We don’t usually think too much about worthless bills in the US. Here in Bolivia, however, people always check to see if a bill is real. I wasn’t paying attention last week in Bolivar, a rural town in the countryside, and got this bill pictured above. It is worthless. How can you tell? Compare the note denomination numbers on both sides, they should match up. But they don’t! One side reads 53424067G and the other, 17472698G. Bills are in circulation a long time here, so you come across old bills taped back together with some frequency. And people routinely compare the two numbers to make sure they match. I obviously didn’t this time, and now have a nice little souvenir. (10 bolivianos is worth approximately $1.40, so I’m not too mad about getting hosed.)
Bolivia, like many Latin American countries, suffers from a serious lack of change. People dislike changing big bills in several countries I’ve been to (Nicaragua), but here in Bolivia people horde coins. When you buy something that costs _1 or _2 bolivianos, they will always ask you for a 1 or 2 boliviano coin to give you back only bills. It’s fun little game seeing how much change you can collect and centavos (cents) are even harder than regular boliviano coins. It’s not uncommon to people to slightly over or underpay for something because 20 centavo coins are much more prevalent than 10 centavo coins. My favorite method to dealing with this problem is at the cornerstore by my house: they give you a candy in place a 10 centavo piece.