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Journal Entries posted by Revenant

  1. Revenant
    Most of the notes in my Zimbabwe set come to me by way of a couple of different merchants that do a lot of business and have a lot of diverse inventory for the banknotes of that country and many others. One of those two merchants is BankNoteWorld (BNW).

    One of the interesting things about buying from BNW is the fact that they send a copy of this little book with every order that includes Zimbabwe notes.

    The book has gone through at least a couple of editions that I’ve seen. The older one is thinner and doesn’t include images of the notes under UV / black light. The new edition has images of the notes viewed under UV light in order to highlight some of the security features used on notes throughout the 2nd and 3rd dollar issues.

    Because I’ve ordered from them a number of times since 2015 I’d started developing quite a collection / stockpile of these books and I ultimately sent them a message and told them to stop sending them when they filled my orders - it’s a waste of money and paper.

    The book is mostly pictures - but they’re full color pictures on good paper, which says a lot about the commitment to quality on a book they’re giving out for free. I know they’re using it to encourage people to buy the whole set and buy more notes from them but I admire the commitment to making it look and feel good.

    There is one aspect of the book that I can’t help but find disappointing though.

    There’s only one page of the whole thing that has any meaningful text or which tries to provide a narrative for the notes. That one page talks about the Bearer Checks and the Special Agro Checks of the 2nd dollar as well as the regular banknote issues of the 3rd dollar. The part of it that bugs me is that they talk about these two sets like they’re the entire story - the full set of issues made during the hyperinflation period. That’s really not true though.

    The P-11b $500 dollar note and the P-12 $1000 note were both in use during what can be considered the very first part of the hyperinflationary period. The Cargill Bearer Checks, the Traveler’s Checks, and the Bearer Check’s that span from P-13 to P-32 are all first dollar issues that are very much part of the hyperinflationary period. The 4th dollars that followed in 2009 are also rightfully part of the group.

    I know why those issues probably aren’t in the book - the merchant doesn’t have many examples of those series in their inventory. At the end of the day, the book is more of a sales document and they’re not going to spend time and money promoting something that they don’t have in stock to sell. Still, I can’t help but find it frustrating that they’ve omitted these issues and not even spared a couple of sentences to acknowledge their existence.

    It’s not exactly a definitive text on the Zimbabwe hyperinflation and its banknotes, but, again, I have to acknowledge that it is what it was meant to be, not what I’d like to see in it.

    While I haven’t done so yet, I’d love to get a copy of Philip Haslam’s “When Money Destroys Nations: How Hyperinflation Ruined Zimbabwe, How Ordinary People Survived and Warnings for Nations that Print Money.” I think that book is going to focus on the nation and the economic narrative of the event and probably not spare much attention for the Banknotes that I’ve been obsessing over, but I still think it’d be an interesting read.

  2. Revenant
    A currency dealer I shop with frequently just did a "fall sale" - putting all PCGS Currency graded banknotes on sale for 30%. This has me wondering if the PCGS graded notes haven't been selling since the shutdown and their values really have taken a hit, even on the lower ends of the market - including the market for modern banknotes.
  3. Revenant
    I hadn't realized until recently, when Dena / PMG made posts about it, that PCGS Currency had shut down. I also hadn't realized, until I read the announcement on the PCGS Currency page, that PCGS Currency wasn't run / operated by / part of Collector's Universe. If I'm being completely honest, I never really spent any time looking into PCGS currency, so I don't know if my lack of knowledge in that department was from my lack of effort or them not advertising it / publicizing it much. I never bought a PCGS currency graded note so it just never came up for me.
    The thing that's particularly interesting to me about this is, you're not seeing this shutdown reflected in listings in at least some marketplaces - eBay in particular.
    PCGS Currency graded notes are still being listed with prices / premiums that don't seem to take into account the changed status of these notes and the guarantee they maybe used to have.
    One listing I can even up even now for an PCGS Currency graded note says nothing about the shutdown / shuttering of the service. Quite the contrary - it just lists some boilerplate, copy/paste language saying:
    "On 3rd party professional graded notes: we are selling what that company says it is and not what the buyers or sellers opinion of the grade(condition of the note)  If you don't know how to grade please contact the grading company or look at their website to understand their grading standards."
    Anyone that goes to the PGCS Currency page expecting to see information about grading standards is going to be disappointed.
    Based on NGC's post, I'm sure those with high-end notes graded by PCGS Currency are mostly aware of this shake-up and are doing what they feel they need to do - that is mostly out of my depth anyway. I shop and live in a different part of the market - lower cost modern notes that are graded because I want to have them graded, not because the value of the note justifies the expense of grading them. It's going to be interesting to see the extent to which the closure of PCGS currency will be felt on this lower end portion of the market - will these already fairly low-value notes actually start trading at a discount against similar PMG graded notes?
    I'm expecting that the notes in these cases will probably stay in the PCGS currency holders and will not be crossed to PMG. Paying to crossover a rare and valuable note makes sense, but, with things like this, like my Zimbabwe notes, most of them didn't make sense to grade in the first place and it really doesn't make sense to pay more money to cross them. The value of the grading with these things is mostly in the holder and the protection that the holder conveys for long term preservation and handling. The PCGS Currency holders satisfy this need, probably to roughly the same extent as the PMG holder would.
    For what it's worth, I'm really not trying to dump on PMG graded Zimbabwe notes - I really like my set and I've been working hard to build it up. But I'm not unwilling to acknowledge facts and math - most of these notes sell for $3 raw and about $16-25 graded in the range of 66 EPQ to 68 EPQ. So, even if you get a great grade on the note, you're barely going to recover your grading and shipping costs if you try to sell the note later - at least under current market conditions. Maybe that'll change one of these days.
    Just a bit of an evening ramble I suppose, but I'll stop there for now.
  4. Revenant
    In a note related to the topic of my last entry, the more time goes on the more I that opinions on what constitutes a "complete" set of Zimbabwe notes seems to vary widely.
    I was on reddit recently and a user said they had a complete set of the Zimbabwe notes. I was curious so I asked them what they were considering complete.
    It turned out that the poster had a full set of the 27-note 3rd dollar banknotes series - but nothing beyond that.
    For a long time there, BanknoteWorld - while they were publishing those books - as well as other merchants seemed to define "complete" to include the 2nd dollar bearer checks and agro checks in addition to the 3rd dollar bank notes - about 59 notes and checks.
    Another vender I deal with often encourages people to try to build a complete set from P-1 to P-98, but this still excludes the newer bond notes (P-99 and P-100) and includes the 1st dollar traveler's checks and Standard Chartered bearer checks P-13 through P-20 and P-24 through P-27), when seemingly few others do.
    I think ultimately I'll have to arrive at my own definition of complete for this set / project, which may end up being whenever I just decide I'm satisfied or I'm done.
  5. Revenant
    One of the things I've always found interesting in the Zimbabwe series is that the first notes in the 3rd dollar series (from $1 to $1000) were released on Aug 1 2008 and the 4th dollar notes (from $1 to $500) were released just 5 months later in Jan 2009. But 1 4th dollar was worth 1 TRILLION 3rd dollars. So they couldn't have people confusing the two note series, which were circulating very much at the same time. It would not have been good if there was even a reasonable chance that someone might think one of the "old" 3rd dollar notes was a 4th dollar note. So, when you look at examples of each for the different denominations, you can see how hard they were trying to make sure there was not confusion.
    $20 notes...

    $500 notes:..

    I think the most striking thing for me is the coloring and the changes to where the denominations are, but, if you're paying attention at all, you're not going to mistake one for the other.
  6. Revenant
    Ever since I found out about them I've been scratching my head thinking about what to do - if anything - about the bank issued bearer checks and traveler's checks.
    They have pick numbers assigned to them (P-13 through P-20 and P-24 through P-27). In that sense, it feels like you can't completely ignore them and like they should be part of the collection.
    At the same time, they were issued by banks, not the RBZ, they could only be used / redeemed once, by the person they had been issued to, and they had to be cancelled - so they weren't really currency or banknotes in any way. They were checks.
    PMG, while they graded a few of these back in the day, says they probably wouldn't grade them currently. So, unless you can get someone to sell you one they have previously graded (and they may not come up for sale), you can't even get graded examples of these, even though there are competitive set categories for them (with no sets because the people that own those graded examples don't list them in the registry).
    It also isn't lost on me that the poster I showed in my last post shows P-28 through P-32, the later bearer checks, but doesn't show the bank-issued checks. So obviously the dealer that made that poster doesn't really think of them or market them as being part of that larger set either. The other major dealer I go through for most of my Zimbabwe notes also doesn't deal in these bank-issued notes at all from what I can see.
    So far I've included blank slots in my signature set with notes on the comments, just to acknowledge each group / set of notes with a slot to acknowledge the pick numbers, but I increasingly wonder if I just need to cut them out / allow myself to ignore them.
    In the context of the larger set, they're just odd. It just feels like they both do and don't belong in the larger set / collection.
  7. Revenant
    I got this poster in the mail a while ago. It came in a poster tube on its own. I'm guessing it was a marketing thing and a "thank you for being a customer" type thing.
    I do like it though. I think I might have to get this framed one of these days to go with my note set.
    I like the fact that it includes the 1st dollars and the 1980s era coins. I wish it included the 4th dollars and the bond notes - but I guess nothing can be perfect. There's still just too much emphasis on the 3rd dollars (the "Trillions Series") and the 100 Trillion dollar note..

  8. Revenant
    When I first started collecting the Zimbabwean 3rd dollars I thought they were all about the same size regardless of denomination.
    When I expanded my set to include more of the first dollars I started to notice that this wasn't the case with them. I was shocked the first time I held a P-1 note. Compared to the higher denominations in the series it is tiny. The shot below shows the $2 note over the $20.

    Then I finally got some low denomination 3rd dollars - P-65 and P-66 - and I realized that this wasn't exclusive to the 1st dollars. The ZWR had it too, I think the picture below was the $1 note and the $100 note.

    This was a really cool feature / realization for me.
    I'd read years ago that some people were pushing to make the different denominations in the US different sizes - it's an access issue for the blind. The argument was that the current bills deny adequate access to the blind and that making the notes different sizes would allow the blind to tell the difference between them without help.
    After reading that years ago, seeing this was just really neat.
    I don't really see any difference between the sizes of anything after about $500 or $1000. I can only assume this was because they either couldn't make the notes any bigger (They are quite big), or because they chose to standardize around a size to make it easier to keep cranking out higher denomination notes.
  9. Revenant
    Looks like, while I've been distracted by the birth of my 2nd son, the government of Zimbabwe and the RBZ have been busy. The announcement came on 2/19/2019, one week after my son was born.
    On 2/20/2019 the “Zollar” “quasi-currency,” pegged to the US dollar at a 1:1 ratio, represented by the bond coins released in 2014 and bond notes released from 2016-2018, became the official currency of Zimbabwe – called the RTGS dollar. It consisted of the bond notes and electronic money. The Bond Notes and electronic money would be converted or merged into the new currency with a 1:1 parity and then they would float against the dollar. The name of the currency would come from the country’s interbank online payment platform – "Real Time Gross Settlement," RTGS. 
    In the days leading up to the announcement the government and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) were actively denying claims that they were looking to introduce a new currency. Some local economists called the move a “bold and progressive” step. Others saw the move as a sophisticated plan to take control of the US dollar savings held by the population. Shakespear Hamauswa, a businessman and lecturer, sued the government and called the RTGS a “ponzi currency,” used to “monetize the theft” of the US$ balances of the people accumulated in the last 10 years. Nelson Chamisa, the leader of the major opposition group, said, “The monetary policy statement is a disaster that will erode livelihoods, plunge the nation into darkness and uncertainty.” 
    It’s worth noting that, while the bond notes and RTGS were officially pegged to the US dollar, in the parallel / black market the “real” exchange rate was more like 4 or 5 to one. Almost immediately after the RTGS was introduced the official exchange rate fell to 2.5RTGS:US$1. The “real” exchange rate at that time was closer to 5.75RTGS:US$1.

  10. Revenant
    I ran across the following in my continuing research from my Zimbabwe note set. It’s from the FAQ of a website that sells the notes.

    This made me shake my head, that anyone would still think it’s possible that these things would ever be money / currency again - 10 years after issuance was suspended and 4 years after the official demonization of the 4th dollars.

    The complete failure of the 2016/2017 bond notes evidences the challenge that Zimbabwe is going to face if they ever hope to have a national currency again. The issuance of the bond notes should also provide evidence of another fact - if Zimbabwe ever does make a new currency, it will do so with the issuance of a new series of notes. It will NOT do so by making these old notes currency again. It’s just not going to happen. They can’t re-monetize that massive amount of currency that they printed and have any hopes of the new currency succeeding. If they do launch a new currency the last thing they will want is for people to be thinking about the old currency and associating the new one with that terrible episode in the country’s history.

    The response in the FAQ says it well - these are defunct. These are novelties. These are “quirky collectables.”

    Even if, by some freak event of cataclysmically bad thinking, they did decide to remonetize these again, they’d probably remonetize the 4th dollar notes, which only run up to $500 - no one is going to become an instant trillionaire from them remonetizing all the 3rd dollars. It just will not happen.

    Even if they, at some later time, gain more popularity and start to become more valuable and desirable to the collecting community, they’ll only be slightly more valuable collectables.

    They’re collectables that I happen to enjoy a lot, so I’m going to keep collecting them and building up my set, diving ever further in the rabbit hole with subtleties, nuances and serial numbers… but let’s be real - you’re not going to get rich collecting / hoarding these things.

  11. Revenant
    Call it a "soft launch" since, for the time being, the only notes in it are going to be Zimbabwean notes that are also part of my set of that currency's notes for my hyperinflation themed set, but I've decided I'm going to make a signature set of notes that feature elephants - inspired by my sons.
    We have a membership to the Houston Zoo and whenever we go or talk about going the animal that Ben usually mentions wanting to go see is the elephants, which he absolutely loves.
    We also chose elephants as the theme for Samuel's nursery / bedding (for Ben the theme was turtles).
    Several of the Zimbabwean notes feature elephants and some of the artwork, like what appears on P-12 and P-98 is quite beautiful IMO. I've also seen / run across some notes from the Congo with some really great elephant artwork.
    Money is too tight right now for me to actively pursue this beyond maybe just setting up the set / or the bones of it, but this is definitely something I think I want to pursue more fully one of these days when time and finances allow it.
    The set will be called "A Parade of Elephants," which is the more fanciful name given to a group of elephants ("herd" is just so "blah").

  12. Revenant
    I wanted to make my best attempt to photograph and show off a funny feature of the Zimbabwe banknotes. Some of these banknotes have security features on them, like color changing / holographic ink, watermarks and complicated color schemes and had them as far back as the early 1980s or the 1990s, much earlier than I remember the United States introducing these to the "greenback."
    The 1983 Zimbabwean notes have watermarks but I don't think the US introduced watermarks to our currency until the mid- or late 1990s.
    One thing that's particularly interesting / funny to me is the "Zimbabwe Bird" watermark that they sued and the fact that it changes between the notes introduced in the 1980s and the notes introduced in the mid-1990s.
    The water marks on the early notes look like this:

    At least some of the Zimbabwean coins from this period also feature this bird and it looks like that on the coins.
    But then in the 1990s, it's like someone grabbed the bird's head and tried to stretch the neck out. All of a sudden the bird looks thinner and that neck just feels strangely long.

    Personally, I think the first design looked a lot better. That later design just looks a bit odd to me and not nearly as nice.
  13. Revenant
    When collecting a series, sometimes the notes / coins / denominations you don’t see are almost as interesting and telling as the ones you do see.

    I remember a few years ago when I first started looking into and trying to collect the Zimbabwe hyperinflation notes… I found the 100 Trillion note first and very easily. It’s the definitive poster-child of the series after all. I also quickly and easily found the 50 Trillion, 20 Trillion and 10 Trillion notes. Then I tried to search for a 5 Trillion… and a 1 Trillion… and a 500 Billion… and I found nothing. I tried looking for a 100 Billion, and found something, but it was weird looking, and was labeled as a… bearer check? What the…

    Of course, there are no notes denominated as 100 Billion, 200 billion, 500 Billion, 1 Trillion, or 5 Trillion in the 3rd dollar series. The 100 Billion Bearer Check I found, even though I didn’t know / understand what it was at the time, was part of the 2nd dollar bearer check series, not part of the 3rd dollar series, and so, it was almost completely different from what I was looking for. If you look at the progression of denominations used throughout the rest of the series / history of the Zimbabwean dollars, you’d expect all 5 of those denominations to exist, but none of them do. The only note of those five whose absence seems reasonable at first glance is the $200 Billion, as 20/200 denominations were often skipped in the series. The explanation for this is as simple as it is shocking – the hyperinflation in the country was so severe by November / December 2008, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe had to skip all of those and go from 50 Billion straight to 10 Trillion.

    That 5 note / denomination “gap” in the series is probably the biggest and most notable such oddity in the 100-pick series but it’s hardly the only one.

    The 3rd dollar series includes no 5,000 dollar note. The series originally maxed out with a $1,000 denomination. When the RBZ chose to start expanding the series to include higher denominations in late September 2008, they announced the $10,000 and $20,000 notes, but no $5,000 note.

    The 3rd dollar series also includes no $50 note. The 3rd dollar series was rolled out with denominations ranging from $1 to $1,000, but no $50 note, even though the denomination was seen in previous series for the 1st dollar and 2nd dollar.

    The 3rd dollar series, finally, includes no 5 Million or 20 Million dollar notes. Why these two notes where omitted when the $10 Million, $50 Million and 100 Million notes were announced in early Dec 2008 I don’t know.

    One of the things that makes the 2nd dollar Bearer Checks and Agro Checks interesting in the context of the larger series is the inclusion of “25” denominations. The 1st dollars, 3rd dollars and 4th dollars all have “20” denominations – like $20, $20,000, $20,000,000. Only the 2nd dollar series has denominations of $250,000, $250 Million, and $25 Billion. The 2nd dollar series, very oddly, has both a $200,000 and $250,000 note. The 2nd dollar does also have a $20 denomination, but I assume this is only because a $25 dollar note would have been just a little too peculiar to have been taken seriously. There is no $200 or $250 note in that series.

    The king of the oddities may be the $750,000 note of the 2nd dollar bearer check series (ZIM52). This is the only time in the entire 100 note Zimbabwean series that has a “75” fronted denomination. This note makes an interesting partner with the $250,000 (ZIM50) note and $500,000 notes (ZIM51) of the same series. Together they give you a quarter million, half a million, and three quarters of a million dollars for denominations, and this may help explain the inclusion of both a $200,000 and $250,000 note in this series.

    This is just one of those things about the series that I find interesting and maybe a little strange, and I like to think about it sometimes.

    The most likely explanations for the skipped notes in most cases is likely the same as the reason for skipping the $100 Billion through $5 Trillion notes in the 3rd dollar series – inflation had already rendered them undesirable before they could even be issued.

    The budget of the nation may have also played a role. One of the reasons for discontinuing the issuance of the money in 2009 is that the country couldn’t even buy paper / afford to print the notes anymore.  Some of these denominations may have been omitted just because the government / RBZ only had so much money for printing new notes and they elected to go for larger denominations to… get more buck for their buck?

    It’s all a little crazy to think about.

  14. Revenant
    This just came in the mail today and I just thought it was a little funny - thought I'd share.
    The vast majority of the coins and notes I buy are from sellers / dealers in the United States. I very rarely buy from international sellers, it's not often I get a package with a customs declaration form, and this one in particular is a first for me - Croatia. The seller is located in the capital city Zagreb, which I did not know was the capital until I looked it up.
    I ordered the note about 2 weeks ago on March 1st and the delivery estimate was between March 11th (which seemed optimistic honestly) and March 19th, so their guess wasn't bad. They were definitely in the range.
    The note in question was a Zimbabwean P-2c 5 dollar note from 1983. Another very nice addition to my 1st dollar set.

  15. Revenant
    When the set was introduced around 2016 the Zimbabwean First Dollar Set Category (“1980-2004 Issues, P1-P12, Complete”) included slots for all the sub-types, so instead of a slot for P-4 there were 4 slots for P-4a, P-4b, P-4c, and P-4d. They later went back and reduced the set to just 12 slots – one for each pick #. 
    I can only assume NGC decided to do this on their own because I don’t think anyone other than myself has ever had a set in this category so it’s hard for me to believe that someone else (a user / member) asked for or recommended this change. 
    I made my set back in 2016 when they were first introduced to the registry. I went about two years without updating or adding to it after that – fatherhood and unemployment sucking up my time. So I didn’t notice the change in the set / slots until about two months ago when I started paying attention and building up the set again. 
    Honestly, I like the change. It makes the set a lot more approachable and significantly easier to build – which was probably what NGC had in mind when they made the change. Collecting a full set of the pick #s for the first dollars is easy enough but building a set with all the sub-types would be expensive and hard. In particular, the 1980s notes that list the name of the Capital city as Salisbury instead of Harare (they changed the name of the city in 1982) seem hard to find. They just don’t seem to pop up very often. 
    Now, since I just need a P-11 and I don’t have to care about it being a P-11a or P-11b – unless I want to. The set becomes easier to build – and a lot more fun too if I’m being honest. The whole thing just becomes less daunting. 
    This change did hit my set a bit in that I’d bough both a P-4c and a P-4d at a time when they could both be listed in the same competitive registry set together. Now you can’t do that – not with a competitive set. But you can do it with a signature set and that’s exactly what I do these days. That is, after all, the beauty of this place with the signature sets. 
    My P-4c and P-4d are both in my newly re-done and re-imagined signature set. I may yet have more instances in the future where I have more than one sub-type within a single pick. I think getting some things like that has a great potential to add depth to the set and strengthen it, but it’s great in a lot of ways to feel like I don’t have to. 
    Part of the impact of this, at least to me going forward, is that it makes getting a new pick # that I don’t have an example of a lot more appealing than getting, say, a P-5b when I already have a P-5a in a comparable or better grade. I could definitely be interested in one day getting as many of the different sub-types as I can, but I think that will mostly wait until after I’ve acquired what I want and can find of the different pick #s. 
  16. Revenant
    The hyperinflation that ripped through Zimbabwe in the first decade of this century / millennium was an economic and societal catastrophe. The currency was officially and fully demonetized in 2015 but the nation of Zimbabwe is continuing to try to dig its way out of the devastation caused by the hyperinflation and other disastrous government policies and programs.
    It is somewhat ironic, and I’m sure more than a little chagrin inducing for the people of that country, to think that the 100 Trillion dollar note and some of the others in that series have become such a popular novelty item and that the 100 Trillion notes are now worth $100-350 to American collectors.
    However, I’ve recently come across / learned about something that seemingly adds quite a bit of insult to this injury.
    Since the genuine notes have become so popular and expensive, not everyone wants to pay that much for them. And, the joys of capitalism being what they are, someone seems to have stepped in to fill that need / void.
    Some person or company in China has been mass producing these gold colored copies of the 100 Trillion dollar note. They’re plastic and covered in a gold-colored foil - there is no real gold content. They do not have serial numbers. They are not and never were real notes and the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has nothing to do with them. They’re on eBay going for $8-10 for lots of 10 of them - so super cheap.
    I see the gold coloring as mixed blessing. Since they’re gold in color and shiny, where the true 100 Trillion note is mostly blue, no one is ever going to make the mistake of thinking that these are the original 100 Trillion note. There's also a silver version out there that I think does a better job of replicating the look of the original notes but it's basically the same as the gold version in terms of what it is and where it comes from. I think some of the sellers on eBay don’t do a good enough job of emphasizing that these things are from China and not any kind of official issue and that Zimbabwe / the government thereof wasn’t involved in making them, but what can you do there?
    On the other hand, because the coloring is all wrong, having one of these in hand doesn’t give you a feel for what the original looks like or feels like.
    I also find the gold color tacky and gawdy to the extreme. There’s just something so peculiar about taking something that became famous for being part of the last gasp of a dying currency, something that is famous for being 100 Trillion Dollars and, yet, somehow, still being too worthless to buy a loaf of bread and making it gold-colored. It’s like the person that made these just fundamentally failed to understand this event and what these things were and what they mean. These things are not a sign of or indicative of affluence or prosperity or opulence, as you would expect with something made golden. They’re associated with a terrible chapter of that nation’s history - a period of deprivation, scarcity, fear, want, hardship and loss.
    I can’t imagine what a native of the country who lived through that decade would think of these things and I don’t know if they’d laugh or cry.

  17. Revenant
    With a lot of aggressive expanding of my Zimbabwe set (from 11 notes to 25 notes now) I’m up to having my 1st dollars (P-1 through P-12) and 3rd dollars (P-65 through P-91) both over 50% complete. I also have all of sub-sets or sub-categories for the third dollars (the millions, billions, and trillions) at 50-100%.
    My overall Zimbabwe collection now includes about 25% of the total picks from P-1 to P-98 (P-100 if you include the new $2 and $5 bond notes, which I probably eventually will). Now that I have the 3rd dollars over  50% my next major challenge is going to be building up the 2nd dollar Bearer Checks and Agro Checks more since those are currently barely represented in the set.
    Pictures of the new notes have been lagging since the birth of my son but maybe I'll get to catch up soon.

  18. Revenant
    I’ve been taking a bit of a break from the coin collecting to build up my Zimbabwe set. The merchant I normally buy from has knocked their prices down recently so I’ve been buying and building the set while the buying is good.

    I was bidding on a P-95, 4th dollar, 20 dollar note last night and I ended up having to get it go when another bidder took it just a little higher than I was comfortable paying for it at the moment. The fact that the other bidder bid three times and bid it up to that level was a confirmation to me that I’m clearly not the only one hunting and building sets of these notes graded by PMG (and I suppose others get PCGS graded notes).

    It was a bit of a frustrating loss and I don’t know exactly when another one will come up for sale, My regular merchant doesn’t have any that are graded, just ungraded notes and I don’t want to deal with submissions right now. I may go that route eventually and acquire several raw notes and get a paid membership here for submitting them, but right now there are tons of other notes for the set that I need that I can get already graded in good, gem+ grades for low prices so I’m just not willing to go there yet.

    eBay is running a 6-8% eBay bucks promotion that I want to take advantage of so I’m probably going to go forward with buying some Trillions series (3rd dollar) notes I’ve been eyeing instead since I lost this one. I may pick up another 1st dollar note as part of that. The 1st dollar notes are awesome and tragically ignored and I’m thinking when this is all over that a solid set of 1st dollar notes will be a point of pride and a strength of this set.

    I’ve joked with my wife that this set may end up being a monument to my stress and coping with this pregnancy and the NICU stay. I’ve been obsessing over it more than a bit as a way of having something to focus on as a bit of escapism and stress relief.

    Below I've included images of the front and back of my P-12b, just for fun. It's a favorite of mine.

  19. Revenant
    Since making the decision to return that ungraded 20 Trillion note my wife and I had said we’d sit down together once we got the refund and pick out what we were going to get instead.
    We got the refund on Tuesday 01/29. With the nature of being parents being what it is, we didn’t get to sit down together until shortly before bedtime on Friday 2/1, after the Ben was already in bed to pick out the new notes / purchase.
    I’d been looking at notes / options online for about a week at this point, so I was able to pull up about 11 options I’d been considering, and we talked about them together. I talked to my wife about each one and she even provided input on which ones we should chose based on which ones she thought were the prettiest.
    One option had been getting the 50 Billion note, graded by PMG, which would have completed my “Billions Series” set now that I Have the 20 Billion note. That note was being offered for $60 by the merchant so it would have pretty much been a direct item for item swap. My wife was surprised that I wasn’t leaning in that direction just to complete the Billions set, but, for the money, they had other things that were cheaper, looked better, and would contribute more to my overall set right now. I’m not ruling out getting the 50 Billion note later but it’s always been a harder sell for me. I acquired all of the rest of these notes mostly for $20-30. If I actually got that for the price they list it for it’d easily be the most expensive note in the set.
    Instead, they had several other notes that were graded 66 EPQ or 67 EPQ for S15-16 each. I could get four of those for about the same price as the price of that 50 Billion note and I thought that path could add a lot more to my set overall. So what did I go with?
    1: P-12, the 2003, first dollar, 1,000-dollar note
    2: P-8, the 1994, first dollar, 50-dollar note
    3. P-33, the 1 cent, 2nd dollar note
    4. P-71, 3rd dollar, 1000-dollar note
    Why these four?
    I was really wanting to get the 1,000-dollar first dollar note. It looks great, it’s the last and highest denomination first dollar issue before they started making the emergency checks. I see it as representing the beginning of the end for the currency. My wife and I also agree that the first dollar notes, in contrast to many of the later issues, are actually quite pretty and intricate in their design. I wasn’t initially going to get the 50-dollar note too, but, again, they’re some of the most attractive notes of the entire series and I do like the look of it. This may or may not lead to trying to get more of the first dollar notes.
    I wanted the 1 cent note because 1) it would be the first 2nd dollar note I’ve purchased, and 2) it’s just such an odd note. Much like the 100 Trillion note, it’s one of those crazy, freakish things that only happens in a hyperinflation situation. You would never normally see a 1 cent note. This note shows that it’s not always a story of big numbers on notes. There’s a broader selection of oddities and aberrations that occur.
    The 1,000 -dollar 3rd dollar note (P-71_ was selected because I’d been wanting to get another 3rd dollar note that extended my set back into the lower denominations of that series. Prior to this my lowest denomination in the 3rd dollar set was the 500,000-dollar note. I’d also considered getting the 20-dollar note from the 3rd dollar series. I’d thought the 20-dollar note (P-68) might be a better choice to continue the “trend” or the denomination choice with the 1983 and 1994 first dollar notes I have. $20 is also a significant / prominent denomination in the US. We went with the 1,000-dollar note because the 20 just doesn’t look as nice. The coloring just isn’t as appealing.
    I think hands down the most enjoyable part of the whole process was sitting down with Shandy and talking about the notes and the history and what I liked about each one and narrowing down the list of ~11 notes to four and ordering those four. (Yup, I totally paid $15 for a 1 cent bank note, but they’re all demonetized anyway so who even cares about face values anyway at this point?)
    Two of these notes – these already graded notes – were $15 and two were $16. So, the total purchase was $62 – versus the $60 charged for that ungraded 20 trillion note, which I still and will forever think was a rip-off given that other on eBay are offering those things graded by PMG for $40 in some cases. I think the $40 is still a little steep considering the popularity of these things seems to have waned over time, but it’s a lot more reasonable.
    In many cases these notes can be had ungraded for a couple of bucks from what I can see. The lowest grading fee tier for world bank notes at PMG right now is about $13-15 dollars depending on what kind of bulk submission you’re doing. So the difference in price on a lot of these is just enough to cover the grading fee, if that, over the cost of an ungraded note. But even then, they don’t sell a lot of them at these prices – I’m guessing because I’m one of the small few that sees value in collecting these things as graded notes (and I’m apparently about the only one that feels like participating in the registry with them). I’m okay with that though. I have very specific reasons for why I want what I want with this set.
    The notes should be arriving in the mail today. This has re-ignited my interest in the set and so I'm probably going to be putting a little more money and a lot more time into this set / project this year to flush out some things that I feel are gaps in my collection.
  20. Revenant
    The Zimbabwe sets we all wanted. Well, the ones I wanted anyway.
    So I'm at my desk today and I get an email from Ali listing a bunch of new Zimbabwe note sets including a bunch of sets for the Third Dollar or the Trillions series. The email said they'd be coming "soon" and I was wondering when exactly that would be, but when I checked the site I saw that the Third Dollar sets were already up! The Bearer Check, Agro Check and other sets aren't out yet but honestly those aren't the ones I was hoping for anyway - I'm not collecting those series - yet.
    The funny thing was that I just made a signature set for these yesterday because I wanted an internet accessible way of tracking what I had - I came dangerously close a couple of times to buying a 10 billion dollar note I already had - I thought I just had the 1 billion dollar note. I'd scanned all the notes in for the signature set and so now I have all my pictures up.
    I'm loving that there's a full set for the 1 dollar note through the 100 Trillion note and a set for just for the 4 notes denominated in the trillions. I can actually have a 100% complete set of those! Never thought that would happen with a banknote set. I'm only about 33% on the full set.
    I think the best part of all of this is that just yesterday my wife gave me a 66EPQ 500,000 Dollar note as a belated Father's Day present (got held up in the mail).
    Now I just need to get the 20 billion and the 50 billion to finish the top 10 denominations

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  21. Revenant
    Why I had to get the 1983 note too...
    So, some people that watch my set listings (why would you do that, you creepers... joking) or the Zimbabwe bank note categories might have noticed that I added a registry set for the pre-hyperinflation Zimbabwe dollars and added a couple of $20 notes in there, the 1983 and the 1994. Depending on how curious you are you might have wondered why I added this set and bought these notes when I've been spending all this time talking about wanting the Trillion Series. Well... even if you didn't check or notice any of those things I want to talk about it anyway so I'm going to.
    I guess the honest answer is that I saw them being offered for sale by the same merchant I've been buying all the other Zimbabwe notes from and I wanted them because I thought they'd go well with the Trillion series notes in a complimentary way. Digging a little deeper though...
    I was really surprised in reading and learning about the history of the Zimbabwe dollar to find that, when it was introduced in 1980 to replace the Rhodeisan dollar, it was initially worth MORE than a US dollar. The initial conversion rate was Z$1:US$1.47. Granted, it was probably overvalued based on fundamentals at the time it was introduced and almost immediately it started coming down fast, but it's interesting to note that this currency that was hyper-inflated to death in just 29 years started out worth more than the world reserve currency, and realizing that interesting fact made me want some notes from that period as part of this "narrative-in-the-form-of-notes" that I'm wanting to build for a discussion I hope to have with my son in 10 or so years that he'll probably have zero interest in listening to. Doesn't matter -- I'll glue him to the chair if I have to...
    It happens that, from what I've been able to read/find, 1983 was the year that the US$ and the Z$ had a 1:1 exchange rate (albeit briefly) and 1997 was the year the exchange rate hit 10:1 -- a 90% loss of value in just 14 years, with the hyperinflationary period still 9 years away. Sadly they don't have 1997 dated bills but they did have the 1994 bills and 1983's so I got what I could. ?
    The key to getting the 1983 and 1994 notes ended up being patience. When I first saw them offer for sale they were listing for $70 each. I wanted the notes but that was just more than I was really happy paying for them. Apparently I wasn't alone in that feeling because they must not have been selling. The merchant dropped the price on them to $40 each. At that point I was willing to buy them. I can't attest as to whether or not that was a "good" price, but this was the only person I knew of that was selling these notes PMG graded, I wanted them, and I was finally okay with that price.
  22. Revenant
    ... always getting in a little over my head with eyes that are bigger than my wallet.
    I'm always amazed by how often it happens that I start with a simple, small idea and goal, and then I come up with this insane idea for a big project that's usually beyond my time and financial resources, and then I settle on another approach that's actually reasonable and achievable. This isn't limited to coin collecting in my life but coin and note collecting are certainly areas where this tendency is expressed.
    When I first went back to eBay to try to find a Zimbabwe 100 Trillion note I was only looking for one, ungraded, note. When I started looking around though I started seeing and wanting to collect all of them. I also started seeing some PMG graded notes and realizing that there were a lot of PMG graded notes available for not-a-lot of money -- some of them could be had in solid grades for barely more than the cost of grading. So then I was thinking about getting a graded note, and then I started thinking about getting a set of the 4 trillion+ denominated notes... and then I started thinking about getting as many of them as I could in PMG holders for a reasonable price. So the idea just kept on growing...
    I wanted the PMG graded notes for the same reason I'd wanted some PMG graded US silver certificates. I like the PMG covers -- especially the way they help protect the note from bending, folding and wear. I like holding and looking at the notes and having them in the holder makes me feel better about it - knowing that I'm not likely to damage the note. These notes aren't made of the best paper in the world from what I can tell so that's going against them to begin with.
    Wanting the full set went back to one of my original reasons for wanting the note: I'd always thought something like that would be cool to show a child one day to share that story/bit of history with them. While a single 100 trillion dollar note could be cool, having the whole set and be able to show them the run-up and how quickly it happened would help get the point across better. I think having the whole series would let the notes tell the story, rather than having 1 picture at the back of the book so to speak. By the time I was doing this shopping I knew I was actually going to have a kid soon that I could show these to -- and the prospect of showing all of these things to him, in holder that will keep him from damaging the notes for the most part, really appeals to me.
    So, long story short (too late!) I ended up ordering 5 notes from a seller that offered them graded by PMG, mostly in the 65-66 EPQ grade -- none of which were the 100 trillion dollar note I initially went into this looking for! I had more trouble finding the 100 trillion note graded by PMG in a grade I liked for a price I liked. I ultimately won an auction for a 67 EPQ a week or two later.
    So far I'm up to having about 8 of the ~27 notes in the series, with all of the trillion+ and most of the billion+ denominations acquired. I'm hoping to get away with ordering 3-5 more of the notes in the set in a couple of weeks if the wife and the budget allow.
    It'd be really great to have a complete set in PMG 65-67 EPQ -- probably mostly 66 EPQ. I don't know if I'll pull it off or not. It'll depend on the availability of notes and cash of course. I'd also like to go for a full 4th dollar set. I'm not currently planning to go after the Barer Cheque series but I guess I could change my mind later.
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  23. Revenant
    A recent effort in notes collecting
    I recently started collecting the Zimbabwe Trillion Series of notes. If most people are like me you might initially think that the Trillions Series refers only to the last 4 notes that are denominated in the trillions of dollars (10, 20, 50, and 100 Trillion dollars). The full series actually includes over 25 notes. The denominations run from 1 dollar to the infamous 100 trillion note. This series ran from 2007 to 2009 and come after the Bearer Cheque Series of notes that ran from 1 cent to 100 Billion from 2006 to 2007.
    If I understand the situation correctly (I freely admit I could be wrong on some of this, I'm still working on learning and reading about some of what went on and how this matches up with the notes), the Bearer Cheque Series constitutes what is generally referred to as the "2nd Dollar." The "2nd dollar" period followed after 3 zeros were chopped off the money in the first redenomination (ending the "1st Dollar"). Then the Trillion Series picked up after 10 more zeros were chopped off in the 2nd redenomination, marking the beginning of the "3rd Dollar." The "4th Dollar" (which there is a PMG registry option for - which gives me hope that we'll see a 3rd Dollar option one day) was issued in February 2009 following the 3rd redenomination -- but only for a few months. They chopped another 12 zeros off in the 3rd redenomination and then finally just gave up and stopped issuing their own money entirely in April 2009. The 100 trillion dollar notes were worth 10^27 of the pre-hyperinflation first dollars. The multiple revaluations and series of notes was a major source of confusion - for me anyway - and kept me from understanding for a long time just how bad the currency devaluation was during those few years and it still leaves me a bit fuzzy over the whole timeline.
    I've wanted to build a set like this in one way or another for a long time - basically since I started collecting coins again - in part because this set of notes and events is tied to why I got back into coin collecting. I was getting interested in coin collecting in 2006-2007 and reading articles on, many of which talked about what was happening in Zimbabwe at the time. For me, the coins and the paper money, the art and the beauty of it all, the gradual loss of value of the dollar and other paper currencies, and discussion of what would likely come in the future was all wrapped up together in this big interesting story that appealed to me as the son of a history teacher. I think the process engineer in me also loved the idea of looking at all of it in the context of a changing system over time and the dynamics of that systemic change.
    It really intrigued me and I wanted to at least get one of the 100 Trillion notes as a conversation piece but at the time interest in the notes was high and the notes were going for -- what I felt at the time -- insanely too much money. The funny thing is, 8 years later, I don't remember what they were going for at the time. I just remember thinking the price wasn't worth it to me. For all I know the prices I'm buying the notes at now could be just as high as what they were then -- it might just be that this time I have more money and I'm more willing to spend it on the notes. I don't know - . I wonder some days if the prices really did come down after some time passes and the interest dropped or if I'm just looser with money now. It's funny how perspectives can change, even over relatively short periods of time.
    I didn't think about it for years, but I thought of it when I started buying silver again. My wife was looking at me like I was a little crazy over the silver (maybe more than a little). I remembered these notes, remembered wanting to collect them, and realized that they might help me win her over on the silver by showing her why I wanted the silver bars as an inflation hedge. (Maybe I thought they might help me win her over and then remembered that I wanted them anyway. Anyway -- the thoughts were linked!) As it happens they actually worked really well in that regard. She was shocked when I started showing her the notes and telling her about the speed with which the money was devalued during the hyperinflationary period. Of course it helps that she doesn't really trust the stock market any more than I do these days.
    So I looked into what those notes were going for on eBay again late last year. I found that they weren't all that expensive (by my current standards anyway) and a new collection/project was born! I'll stop there for now though because this is already a little long...
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