The first recorded use of paper currency in the world is believed to have occurred in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). The Chinese used paper money in the form of “jiaozi,” which were paper notes issued by the government that could be exchanged for gold or silver. The jiaozi were used primarily as a means of exchange, but they also functioned as a way to store wealth, as they were easier to carry than heavy coins. The use of paper money eventually spread to other parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas, where it became an integral part of the financial system.
Portraits of presidents were not depicted on the official currency of the USA until the beginning of the 20th century. The first dollars had the figures and faces of the characters of Greek and Roman mythology and pictures with the participation of Native Americans appeared on the money.
German hyperinflation after WWI was so bad by 1923 the US dollar was worth 4.2 trillion marks (before the war it was about four marks). Restaurants even stopped printing menus because by the time food arrived prices had gone up. One guy ordered coffee at 5000 marks, the second cup cost him 9000.
American currency went as high as $10,000, with $5,000, $1,000 and $500 bills also in circulation. They were discontinued in 1969 for “lack of use.”
In 2004, a woman in Covington, Georgia, tried to pay a $1,675 tab at WalMart using a forged $1 million bill featuring a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
The currency US-Dollar is indirectly named after the Czech town Jáchymov. The town’s German name is Joachimsthal and the coins produced here were called “Thaler”. The Dutch called those coins “Daler”, which then later turned into “Dollar”.
During WWII, the US government recalled all paper currency circulating in Hawaii and replaced it with notes stamped with “HAWAII”. In the event of a Japanese invasion of Hawaii, all currency captured would be easily identifiable and would be rendered worthless.
The $2 bill makes up 1% of currency circulation. Its scarcity in daily use has confused some merchants who believe the bill to be fake. A 13 year old girl in Texas was detained by police when she tried to pay for her school lunch with a $2 bill, because the school’s counterfeit pen wouldn’t work on it.
Botswana’s currency is named Pula which literally means “rain” in their official language. This is because rain is very scarce in Botswana — home to much of the Kalahari Desert — and therefore valuable and a blessing.
There is an island in the pacific called Yap that uses circular stones as currency. The stones are too large to move so the ownership of the stones is passed by word of mouth to transact business. The location of the stone is irrelevant even in the case of one lost on the bottom of the sea.