From the Super Mario Wiki, the Mario encyclopedia
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The Paper Money is an item in the SNES and PC releases of Mario's Time Machine. It was a form of currency used in ancient Asia as fiat money when other parts of the world never used it. Marco Polo, when traveling to Cambuluc and meeting Kublai Khan, encountered this type of money during the thirteenth century. He was payed with it as part of his service to the Khan, as was Mario when he travels back in time, meets the Khan himself, and is mistaken for an Italian explorer. Mario can then use it to trade with a nearby salesman, who offers to read the Print Block in Mario's possession in exchange for money. Once the salesman receives the money, he explains that the glyph on the block says "Polo", referring to either Marco Polo or his family and traveling companions, Niccolò and Maffeo.