We always try to take money seriously—from the very childhood we learn that money is not something to play around with.
However, soon after evolving into present-day homo sapiens, we’ve come up with some weird ways to pay people and to get paid.
This article celebrates just that—funny money.
In this article, we’ve gathered examples of the weirdest currencies around the world, from strange coins to unique bills and more, both in circulation and those archived in our histories.
Here are the weirdest currencies from around the world:
1. Rai Stones on the Island of Yap
Possibly the biggest currency ever to exist, Rai Stones are used on the Micronesian Island of Yap. Sometimes called “Fei,” these are real stones used as money, with the smallest ones being about 7 cm (2.7 in) in diameter and the largest ones being up to 3.6 m (12 ft) in diameter and with a weight of up to 4 tons!
As you can imagine, this big stone money is almost impossible to transport. So, after changing ownership, they often remain in the same place, propped up against a tree or anchored in the ground, with the two parties verbally agreeing that now it belongs to the other person. The value of the Micronesian stone money is usually measured by its size, quality, and also the history behind it.
2. Currency of Zaire
Known as Zaire until 1997, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is a country with truly resourceful people. What does it have to do with strange currencies, you wonder? The portrait of Zaire’s dictator Joseph Mobutu was placed on Zaire’s currency.
But, that’s not the weird part.
After he was deposed, the new government was faced with the problem of what to do with those banknotes having the not-so-popular mugshot on them. To save some money and, probably, some effort, his face was simply cut out from the bill.
A truly uncanny solution!
3. Squirrel Pelts
Among other strange and bizarre things that were once used as money, squirrel pelts hold a place of honor. During the Middle Ages, the hides of squirrels were used as a currency in the territory of modern-day Russia and Finland.
There even is a hypothesis, that, by choosing such an extravagant way to pay for goods, Russia did not suffer from a plague during medieval times as much as Europe since the squirrels were one of the rodents that carried the infection.
4. Dolphin Teeth
Even though squirrel pelts as a currency are a thing of the past, dolphin teeth are unfortunately still used as money in the Solomon Islands. They are used for dowries, as the price for a bride, to produce jewelry, and sold for cash with the price for one piece getting higher every year.
5. Katanga Crosses
Another heavy item used as a form of currency is the Katanga cross, also known as a handa, which was used on the territory of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 19th and 20th centuries. Those copper-made Katanga crosses were named after the province Katanga, where the copper was mined. The size and weight of the crosses would differ, but usually equaled about 1 kg (2.2 lbs) each! Katanga even placed the emblem of the crosses on its flag during its temporary independence.
6. Palau Holy Water Coin
We talked about the “hole-y” bills from Zaire. Now, here’s a “holy” coin from Palau.
All numismatists—the term coin specialists are called—know Palau, the country located in Oceania, thanks to the silver coin that was issued there to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France. It is not a surprise that on the coin you can find the depiction of Our Lady of Lourdes. However, in addition, inserted within is a small vial with holy water from the famous source.
7. Shell Money on the Solomon Islands
The Solomon Islands also earns a second spot on our weird currencies list for having money made from shells. Even though shells were used as a currency long before regular paper bills were introduced, it is still in use in many transactions. It is also not simple shells that are used, but rather seashells which are crushed and threaded onto strings. For big and important events, such as weddings, they can even be made into headpieces or other ornate accessories.
8. Wooden Bills in Germany
It’s not only paper, plastic, or precious metals that can be used to produce funny coins and strange bills. “Emergency money” or “necessity money,” called notgeld in German, refers to money—usually banknotes—which could be made out of wood, silk, leather, and other materials, produced by the municipalities, national or private companies, and banks. Widely used in Germany and Austria during and after World War I, the rarest of these were made from playing cards, and were known as Spielkarten.
Well, that’s all for our list of weird currencies, funny coins, and other strange cash forms. If you have any questions, feedback, or other unique money to add to this list, leave a comment below, and thanks for reading!