If anyone asks you how Bitcoin can have value, send them to this article. Here, we’ll cover silver dollars worth millions and banknotes worth fractions of cents. In fact, anything can be worth a little or a lot, depending on need, supply, and circumstances. Let’s dive in to learn more. Here is our list of the modern-day worth of some unusual currencies.
The “Flowing Hair” Silver Dollar
The United States won its independence in 1776, established the U.S. mint in 1792, and minted 1,758 coins of a silver dollar featuring Lady Liberty in 1794. More marketing ploy than currency, the “Flowing Hair” silver dollar, as it came to be known, was gifted to dignitaries as souvenirs to demonstrate the fledgling nation’s financial strength. It’s also the first silver dollar minted by the U.S.
In 2013, a Flowing Hair silver dollar, one of roughly 140 known today, sold for $10 million dollars, the highest amount ever paid for a rare coin. However, it didn’t reach its minimum bid at a 2020 public auction, likely because of poor turnout due to the pandemic. So the world’s most valuable coin went unsold.
The Hyperinflated Hungarian Pengő
In 1941, Hungary’s pengő was valued at 5 pengö to one U.S. dollar. Then World War II put Hungary and many other countries on shaky financial ground. So Hungary printed money to stimulate their economy.
So much Hungarian money was in circulation that 33 pengős equaled one U.S. dollar by June 1944 and declined further to 1,320 pengős to the dollar in 1945. Then the pengo collapsed completely yet was still in use. By July 1946, 460 septillion pengő (that’s two trillions) equaled one U.S. dollar.
To simplify day-to-day transactions now involving math with outrageous strings of zeros, Hungary printed new currencies. They have the dubious honor of printing the highest note denomination ever: the milliard bilpengő, worth a billion trillion pengö, which was valued at 12 cents to the dollar.
The worst case of hyperinflation ever came to a close when the pengö was replaced by the forint in August 1946. Today, the milliard bilpengő’s “book value” is $160.
A $1 Million Coin Worth $4 Million
In 2007, Canada minted the world’s first million dollar coin made of 220 pounds of gold bullion and roughly as large as your lungs. It snagged the Guinness Book of Records title of “the world’s largest gold coin.”
But it’s worth far more than a million dollars thanks to its literal weight in gold and its limited quantity–only five were offered for purchase and one was stolen from a museum by wheelbarrow. (Really!) One of these million-dollar coins went for $4 million USD at a 2017 auction.
The World’s Oldest Coins Are Relatively Affordable
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the tiny Lydian lion trite, which we mentioned in a previous article on the gold standard. Introduced around 560 B.C., it may be the world’s first currency.
These coins were likely worth a month’s subsistence or up to 11 sheep at the time of their use. And yet today, the Lydian lion trite typically costs $1,000-$2,000. It’s even possible to find one of these ancient coins for under $100. That’s less than the price of a single sheep, which cost about $200 apiece today.
Why isn’t an ancient coin of note worth more? A variety of factors contribute to the phenomenon. With roughly 436 coins in existence today, the lion trite isn’t considered particularly rare. It’s also a fractional coin, meaning it’s less than the standard one ounce of precious metal. Plus, it’s made of electrum, an alloy of gold and silver, which is highly variable. Gold content can range from 30% to 70%.
Honestly, You’re Better Off Buying Bitcoin
The Flowing Hair silver dollar and the million dollar Canadian coin aren’t affordable for most of us. The pengo and ancient Lydian Lion trite may be in reach, but likely won’t increase substantially in value, especially considering the trite’s value hasn’t changed much in literally thousands of years.
Instead, buy some Bitcoin, whose price has roughly quintupled in a year’s time, from $10,500 in February 2020 to $48,000 at the time of writing this. To start investing, find a Coinsource ATM near you.