Your (20th century) money is no good here

Boondoggle notes that, if you’re paying off Somali pirates, you better bring the right kind of bills.

Kenyan sailor Athman Said Mangore, who was held captive for more than 120 days by Somali pirates, says they are known to make many demands and put in place a number of restrictions.

“They sometimes say they want $208,000 exactly in $100 bills only,” he says.

“I don’t know why they make those demands. They usually also don’t like dollar bills that were printed in 2000 or the years before. If it was printed in 1999, they say: ‘This is not fit to be used in our shop’,” he adds.

The practice isn’t limited to Somali pirates. In Uganda, you have one exchange rate for $100 bills after 2003, and another for older or smaller bills. Storekeepers will refuse old money, and I don’t know why. I hear it has something to do with Middle Eastern banks, who won’t accept old or small bills. Is this a consequence of the dollarization of Gulf economies?

It’s not something I’ve seen in West Africa. You should see (and smell) the ratty bills I got in Liberia. It’s a mixture of Old Spice and fish. Lovely.

Surely a reader out there has an answer?