Gradually, Then Suddenly
ZIM15, 2003, 1,000 ZWD

Slot Comment:

1st Dollar Emergency Travellers Check

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Note Details


Set Details

Note Description: 1000 Dollars ND (2003)
Grade: 64 EPQ
Country: Zimbabwe
Note Number: ZIM15
- Wmk: Zimbabwe Bird
Certification #: 8085761-001
Owner: Revenant
Set Category: World
Set Name: Gradually, Then Suddenly
Slot Name: ZIM15, 2003, 1,000 ZWD
Research: See PMG's Census Report for this Note

Owner's Description

The RBZ issued special traveler's checks in 2003 – the same year the $1,000 banknotes (P-12) were released. They came after the Cargill Bearer checks (P-13 and P-14) and ultimately had six denominations ranging from $1,000 (P-15) to $100,000 (P-20). The issuance of these “emergency issue” checks at least partially overlaps with the issuance of the 1st dollar banknotes, which did not end until after the 2004 issuance of the P-11b (500 ZWD) - but I know from the dates on some of these that these checks were in use or redeemable until at least Apr 2005.

This series of emergency issue checks were short-lived due to their unpopularity with the public - Identification was required both during issue and cashing of these checks and they could only be used once by the bearer. Banks also levied a commission fee on the checks, which I am sure made them even more unpopular with the public.

These are interesting additions to my signature set / my larger Zimbabwe collection and the pick list because these are literal checks. They come from banks and not the RBZ and they were one-time only payment instruments. These were not banknotes or the kind of pseudo-banknotes represented by the RBZ Bearer checks that followed (P-21 to P-23 and P-28 to P-30, which had mostly the same denominations) or the 2nd dollar bearer checks and agro checks (P-33 to P-64). These were stamped and canceled when they were redeemed - as this one has been.

By 2003, the country's economy had collapsed. It is estimated that up to a fourth of Zimbabwe's 11 million people had fled the country. Three-quarters of the remaining Zimbabweans were living on less than one US dollar a day. 2003 was the first year that inflation officially exceeded 200% (even though 2002 came very close at 198.93%) and the inflation rate blew right past that milestone and the 500% milestone in the same year. In Jun 2002, US$1 was equal to $1,000, which would have made this note equal to a US $1 bill. By March 2005, however, US$1 was ZWD$10,000, and by January 2006 US$1 was equal to ZWD$100,000, meaning this note would have been worth 1 US cent.

It seems like there was some strange shifting back and forth with the Cargill and Traveler’s checks (P-13 to P-20, 2003), then bearer checks (P-21 to P-23, 2003), then more traveler’s checks (P-24 to P-27, 2003) and then more bearer checks that are very similar to and seemingly a continuation of the earlier bearer check issues (P-28 to P-32, 2005-2006), at the same time you had the P-12 (2003) and P-11 (2001-2004) hitting the streets. This is all probably a very confusing outgrowth of the government struggling to deal with the emerging / accelerating hyperinflation – and doing a terrible job of it.

These 2003 dated traveler’s checks have the signature of Acting Governor Charles Chikaura, who was only in the post for a few months in 2003 before Gideon Gono took over the job - and ran the currency the rest of the way into the ground / grave.

The thing that makes the P-15, $1000 checks particularly interesting is that they are for $1000. By 2003 the country had the P-12, $1000 banknote. The Cargill Bearer checks excluded a $1000 denomination and only had $5000 (P-13) and $10000 (P-14). The 2003 Bearer checks (P-21 to P-23) also exclude a $1000 denomination. What the existence of P-15 suggests, what I can only assume, is that they were having a hard time printing enough of the P-12 banknotes to meet market needs for a while and they had to make these to fill the gap.

With regard to this example / specimen, it is dated 02-03-04. My limited research says Zimbabwe uses a D-M-Y date convention - the way the UK does it, not the way the US does it - so this would be March 2nd 2004. It was also stamped 02 Mar 2004 at the Victoria Falls branch of the Metropolitan Bank of Zimbabwe - they stamped it on both sides even. It was marked as paid just 6 days later on 08 Mar 2004, by the RBZ in Harare, so this thing probably wasn’t out in the world very long, which might explain why it made it to 2021 as a raw note in 64 EPQ condition. Unlike some other examples of these I’ve seen however, it was signed by the holder in two places, at issuance and at time of redemption probably.

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