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Signature Set Detail: Early Transactions in Denial

Set Category:


Set Theme:
Zimbabwean Emergency Traveller's Checks (P-15 through P-20) issued starting in 2003 and redeemed from 2003 to 2005. The purpose of this set is to let me display multiple examples of each check with different dates and stamps on them and explore that aspect of these issues. Fenntucky Mike called this "Collecting my cancellation stamp," and that seems pretty accurate.

Set 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.

These 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 Zimbabwe collection and the pick list because these are literal checks. 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.

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 the P-15 would have been worth just 1 US cent.

Through one lens, these issues reflect a high level of naivety and optimism. They reflect a professed belief that the troubles with inflation in the country were temporary and that the government would soon be able to bring the situation under control, that price and currency stability would return, and the country would reach a new normal of higher, but stable, prices.

Through another lens, these notes are an expert-level exercise in denial, and spin control. These notes are representative of a government that has a crisis they are so wildly unprepared for that all they can do is offer people checks as money because they cannot print enough money to meet demand and pay people.

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.

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Signature Set Details:

Slot NameSlot CommentCertification #Note InfoCountryGradePhoto
ZIM15, 2003, 1,000 ZWD S/N: 1755808
Redeemed: Oct 2004
8074632-085 1000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe65 EPQ
ZIM15, 2003, 1,000 ZWD S/N: 0017747
Redeemed: Mar 2004
8085735-001 1000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe64 EPQ
ZIM15, 2003, 1,000 ZWD S/N: 0017726
Redeemed: Mar 2004
8085761-001 1000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe64 EPQ
ZIM16, 2003, 5,000 ZWD S/N: 0100726
Redeemed: Mar 2005
8085735-002 5000 Dollars ND (2003) ZimbabweAU 55 EPQ
ZIM16, 2003, 5,000 ZWD S/N: 0289816
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085761-002 5000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe63 EPQ
ZIM17, 2003, 10,000 ZWD S/N: 0334184
Redeemed: Oct 2004
8087632-062 10,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe65 EPQ
ZIM17, 2003, 10,000 ZWD S/N: 0089586
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085735-003 10,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe66 EPQ
ZIM17, 2003, 10,000 ZWD S/N: 0089344
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085761-003 10,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe64 EPQ
ZIM18, 2003, 20,000 ZWD S/N: 02022727
Redeemed: Oct 2004
2086014-041 20,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe65 EPQ
ZIM18, 2003, 20,000 ZWD S/N: 0103852
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085735-004 20,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe64 EPQ
ZIM18, 2003, 20,000 ZWD S/N: 0103850
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085761-004 20,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe63 EPQ
ZIM19, 2003, 50,000 ZWD S/N: 0097162
Redeemed: Dec 2003
8085735-005 50,000 Dollars ND (2003) ZimbabweAU 55 EPQ
ZIM19, 2003, 50,000 ZWD S/N: 0108813
Redeemed: Sep 2003
8085761-005 50,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe66 EPQ
ZIM20, 2003, 100,000 ZWD S/N: 0071977
Redeemed: Nov 2003
8085735-006 100,000 Dollars ND (2003) ZimbabweAU 55
ZIM20, 2003, 100,000 ZWD S/N: 0081419
Redeemed: Nov 2003
8085761-006 100,000 Dollars ND (2003) Zimbabwe65 EPQ

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