In a really bizarre moment in history, a single American dollar was actually worth 4.2 trillion German marks.
It really happened. To fund its mega-expensive World War I effort, Germany severed the tie between its mark and gold -- something that's always happened, sooner or later, with government-generated currency.
Today there are no gold-backed currencies in the world.
After 1914 in Germany, the mark became just another fancy piece of worthless paper. No longer tied to gold, there were no longer any limitations on how many marks could be printed. But no worries, either -- the patriotic German populace somehow believed everything would work out fine as long as Germany won the war. Because the winners of wars, everybody knew, always dictated the terms of surrender, including -- and especially -- the economic terms.
The trouble was:
GERMANY LOST THE WAR
By the end of the war in 1918, Germany was a real mess. The Treaty of Versailles imposed steep war reparations, and that did nothing to strengthen a German Reichmark no longer backed by gold or anything else for that matter.
Confidence in the mark continued to nosedive, especially under a deluge of post-war government spending in many new social programs (sound familiar?). But Germany couldn't spend its way back to normal -- no country can pull that off -- and confidence in the post-war currency continued to plummet.
By 1922, just four years after the war, Germany's inflation pest had turned into a gigantic hyperinflation monster.
It was like a dog chasing its tail. The faster the government printed money, the faster business raised its prices. Round and round the whole thing went, never quite catching itself.
After the war, just one of our gold-backed dollars was worth -- ready for this? -- 4.2 trillion marks. That's right...a 1-to-4.2 trillion exchange rate existed between our currencies.
Even our lowly copper penny was worth 42 billion marks. Yikes.
Think a $1,000 bill is a lot? Try carrying around a 100 trillion-mark bill. Germans had to carry those kinds of comical bills around just to buy everyday things.
Denial was huge back then. One professor even wrote, In proportion to the need, less money circulates in Germany now than before the war. That was said straight-faced, despite an official inflation rate of about 325,000,000%.
People eating at restaurants would watch the prices of the food they were eating rise even as they ate. One maid was tipped a dollar by a visiting American...then met with her family to figure out how to invest this relative fortune.
The ones who fared best were the small minority who had the foresight to exchange marks into foreign money or gold very early, reported Scientific Market Analysis.
Could our once-mighty dollar suffer the hyperinflation humiliation of the German mark?
Could an ounce of gold be worth millions, billions, even trillions in world currencies someday soon?
Could gold be the last money standing?