Bitcoin’s price of USD 7,420 at time of writing is at near-parity with the 10,000 Brunei dollar (BND) bill issued by Brunei in December 2006, yielding an equivalent price of USD 7,132.
Brunei is a country of less than half a million people located on the island of Borneo in the South Pacific. Brunei’s BND 10,000 banknote features a picture of Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the current leader of Brunei, one of the wealthiest men on Earth with a net worth of USD 20 billion. It is fitting that the most valuable banknote in circulation on the planet has the image of one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet.
The price of Bitcoin is volatile and, in general, this year Bitcoin has been worth far more than the BND bill. Bitcoin went as high as USD 20,000 USD when it hit record highs in December 2017. However, before November 2017 Bitcoin’s price was far below that of the banknote.
The BND is legally at parity with the Singapore dollar (SGD), and Singapore used to print its own SGD 10,000 banknote but took it out of circulation to prevent money laundering, leaving the Bruneian banknote as the most valuable fiat currency bill officially in circulation.
Indeed, many other countries have taken their large denomination fiat banknotes out of circulation to prevent money laundering. A briefcase containing USD 1 million of USD 100 bills would be 70% full, while a briefcase with USD 1 million worth of BND 10,000 bills would only be 1.5% full. It is, therefore, very easy to conceal huge amounts of money with the larger bills, thought to help illegal activity.
The European Union is getting rid of its EUR 500 bill, unofficially called the Bin Laden since it was so often used to launder money for terrorism. Latvia is also getting rid of its LAT 500 bill. One notable holdout is Switzerland who refuses to get rid of its CHF 1,000 (Swiss franc) bill.
Bitcoin would appear to be efficient for money launderers too, probably more so than any banknote since it can be sent anywhere in the world anonymously and instantly. However, its traceability on a public blockchain has proven to be the downfall of many would-be launderers, as proven by the high-profile takedowns of online dark markets since 2014.
The largest banknote ever in history was probably the USD 100,000 bill issued in 1934, but this was discontinued in 1940 and was only for intra-governmental use by the Federal Reserve when it was in circulation. Of course, these bills still exist and are legal tender. Perhaps one day in coming years, Bitcoin will exceed the value of the USD 100,000 bill should long-term trends continue, at which point it will be more valuable than any fiat banknote printed in history.
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