If you have it in your hands, it’s fairly easy to tell. Something knocked off on a colour copier will be on, well, copier paper. Banknote paper has a very different feel, as it is made of cotton fibre, and when I visited Zimbabwe (in the days when it was only about Z$100 to US$1), Zimbabwean notes were printed on proper banknote paper. Whether they switched to a different paper to save money once the currency became worthless, I am not sure.
Normally I would say check the watermark too, but Wikipedia says many of the notes used unwatermarked paper:
It’s not clear from that whether the notes above $500m used proper cotton banknote paper or not.
One check would be to hold it up to the light and make sure that the pattern of curved lines on the white part of the design (next to the main image) on each side of the note lines up to form a complete pattern. Half the pattern is printed on the obverse, half on the reverse. An amateur copy likely won’t line up perfectly.
As with anything you buy, especially on Ebay, you don’t. Caveat emptor isn’t just a cute Latin saying. You check the seller’s feedback and reputation. Do they have a lot of negatives? Do they ship quickly? Do they offer a refund? Stuff like that.
I can’t tell you how to determine with 100% accuracy but when I created an art project with money I bought a lot of different currencies. I used only sellers that had a good reputation and all the money I got back was real as far as I could tell. The Zimbabwe money is printed on banknote paper and it’s probably cheaper to get real ZD notes than print fake ones on good paper (i.e. scammers are losing money).
I have one of those at home; likewise bought for a few dollars on eBay. I recall it being clearly genuine but I don’t remember why specifically–I think there was a watermark, but I’m not certain about that. I’ll check when I get back.
Sorry to revive this old thread, but the OP asked exactly the question I had, and despite getting a few replies, didn’t really get the answer he, and I, are looking for.
Namely, how do I know, before buying them, if any particular bills I’m looking at on eBay are genuine Zimbabwean bills and not novelty reprints? Obviously, if I had them in my hands, I could probably tell, but I don’t want to order some and then have to go through the hassle of returning them.
When I look at the listing, some say things like, “Not Really Currency,” which could mean they’re genuine, but no longer accepted as currency (which I believe is true of all these hyper-inflationary notes). Or it could mean they’re fake.
Were real Zim bills “Plastic plated with Gold Foil”?
Many listings like this offer notes for about $1.00 each. But then there are others, usually described as uncirculated, that come with certificates of authenticity and cost $200 or more apiece.
I’m not a collector, I just want to buy ten or twenty and give them to my grandkids as gag gifts. But I want the real thing, at a reasonable price.
I just bought a set of 20 for myself on eBay. They were very clearly not real when I got them (I’m pretty sure they don’t all have the same serial number and an inscription that says 24K gold), and not at all like the description. I didn’t care. It was $17. On the plus side, these are much more durable than real bills.
So, yeah, buyer beware.
(Now that I look at the images and similar genuine banknotes being sold, it should have been pretty obvious, but I didn’t care at all at the price point.)
ETA: Yeah, mine are like the ones in your first listing. My description did not say “Not Really Currency” but rather “Not current currency.” Same thing: plastic in gold foil. Same serial number on all. Obviously not real.
It seems to be the case that genuine notes in the trillion series are only available uncirculated at high prices, but circulated billion series bills are still available at reasonable prices. I just ordered ten $10 billion notes for $20.
So I’ll make the kids billionaires instead of trillionaires.
I am Zimbabwean. Trust me, they are real. The printing quality was really bad, anyway.
It would cost more to fake it than to use a real note.
I picked up a few that had been thrown out, just sitting in a ditch. My kids (they are young) think they are really valuable so I let them… when in reality despite all the zeros they were worthless when printed.
The other point to consider was that most laser copiers/printers are typically 600dpi, maybe as high as 1200dpi. One of the features of banknotes making them hard to copy was the extremely fine lines. You could use a magnifying glass and see legible unsmeared writing with what appeared at first glance to be simple lines. Lower resolution copiers attempting to make copies will inevitably create Moiré patterns.
So your fakers will at least have used a high quality printing process. Another giveaway of laser/xerox printing is that the toner is not sharp, under strong magnification you can see it sort of splatters bits around the boundaries of the coloured portions. If you have more than one, how consistent is the colour?
One of the giveaways that was noted for real bills prominently for old Canadian paper money was that the ink never truly dries. Press and rub a bill back and forth on white paper and some of the ink will transfer giving a coloured spot. I tried this just now with American money and similarly with 10 seconds of vigorously rubbing it on the same spot it leaves a tiny amount of colour on a paper. I don’t know if this is true with all ink printing processes (as opposed to xerography) or if Zimbabwe went cheap on their inks.
Dang, my bill might be worth $200 now? I’m certain it’s genuine and it appears to be in uncirculated condition. That’s an appreciation of about 10,000%! Forget Bitcoin; I should have put more into Zimbabwe bucks.
Yeah, the one being sold in the ten-year-old OP does look real. The ones I bought, definitely not. They were semi-rigid plastic bills with the same serial number (999999). There’s a ton of these being sold on eBay, and they should have stuck out to me as being “for entertainment only” even though the lot I bought only said “non circulating currency” and not “not real currency.”