Gradually, Then Suddenly
ZIM16, 2003, 5,000 ZWD

Slot Comment:

1st Dollar Emergency Travellers Check

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Note Details


Set Details

Note Description: 5000 Dollars ND (2003)
Grade: 63 EPQ
Country: Zimbabwe
Note Number: ZIM16
- Wmk: Zimbabwe Bird
Certification #: 8085761-002
Owner: Revenant
Set Category: World
Set Name: Gradually, Then Suddenly
Slot Name: ZIM16, 2003, 5,000 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 P-15 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 P-16 would have been worth just US$0.05.

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.

With regard to this example / specimen, it is dated 05-12-2003, which I think means Dec 5th, 2003. Based on the date convention I think they use (the UK D-M-Y standard). This seems supported by the stamps. The check was stamped 05-12-2003 at - if I’m reading this right - the ForEx desk of the Standard Chartered Bank of Zimbabwe’s Avondale, Harare Branch. It is stamped as PAID on 08 Dec 2003 by the RBZ in Harare. These are the same dates and stamps as are on the P-17 (8085735-003) and the P-18 (8085735-004) in this set and those two notes seem to have been issued to and redeemed by the same person - just not the same person that had this P-16.

This gives these three notes in this series a very fun, cool, bit of shared history. But, while it is fun and cool, I can’t really say it is too surprising, given that I bought all of these from the same seller, who most likely got them in large batch a number of years ago.

These three checks then were probably issued and redeemed just 3 days later. The gap between issuance and redemption on a lot of these seems to have been very short, but I think that makes sense during a time of turmoil and rapid inflation. People knew not to let these things sit too long.

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