Monday, March 08, 2010

The Mongolian tugrik

Did I ever tell you about my encounter with the Mongolian tugrik? No, I thought not.
It occurred in the same year that I became involved with the Hungarian forint, the Polish zloty, the Vietnamese dong and the Romanian lei.
I can see that you are already ahead of me.
It was during the heady days when I was doing a regular round of various countries within the former Soviet bloc (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and, a couple of times, Romania). The company for which I was working put out a rule that all of us travelling overseas had to return any unused foreign currency, carefully listed, and to be put into some pot or other. Well, yes, I could see the point of coughing up any excess Deutschmarks or Swiss Francs, but these Soviet bloc currencies were worthless. So I and my fellow-traveller, Arthur B, came up with a wheeze. It hit us when we were standing in a bank in Karzinbarcika, a place in NE Hungary so obscure that it probably isn't even on the map. There on the wall was a chart showing foreign currency exchange rates, but, of course, the only currencies were the politically correct ones, ie, from communist regimes.
The Mongolian tugrik caught my eye, and the Vietnamese dong caught Arthur's, so we stocked up with them and assorted other currencies you have never heard of. Dropping that lot on the desk when we got back, notes with denominations in the 1000s and in total worth about the price of a Big Mac and a packet of Rennies, was a moment of great joy.
The company's system did not survive long. Neither, as it turned out, did the Soviet.

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