In 1948 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) established a coupon system to aid in the acquisition of educational, scientific and cultural books and other media especially in less developed countries.
Coupons were originally issued in values of US$.25, 1.00, 3.00 and 10.00. The $.25 coupon was dropped many years ago and a $30.00 and $1,000.00 coupon have been added. Coupons can be purchased from UNESCO representatives in any country using local currency at the exchange rate for US dollars. A surcharge not exceeding 5% may be added by the local UNESCO office.
The coupons can be used to purchase qualifying materials from suppliers who are willing to accept the coupons. Qualifying materials originally only included books but this has been expanded to include maps, sheet music, computer hardware and software, textbooks and school supplies, as well as scientific supplies such as laboratory equipment, testing devices and tools. The UNESCO offices maintain lists of suppliers who are known to accept the coupons.
UNESCO coupons are bearer instruments but can only be redeemed by merchants who who deal in eligible products. They are valid for four years from the date of issue. Coupons that have passed their expiration date can be exchanged for new coupons at UNESCO offices.