If you’ve ever gotten a U.S. Savings Bond as a holiday gift, you probably remember the seconds of fun you had with it. And that’s the problem with most money-related holiday presents (with the exception of cash, of course) — they’re usually not as exciting as an iPhone or a bike. Nevertheless, if you shop carefully, you can find a money gift that will bring a smile.
A Roman denarius
Price: $55 and up at coin dealers
If you have a history-minded friend, consider an ancient coin, such as the denarius, the standard Roman silver coin during much of Rome’s history. The denarius weighed about 4.5 grams, which would translate into roughly $3.30 at today’s silver prices.
As with all coins, the price you pay depends on condition and rarity. Many coin dealers offer denarii in good or fair condition — meaning “worn but mostly legible” — for $55 or so. You can get a list of coin dealers from the American Numismatic Association.
Very rare and well-preserved coins go for much more. A Denarius of Brutus — yes, that Brutus — can fetch more than $300,000. The coin was struck to commemorate the assassination of Julius Caesar. With Brutus’ head on the front and two daggers on the reverse, it’s the only Roman coin to celebrate a murder.
A Greek 5-million-drachma note
Price: $35 at Banknote World
Inflation is on everyone’s mind these days; the 5-million-drachma note is a relic of one of the greatest bursts of inflation in history. In October 1944, at the height of Greek inflation, prices soared 13,800 percent. The Greek government eventually issued a 100-trillion-drachma note.
And for just $12.99 at online auction sites, you can get a 10-billion-mark note from the epic inflationary bout during the German Weimar Republic, when, in October 1923, prices soared 29,500 percent.