The world's most interesting currencies

From glow-in-the-dark notes to trillion-dollar bills.

The new Australian $50 note recently made headlines around the world after it was discovered 46 million $50 notes were printed with a spelling mistake.

Despite the typo, Australian bank notes are one of the most technologically advanced currencies in the world. Our bank notes are waterproof, hard to counterfeit and are made of polymer plastic, created by the CSIRO and the Australian Reserve Bank, which means they last two to three times longer than the cotton paper note used in countries including America.

A currency can tell you a lot about a country so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most interesting currencies in the world.

The Cook Islands dollar

While the New Zealand dollar is commonly accepted in the Cook Islands, the Cook Islands also has its own currency, know simply as the Cook Islands dollar.

Cook Island coins are uniquely shaped and include depictions of plants, animals and items unique to the islands. 

The scalloped $1 coin, triangular $2 coins and larger crown-sized $5 coins are often kept by travellers as a souvenir of their trip.

Chinese yuan

Australia isn’t the only country to mess up the release of a new note. 

When China introduced its new anti-counterfeit 100-yuan bills in 2015 the notes, nicknamed ‘high roller gold’, were so high-tech that ATMs weren’t able to read them and counterfeit detection systems used by supermarkets flagged them as fakes. 

Zimbabwean dollar

Hyperinflation during the early 2000s reduced the Zimbabwean dollar to one of the lowest value currencies in the world. This led to the creation of new bills ranging from $10 billion to $100 trillion, with the $100 trillion note worth less than $1 AUD in 2008.

The Zimbabwean dollar was discontinued in 2009 after the government legalised the use of foreign currency in the country. 


South African rand

The South African rand had been in circulation since the country became a republic in 1961.

Each bank note features one off the ‘big five’ wild animal associated with country’s wilderness, the lion, elephant, rhino, water buffalo and leopard.

The text on rand coins is rotated annually to equally represent each of South Africa’s 11 official languages.

Israeli shekel

Israeli shekel notes contain iridescent strips as an anti-counterfeiting device which can make it appear to glow in the dark.

The shekel uses many of the same security features as Australian bills and has different lengths for different denominations which make it easier for visually impaired people to differentiate between the bills.

Icelandic Króna

Belief in landvættir, or spirit guardians, is a cornerstone of Icelandic culture. 

Each of the five Icelandic Króna coins features the four guardian spirits of the country, a giant, a dragon, an eagle and a bull, who are said to have protected Iceland from invasion by King Harald Bluetooth more than 1000 years ago.