of inflation hit 5 × 1015 percent cumulative inflation over the time period 1 October 1993 and 24 January 1994.

(1) Start and End Date: Sept. 1989 – Dec. 1989
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Dec 1989, 59.7%
(2) Start and End Date: Apr. 1992 – Jan. 1994
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Jan. 1994, 313 billion percent[67]

Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo)[edit]

Zaire went through a period of inflation between 1989 and 1996. In 1988, the highest denomination was 5,000 zaires. By 1992, it was 5,000,000 zaires. In the 1993 currency reform, 1 nouveau zaire was exchanged for 3,000,000 old zaires. The highest denomination in 1996 was 1,000,000 nouveaux zaires. In 1997, Zaire was renamed the Congo Democratic Republic and changed its currency to francs. 1 franc was exchanged for 100,000 nouveaux zaires. One post-1997 franc was equivalent to 3 × 1011 pre 1989 zaires.

(1) Start and End Date: Nov. 1993 – Sep. 1994
(1) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1993, 250%
(2) Start and End Date: Oct. 1991 – Sep. 1992
(2) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Nov. 1992, 114%
(3) Start and End Date: Aug. 1998 – Aug. 1998
(3) Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: 78.5%[22]

Zimbabwe[edit]

The 100 trillion Zimbabwean dollar banknote (1014 dollars), equal to 1027 (1 octillion) pre-2006 dollars.

Hyperinflation in Zimbabwe was one of the few instances that resulted in the abandonment of the local currency. At independence in 1980, the Zimbabwe dollar (ZWD) was worth about USD 1.25. Afterwards, however, rampant inflation and the collapse of the economy severely devalued the currency. Inflation was steady before Robert Mugabe in 1998 began a program of land reforms that primarily focused on taking land from white farmers and redistributing those properties and assets to black farmers, which disrupted food production and caused revenues from export of food to plummet.[68][69][70] The result was that to pay its expenditures Mugabe's government and Gideon Gono's Reserve Bank printed more and more notes with higher face values.

Hyperinflation began early in the 21st-century, reaching 624% in 2004. It fell back to low triple digits before surging to a new high of 1,730% in 2006. The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe revalued on 1 August 2006 at a ratio of 1 000 ZWD to each second dollar (ZWN), but year-to-year inflation rose by June 2007 to 11,000% (versus an earlier estimate of 9,000%). Larger denominations were progressively issued:

  1. 5 May: banknotes or "bearer cheques" for the value of ZWN 100 million and ZWN 250 million.[71]
  2. 15 May: new bearer cheques with a value of ZWN 500 million (then equivalent to about USD 2.50).[72]
  3. 20 May: a new series of notes ("agro cheques") in denominations of $5 billion, $25 billion and $50 billion.
  4. 21 July: "agro cheque" for $100 billion.[73]

Inflation by 16 July officially surged to 2,200,000%[74] with some analysts estimating figures surpassing 9,000,000 percent.[75] As of 22 July 2008 the value of the ZWN fell to approximately 688 billion per 1 USD, or 688 trillion pre-August 2006 Zimbabwean dollars.[76]

Date of
redenomination
Currency
code
Value
1 August 2006 ZWN 1 000 ZWD
1 August 2008 ZWR 1010 ZWN
= 1013 ZWD
2 February 2009 ZWL 1012 ZWR
= 1022 ZWN
= 1025 ZWD

On 1 August 2008, the Zimbabwe dollar was redenominated at the ratio of 1010 ZWN to each third dollar (ZWR).[77] On 19 August 2008, official figures announced for June estimated the inflation over 11,250,000%.[78] Zimbabwe's annual inflation was 231,000,000% in July[79] (prices doubling every 17.3 days). By October 2008 Zimbawe was mired in hyperinflation with wages falling far behind inflation. In this dysfunctional economy hospitals and schools had chronic staffing problems, because many nurses and teachers could not afford bus fare to work. Most of the capital of Harare was without water because the authorities had stopped paying the bills to buy and transport the treatment chemicals. Desperate for foreign currency to keep the government functioning, Zimbabwe's central bank governor, Gideon Gono, sent runners into the streets with suitcases of Zimbabwean dollars to buy up American dollars and South African rand.[80] For periods after July 2008, no official inflation statistics were released. Prof. Steve H. Hanke overcame the problem by estimating inflation rates after July 2008 and publishing the Hanke Hyperinflation Index for Zimbabwe.[81] Prof. Hanke's HHIZ measure indicated that the inflation peaked at an annual rate of 89.7 sextillion percent (89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000%) in mid-November 2008. The peak monthly rate was 79.6 billion percent, which is equivalent to a 98% daily rate, or around 7× 10^108 percent yearly rate. At that rate, prices were doubling every 24.7 hours. Note that many of these figures should be considered mostly theoretic, since the hyperinflation did not proceed at that rate a whole year.[82]

At its November 2008 peak, Zimbabwe's rate of inflation approached, but failed to surpass, Hungary's July 1946 world record.[82] On 2 February 2009, the dollar was redenominated for the fourth time at the ratio of 1012 ZWR to 1 ZWL, only three weeks after the $100 trillion banknote was issued on 16 January,[83][84] but hyperinflation waned by then as official inflation rates in USD were announced and foreign transactions were legalised,[82] and on 12 April the dollar was abandoned in favour of using only foreign currencies. The overall impact of hyperinflation was 1 ZWL = 1025 ZWD.

Start and End Date: Mar. 2007 – Mid-Nov. 2008
Peak Month and Rate of Inflation: Mid-Nov. 2008, 7.96 billion percent[85]

Examples of high inflation[edit]

Some countries experienced very high inflation, but did not reach hyperinflation, as defined as a monthly inflation rate of 50%.

Iraq[edit]

Between 1987 and 1995 the Iraqi Dinar went from an official value of 0.306 Dinars/USD (or $3.26 USD per dinar, though the black market rate is thought to have been substantially lower) to 3000 Dinars/USD due to government printing of 10s of trillions of dinars starting with a base of only 10s of billions. That equates to approximately 315% inflation per year averaged over that eight-year period.[86]

Mexico[edit]

In spite of increased oil prices in the late 1970s (Mexico is a producer and exporter), Mexico defaulted on its external debt in 1982. As a result, the country suffered a severe case of capital flight and several years of hyperinflation and peso devaluation. On 1 January 1993, Mexico created a new currency, the nuevo peso ("new peso", or MXN), which chopped three zeros off the old peso, an inflation rate of 100,000% over the several years of the crisis. (One new peso was equal to 1,000 old MXP pesos).

Roman Egypt[edit]

In Roman Egypt, where the best documentation on pricing has survived, the price of a measure of wheat was 200 drachmae in 276 AD, and increased to more than 2,000,000 drachmae in 334 AD, roughly 1,000,000% inflation in a span of 58 years.[87]

Although the price increased by a factor of 10,000 over 58 years, the annual rate of inflation was only 17.2% compounded.

Romania[edit]

Romania experienced hyperinflation in the 1990s. The highest denomination in 1990 was 100 lei and in 1998 was 100,000 lei. By 2000 it was 500,000 lei. In early 2005 it was 1,000,000 lei. In July 2005 the lei was replaced by the new leu at 10,000 old lei = 1 new leu. Inflation in 2005 was 9%.[88] In July 2005 the highest denomination became 500 leu (= 5,000,000 old lei).

Vietnam[edit]

Vietnam went under a chaotic and hyperinflation period in late 1980s, with inflation peaking at 774% in 1988, after the country's "price-wage-currency" reform package led by Mr Tran Phuong, then Deputy Prime Minister, had failed bitterly.[89] Hyperinflation also characterizes the early stage of economic renovation, usually referred to as Doi Moi, in Vietnam.

United States[edit]

During the Revolutionary War, when the Continental Congress authorized the printing of paper currency called continental currency, the monthly inflation rate reached a peak of 47 percent in November 1779 (Bernholz 2003: 48). These notes depreciated rapidly, giving rise to the expression "not worth a continental."

A second close encounter occurred during the U.S. Civil War, between January 1861 and April 1865, the Lerner Commodity Price Index of leading cities in the eastern Confederacy states increased from 100 to over 9,000.[90] As the Civil War dragged on, the Confederate dollar had less and less value, until it was almost worthless by the last few months of the war. Similarly, the Union government inflated its greenbacks, with the monthly rate peaking at 40 percent in March 1864 (Bernholz 2003: 107).[91]

Most severe hyperinflations in world history[edit]

Highest monthly inflation rates in history[91]
Country Currency name Month with highest inflation rate Highest monthly inflation rate Equivalent daily inflation rate Time required for prices to double
Hungary Hungarian pengő July 1946 4.19 × 1016 % 207.19% 15 hours
Zimbabwe Zimbabwe dollar November 2008 7.96 × 1010 % 98.01% 24.7 hours
Yugoslavia Yugoslav dinar January 1994 3.13 × 108 % 64.63% 1.4 days
Republika Srpska Republika Srpska dinar January 1994 2.97 × 108 % 64.3% 1.4 days
Germany (Weimar Republic) German Papiermark October 1923 29,500% 20.87% 3.7 days
Greece Greek drachma October 1944 13,800% 17.84% 4.3 days

Units of inflation[edit]

Inflation rate is usually measured in percent per year. It can also be measured in percent per month or in price doubling time.

Example of inflation rates and units
When first bought, an item cost 1 currency unit. Later, the price rose...
Old price New price 1 year later New price 10 years later New price 100 years later (Annual) inflation [%] Monthly
inflation
[%]
Price
doubling
time
[years]
Zero add time [years]
1
1 .0001
1 .001
1 .01
0.01
0 .0008
6931
23028
1
1 .001
1 .01
1 .11
0.1
0 .00833
693
2300
1
1 .003
1 .03
1 .35
0.3
0 .0250
231
769
1
1 .01
1 .10
2 .70
1
0 .0830
69 .7
231
1
1 .03
1 .34
19 .2
3
0 .247
23 .4
77.9
1
1 .1
2 .59
13800
10
0 .797
7 .27
24.1
1
2
1024
1.27 × 1030
100
5 .95
1
3.32
1
10
1010
10100
900
21 .2
0 .301 (3⅔ months)
1
1
31
8.20 × 1014
1.37 × 10149
3000
32 .8
0 .202 (2½ months)
0.671 (8 months)
1
1012
10120
101,200
1014
900
0 .0251 (9 days)
0.0833 (1 month)
1
1.67 × 1073
1.69 × 10732
1.87 × 107,322
1.67 × 1075
1.26 × 108
0 .00411 (36 hours)
0.0137 (5 days)
1
1.05 × 102,637
1.69 × 1026,370
1.89 × 10263,702
1.05 × 102,639
5.65 × 10221
0 .000114 (1 hour)
0.000379 (3.3 hours)


\hbox{New price } y \hbox{ years later} = \hbox{old price } \times \left(1+\frac{\hbox{inflation}}{100}\right)^{y}


\hbox{Monthly inflation } = 100 \times \left(\left(1+\frac{\hbox{inflation}}{100}\right)^{\frac{1}{12}} -1\right)


\hbox{Price doubling time} = \frac{\log_{e} 2}{\log_{e} \left(1+ \frac{\hbox{inflation}}{100}\right)}


\hbox{Years per added zero of the price } = \frac{1}{\log_{e} \left(1+ \frac{\hbox{inflation}}{100}\right)}

Often, at redenominations, three zeroes are cut from the bills. It can be read from the table that if the (annual) inflation is for example 100%, it takes 3.32 years to produce one more zero on the price tags, or 3 × 3.32 = 9.96 years to produce three zeroes. Thus can one expect a redenomination to take place about 9.96 years after the currency was introduced.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]


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