A long, long time ago (not so long, really), around 400M people lived in a strange, double-tiered system. The currency issued by the state was pure scrip, forced into being by the will of the committees ruling the lands. It was not convertible into any currency used by other countries EXCEPT those within the same trade zone, and then only generally with restrictions. Nothing could be bought from any other country, except those within the trade zone.
Since both supply and price was centrally controlled, even those items which WERE being manufactured were often scarce goods. Having cash was not enough to make a purchase, you had to be friends with the store manager, the butcher, the department store clerk (or know someone who WAS), so the item would be reserved for you (generally in exchange for a surcharge or an owed favor).