Formaggio fans know the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy as the only place in the world legally entitled to call its hard, dry skim-milk cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano. But within the world of finance, this home to Ravenna, Bologna and Parma has also gained fame for a pecuniary peculiarity: It's home to a bank that accepts the celebrated cheese as collateral [sources: Migliaccio and Rotondi; Sirletti and Cinelli].
Credito Emiliano SpA (aka Credem) stores and cares for around 450,000 80-pound (36-kilogram) wheels of aging Parmigiano-Reggiano at a time. That stacks up to around 160 million euros, or (very roughly) $176 million worth. By accepting the curd-based collateral, the bank provides a valuable service to local cheese producers, who must finance milk-buying and storage while their products cure [sources: Migliaccio and Rotondi; Sirletti and Cinelli].
Loans from Credem can reach as high as 80 percent of the cheese's market value. Each wheel bears a branded serial number, which became important in February 2009, when thieves burrowed their way into one depository and rolled off with 570 pieces before police nabbed them [source: Migliaccio and Rotondi]. That must have really grated.