Lifestyle

The Worst Cases of Hyperinflation of All Time

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation. Discover why hyperinflation is different from inflation, and which countries have suffered the worst periods of hyperinflation of all time.

C.E Larusso

C.E Larusso

Published November 15th, 2022

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation.

The most recent case of hyperinflation was Venezuela, seeing an increase of 1,000,000% from 2013 to 2018.

While the United States has experienced extreme levels of inflation—both during wartime—it has never experienced hyperinflation.

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation. Over the last century, the world has seen over 50 instances of hyperinflation, with recent examples in Venezuela.

Inflation is understood to be a measure of the regular rise of the price of goods or rise and fall of the value of a currency. Hyperinflation, however, is inflation that is rapid and uncontrollable, at a minimum rate of over 50% per month. It usually occurs in less wealthy countries, though Germany and France are two examples of Western states that have experienced periods of hyperinflation.

1. Hungary: August 1945–July 1946

Max inflation rate: 13,600,000,000,000,000%

Prices doubled every: 15.6 hours

Hungary’s period of hyperinflation is the worst ever recorded. After World War II, the country was economically devastated, with 40% of its capital stock destroyed. During the war, it took on an enormous amount of debt to aid Germany in the war effort, but Germany never paid its bill, leaving Hungary in a dire situation.

Once Hungary signed a peace treaty with the Allies in 1945, it was ordered to pay reparations to the Soviet Union, which they had fought alongside the Nazis—some economists estimate the reparations accounted for nearly 50% of Hungary’s budget, or $300 million dollars.

At its height, Hungary’s daily inflation rate is estimated to have been 195%, with prices doubling every 15 hours or so. The government adopted a new, special currency—the adópengő—for tax and postal payments, and would announce the value of it and the pengő every day on the radio.

Causes of Hungary’s 1946 Inflation

After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved, and the new, independent nation of Hungary lacked a sturdy state structure. To replace the Austro-Hungarian Krone, Hungary printed the korona, but that suffered a high rate of inflation in the 1920s and was ultimately replaced by the pengő.

The Great Depression had a significant impact on Hungary, especially its agricultural sector. The pengő was initially stable but the economic crisis coupled with the events of World War II quickly caused the value of the pengő to quickly deflate.

After the war, the government started to rapidly print money to get more currency in circulation and levy taxes. In July of 1945, there were 1.6 trillion pengő in circulation, and by January 1946, 65 quadrillion. With too much currency floating around, the prices of goods skyrocketed and the pengő lost its value. Something that cost 379 pengö in September 1945 cost 11.267 billion pengö by May 31 of the same year.

To deal with the pengö’s plummeting value, Hungary’s government introduced new currencies. The pengö was replaced by the mpengö, and that was replaced by the bpengö, followed by the adópengő. Eventually, the currency, completely decimated, was replaced by the forint on August 1, 1946; the Forint is still in circulation today.

2. The Weimar Republic: 1922–1923

Max inflation rate: 29,500%

Prices doubled every: 3.7 days

The story of the Weimar Republic’s period of hyperinflation is one of the most well-known on this list. After World War I, Germany’s economy was rocky; the country believed it would win the war and spent a hefty amount on its military efforts. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany pay reparations that it could not afford, and also asked it to fire thousands of its soldiers—leaving large numbers of people without work.

By September of 1920, prices for goods were approximately 12 times higher than they had been before the war. By September of 1922, the same basket of food that had cost 270 marks in April of that year now cost 2,615 marks.

Some municipalities started to pay their workers in their own unique currencies, worried that workers would become aggravated if their salary was delayed and the mark depreciated further before they could spend their money. Some workers were paid twice a day because a payment that was issued in the morning would be worth significantly less by the time lunch rolled around.

This period of hyperinflation is often cited as a major reason that enabled Adolf Hitler to come to power.

Causes of the Weimar Republic’s Inflation

The Weimar Republic was already on bad footing following the war, and when it defaulted on its reparations payments, France and Belgium sent military troops into the Ruhr Valley to confiscate industrial goods, such as coal mines, railways, and factories. The German government ordered workers to strike and not cooperate with the French and Belgians; the result was a dramatic reduction in goods being produced, while at the same time, the Republic was printing additional currency to pay the striking workers, further devaluing the mark.

3. Zimbabwe: March 2007–November 2008

Max inflation rate: 79,000,000,000%

Prices Doubled Every 24.7 hours

Zimbabwe’s period of hyperinflation was the first of the 21st century. In April 1980, the independent Republic of Zimbabwe was established in the ashes of the colonial state of Rhodesia, after a fifteen-year war of independence waged against the United Kingdom. The country at first experienced growth, stability, and development, with an economy based largely on wheat and tobacco production.

Over the course of the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s government, led by Robert Mugabe, attempted a series of structural adjustment programs designed to wrest control of the economy away from the white colonizers who retained control over the majority of the country’s land and resources even after the end of de jure white supremacy. These efforts were punished by severe sanctions imposed by the IMF and World Bank, the United States, and many other wealthy countries. These penalties, along with the array of growing pains and difficulties created by the attempt to remake the country’s economy from scratch tanked the country’s productive capacity and hobbled its banking sector, cutting it off from much of the international market. Much of the wealthy colonial elite left the country and brought with them the capital that they had accrued by exploiting Zimbabwe’s resources.

The government began printing currency beyond amounts its banks or the state could really back. The amounts ballooned further as Zimbabwe became embroiled in expensive wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 2000s—and levels of financial corruption within the government soared. By the early 2000s, excessive currency printing and the widespread understanding both in the country and throughout the world economy that Zimbabwean banknotes had no stable value had resulted in inflation rates that climbed well north of 100% year-on-year.

Causes of Zimbabwe’s Inflation

Caught within a world order that would not allow the country to pursue its preferred aims, Zimbabwe faced the choice between the destruction of its economy by international institutions or relenting on its policies. It chose the latter and financed its efforts through the excessive production of currency. Deep governmental corruption and efforts to implement dramatic changes to the economy too swiftly destabilized the country further. These complex factors created a situation in which prices rose quickly and erratically to try to meet the devaluation of currency through oversupply—at the same time that the productive capacity that could give that currency stability was being decimated.

Without any clear measure of how much currency is in circulation or the true value of the country’s economy, the Zimbabwean dollar remains unstable and prone to hyperinflation. In cooperation with various international institutions, the country has experimented with solutions including the adoption of foreign currencies and convertible coins. The results of the 2020 COVID-19 crisis have lead to the resumption of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.

4. Yugoslavia: March 1992–January 1994

Max inflation rate: 313,000,000%

Prices Doubled Every: 1.41 days

Yugoslavia experienced the second-worst period of hyperinflation on record, right after Hungary. After the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was created, comprising the territories which are today the Republics of Serbia and Macedonia. In April of 1992, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the FR Yugoslavia as a result of its involvement in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The sanctions, as well as political corruption under Slobodan Milosevic, caused a major economic crisis, and hyperinflation ensued.

To end the economic crisis, which caused many Yugoslavians to wait in enormous lines for food, the country upended its financial policies and its currency (the dinar). In 2006, after the Yugoslav wars, the state of Yugoslavia dissolved when Serbia and Montenegro became independent states.

Causes of Yugoslavia’s Inflation

From 1971 to 1991, Yugoslavia was already in pretty bad shape, with an annual inflation rate of 76%. In January of 1991, things got much worse when Slobodan Milosevic ordered the Serbian National Bank to issue over $1 billion in credit to his friends. This amount was over half of the amount of money that the National Bank of Yugoslavia planned to issue in 1991; this move emboldened the leaders of Croatia and Slovenia to break away from the SFRY.

At this point, over 80% of Yugoslavia’s budget was sent to the military and police, as ordered by Milosevic, who continuously printed dinars to pay for these expenses. Between January of 1991 and April of 1998, the dinar was devalued 18 times.

Hyperinflation FAQs

Who suffered the most in hyperinflation?

Most everyone suffers in some way, with working class people suffering far greater than the rest of the population. Hyperinflation causes many businesses to fail, which puts people out of a job, and unable to afford basic necessities due to rising costs.

In addition, people may start to hoard goods to avoid paying more for them later; this drives the prices of goods up even further. Those who are on a fixed income, such as retirees, will see the value of their savings quickly deteriorate, and find themselves unable to survive on what they worked their whole lives for.

The middle class and property owners might actually stand to benefit during hyperinflation, as the price of homes typically rises, due to increased building costs. Those who took out debt prior to hyperinflation will gain as well, as the loan amount will stay the same even though the currency valuation depreciates; eventually, it might get wiped out altogether.

What was the most recent hyperinflation?

Venezuela entered a state of hyperinflation in 2013; by 2018, inflation had increased 1,000,000%.

Has the US ever had hyperinflation?

While the United States has experienced extreme levels of inflation, both around the time of wars, it has never experienced hyperinflation.

Between 1776 and 1778, the inflation rate was 29.78%, and since the introduction of the Consumer Price Index, the highest level of inflation on record was 20.49% in 1917. These timeframes correlate to the United States participating in the Revolutionary War and World War I.


Share this advice


C.E Larusso

C.E Larusso

A professional content writer, C.E. Larusso has written about all things home, finance, family, and wellness for a variety of publications, including Angi, HomeLight, Noodle, and Mimi. She is based in Los Angeles.

Income and expenses charts

Free Retirement Consultation

Still have questions about how to properly plan for retirement? Speak with a licensed fiduciary for free.


Lifestyle

The Worst Cases of Hyperinflation of All Time

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation. Discover why hyperinflation is different from inflation, and which countries have suffered the worst periods of hyperinflation of all time.

C.E Larusso

C.E Larusso

Published November 15th, 2022

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation.

The most recent case of hyperinflation was Venezuela, seeing an increase of 1,000,000% from 2013 to 2018.

While the United States has experienced extreme levels of inflation—both during wartime—it has never experienced hyperinflation.

The current rate of inflation may seem bad, but it’s nowhere near the levels several currencies have during periods of true hyperinflation. Over the last century, the world has seen over 50 instances of hyperinflation, with recent examples in Venezuela.

Inflation is understood to be a measure of the regular rise of the price of goods or rise and fall of the value of a currency. Hyperinflation, however, is inflation that is rapid and uncontrollable, at a minimum rate of over 50% per month. It usually occurs in less wealthy countries, though Germany and France are two examples of Western states that have experienced periods of hyperinflation.

1. Hungary: August 1945–July 1946

Max inflation rate: 13,600,000,000,000,000%

Prices doubled every: 15.6 hours

Hungary’s period of hyperinflation is the worst ever recorded. After World War II, the country was economically devastated, with 40% of its capital stock destroyed. During the war, it took on an enormous amount of debt to aid Germany in the war effort, but Germany never paid its bill, leaving Hungary in a dire situation.

Once Hungary signed a peace treaty with the Allies in 1945, it was ordered to pay reparations to the Soviet Union, which they had fought alongside the Nazis—some economists estimate the reparations accounted for nearly 50% of Hungary’s budget, or $300 million dollars.

At its height, Hungary’s daily inflation rate is estimated to have been 195%, with prices doubling every 15 hours or so. The government adopted a new, special currency—the adópengő—for tax and postal payments, and would announce the value of it and the pengő every day on the radio.

Causes of Hungary’s 1946 Inflation

After World War I, the Austro-Hungarian empire was dissolved, and the new, independent nation of Hungary lacked a sturdy state structure. To replace the Austro-Hungarian Krone, Hungary printed the korona, but that suffered a high rate of inflation in the 1920s and was ultimately replaced by the pengő.

The Great Depression had a significant impact on Hungary, especially its agricultural sector. The pengő was initially stable but the economic crisis coupled with the events of World War II quickly caused the value of the pengő to quickly deflate.

After the war, the government started to rapidly print money to get more currency in circulation and levy taxes. In July of 1945, there were 1.6 trillion pengő in circulation, and by January 1946, 65 quadrillion. With too much currency floating around, the prices of goods skyrocketed and the pengő lost its value. Something that cost 379 pengö in September 1945 cost 11.267 billion pengö by May 31 of the same year.

To deal with the pengö’s plummeting value, Hungary’s government introduced new currencies. The pengö was replaced by the mpengö, and that was replaced by the bpengö, followed by the adópengő. Eventually, the currency, completely decimated, was replaced by the forint on August 1, 1946; the Forint is still in circulation today.

2. The Weimar Republic: 1922–1923

Max inflation rate: 29,500%

Prices doubled every: 3.7 days

The story of the Weimar Republic’s period of hyperinflation is one of the most well-known on this list. After World War I, Germany’s economy was rocky; the country believed it would win the war and spent a hefty amount on its military efforts. After the war, the Treaty of Versailles demanded that Germany pay reparations that it could not afford, and also asked it to fire thousands of its soldiers—leaving large numbers of people without work.

By September of 1920, prices for goods were approximately 12 times higher than they had been before the war. By September of 1922, the same basket of food that had cost 270 marks in April of that year now cost 2,615 marks.

Some municipalities started to pay their workers in their own unique currencies, worried that workers would become aggravated if their salary was delayed and the mark depreciated further before they could spend their money. Some workers were paid twice a day because a payment that was issued in the morning would be worth significantly less by the time lunch rolled around.

This period of hyperinflation is often cited as a major reason that enabled Adolf Hitler to come to power.

Causes of the Weimar Republic’s Inflation

The Weimar Republic was already on bad footing following the war, and when it defaulted on its reparations payments, France and Belgium sent military troops into the Ruhr Valley to confiscate industrial goods, such as coal mines, railways, and factories. The German government ordered workers to strike and not cooperate with the French and Belgians; the result was a dramatic reduction in goods being produced, while at the same time, the Republic was printing additional currency to pay the striking workers, further devaluing the mark.

3. Zimbabwe: March 2007–November 2008

Max inflation rate: 79,000,000,000%

Prices Doubled Every 24.7 hours

Zimbabwe’s period of hyperinflation was the first of the 21st century. In April 1980, the independent Republic of Zimbabwe was established in the ashes of the colonial state of Rhodesia, after a fifteen-year war of independence waged against the United Kingdom. The country at first experienced growth, stability, and development, with an economy based largely on wheat and tobacco production.

Over the course of the 1990s, Zimbabwe’s government, led by Robert Mugabe, attempted a series of structural adjustment programs designed to wrest control of the economy away from the white colonizers who retained control over the majority of the country’s land and resources even after the end of de jure white supremacy. These efforts were punished by severe sanctions imposed by the IMF and World Bank, the United States, and many other wealthy countries. These penalties, along with the array of growing pains and difficulties created by the attempt to remake the country’s economy from scratch tanked the country’s productive capacity and hobbled its banking sector, cutting it off from much of the international market. Much of the wealthy colonial elite left the country and brought with them the capital that they had accrued by exploiting Zimbabwe’s resources.

The government began printing currency beyond amounts its banks or the state could really back. The amounts ballooned further as Zimbabwe became embroiled in expensive wars in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 2000s—and levels of financial corruption within the government soared. By the early 2000s, excessive currency printing and the widespread understanding both in the country and throughout the world economy that Zimbabwean banknotes had no stable value had resulted in inflation rates that climbed well north of 100% year-on-year.

Causes of Zimbabwe’s Inflation

Caught within a world order that would not allow the country to pursue its preferred aims, Zimbabwe faced the choice between the destruction of its economy by international institutions or relenting on its policies. It chose the latter and financed its efforts through the excessive production of currency. Deep governmental corruption and efforts to implement dramatic changes to the economy too swiftly destabilized the country further. These complex factors created a situation in which prices rose quickly and erratically to try to meet the devaluation of currency through oversupply—at the same time that the productive capacity that could give that currency stability was being decimated.

Without any clear measure of how much currency is in circulation or the true value of the country’s economy, the Zimbabwean dollar remains unstable and prone to hyperinflation. In cooperation with various international institutions, the country has experimented with solutions including the adoption of foreign currencies and convertible coins. The results of the 2020 COVID-19 crisis have lead to the resumption of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe.

4. Yugoslavia: March 1992–January 1994

Max inflation rate: 313,000,000%

Prices Doubled Every: 1.41 days

Yugoslavia experienced the second-worst period of hyperinflation on record, right after Hungary. After the dissolution of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was created, comprising the territories which are today the Republics of Serbia and Macedonia. In April of 1992, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the FR Yugoslavia as a result of its involvement in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The sanctions, as well as political corruption under Slobodan Milosevic, caused a major economic crisis, and hyperinflation ensued.

To end the economic crisis, which caused many Yugoslavians to wait in enormous lines for food, the country upended its financial policies and its currency (the dinar). In 2006, after the Yugoslav wars, the state of Yugoslavia dissolved when Serbia and Montenegro became independent states.

Causes of Yugoslavia’s Inflation

From 1971 to 1991, Yugoslavia was already in pretty bad shape, with an annual inflation rate of 76%. In January of 1991, things got much worse when Slobodan Milosevic ordered the Serbian National Bank to issue over $1 billion in credit to his friends. This amount was over half of the amount of money that the National Bank of Yugoslavia planned to issue in 1991; this move emboldened the leaders of Croatia and Slovenia to break away from the SFRY.

At this point, over 80% of Yugoslavia’s budget was sent to the military and police, as ordered by Milosevic, who continuously printed dinars to pay for these expenses. Between January of 1991 and April of 1998, the dinar was devalued 18 times.

Hyperinflation FAQs

Who suffered the most in hyperinflation?

Most everyone suffers in some way, with working class people suffering far greater than the rest of the population. Hyperinflation causes many businesses to fail, which puts people out of a job, and unable to afford basic necessities due to rising costs.

In addition, people may start to hoard goods to avoid paying more for them later; this drives the prices of goods up even further. Those who are on a fixed income, such as retirees, will see the value of their savings quickly deteriorate, and find themselves unable to survive on what they worked their whole lives for.

The middle class and property owners might actually stand to benefit during hyperinflation, as the price of homes typically rises, due to increased building costs. Those who took out debt prior to hyperinflation will gain as well, as the loan amount will stay the same even though the currency valuation depreciates; eventually, it might get wiped out altogether.

What was the most recent hyperinflation?

Venezuela entered a state of hyperinflation in 2013; by 2018, inflation had increased 1,000,000%.

Has the US ever had hyperinflation?

While the United States has experienced extreme levels of inflation, both around the time of wars, it has never experienced hyperinflation.

Between 1776 and 1778, the inflation rate was 29.78%, and since the introduction of the Consumer Price Index, the highest level of inflation on record was 20.49% in 1917. These timeframes correlate to the United States participating in the Revolutionary War and World War I.


Share this advice


C.E Larusso

C.E Larusso

A professional content writer, C.E. Larusso has written about all things home, finance, family, and wellness for a variety of publications, including Angi, HomeLight, Noodle, and Mimi. She is based in Los Angeles.

Plan for a better future

Get an affordable, professionally prepared retirement plan today.

personal-plan

Plan for a better future

Get an affordable, professionally prepared retirement plan today.

personal-plan

Legal

Retirable, Inc. ('Retirable') is an SEC registered investment advisor. By using this website, you accept our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. Retirable provides holistic retirement planning services, which are available only to residents of the United States. You must be at least 18 years of age to become a Retirable Premium user. Nothing on this website should be considered an offer, solicitation of an offer, or advice to buy or sell securities.

Investing involves risk and past performance is not indicative of future results. Increased spending increases the risk of depleting your savings and performance is not guaranteed. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any decisions based on your own personal circumstances.

For more information, see our Form ADV Part II and other disclosures.

© 2022 Retirable Inc. All rights reserved.

We're accredited and certified by

Legal

Retirable, Inc. ('Retirable') is an SEC registered investment advisor. By using this website, you accept our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy. Retirable provides holistic retirement planning services, which are available only to residents of the United States. You must be at least 18 years of age to become a Retirable Premium user. Nothing on this website should be considered an offer, solicitation of an offer, or advice to buy or sell securities.

Investing involves risk and past performance is not indicative of future results. Increased spending increases the risk of depleting your savings and performance is not guaranteed. It is very important to do your own analysis before making any decisions based on your own personal circumstances.

For more information, see our Form ADV Part II and other disclosures.

© 2022 Retirable Inc. All rights reserved.

We're accredited and certified by