Iran issues another high-denomination ‘check’
- Published: May 4, 2023, 10 AM
Relentless inflation in Iran has led to a new high-denomination “Iran check” with a face value of 2 million rials or 200 toman. Its equivalent in U.S. dollars is $47.34 at the official exchange rate but geometrically less at free market rates.
The notes are being printed by the Central Bank of Iran but are not officially considered currency in what most people consider to be the world’s most confusing monetary system. The rial is still the official currency but because it now has so many zeroes, most Iranians refer to prices in tomans in which 10 rials equal 1 toman. The toman was the name of the currency before the rial and is supposed to be so again over the next few years when the rials are to be withdrawn from circulation entirely and replaced with a new toman, wherein one toman will be equal to 10,000 rials. Despite being issued by the central bank, Iran checks are not official legal tender and are considered a temporary currency.
Similar 1,000,000-rial and 500,000-rial checks have been circulating for years, and the new one, the Finance Ministry says, is to help facilitate transactions in response to higher public demand for cash.
The 2-million-rial denomination was originally planned for introduction in October 2008 but was canceled after the governor of the Central Bank of Iran was replaced.
The light blue, green, and yellow 160-millimeter by 75-millimeter 2-million-rial note is made of paper. Its face shows the 673-foot-high Karoun-3 hydroelectric dam on the Karounafr River in western Iran’s Khuzestan province. It opened in 2005 for flood control as well as to generate power. The back contains Farsi script and a large flower in an Islamic motif.
The 156-millimeter by 71-millimeter 1-million-rial note is of paper with embedded fluorescent fibers. The face design is dominated by the Fatima Masumeh sanctuary in Qom, a holy city in Shi’a Islam and one of the two most sacred in Iran. All text is in Farsi, including a red serial number in Farsi numerals. A blue serial number in western numerals is at the lower left. The number 100 is in red at the lower right without the four extra zeroes.
The processing plant at the South Pars natural gas field, called by far the world’s largest, and shared by Iran and Qatar, is depicted on the back. This is captioned in Farsi, but the rest of the text is in English. The denomination 100 is at the lower right with the dual denomination above it on the top.
The security features on the earlier note are sophisticated for something not considered legal tender. They include a windowed security thread that changes from gold to green, and on the face, serial numbers printed with fluorescent ink that turns gold and light blue under ultraviolet light, a watermark, and microprinting. On the back, the number 100 is printed in magnetic optically variable ink that changes color and conveys movement. The number 100 is also used as a registration device on the two sides.
Iran’s various new notes are the result of a decision in May 2022 by Iran’s parliament to slash zeroes off each value to make it easier for consumers to carry cash, calculate prices, and make payments.
Furthermore, over the next two to five years, the rials will be withdrawn from circulation entirely and replaced with a new toman, wherein one toman will be equal to 10,000 rials. This explains why the zeroes on the new notes are printed in a lighter color.
The arrangement is actually nothing new to Iranians, who long ago knocked off the zeroes themselves and stopped calculating prices in rials. Instead, even though they used the physical rials as currency, prices were quoted in tomans.
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