Saturday, January 30, 2010

Golden yenners

Japanese yen come in both coins (玉, tama) and bills (札, satsu). The coin variety includes 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, and 500-yen pieces. In America, coins of a higher denomination than 25 cents have never really caught on. We've had 50 cent and $1 coins introduced, but no one really seems to use them. I think that's a shame.

In Canada, Loonies and Toonies (one and two Canadian dollar coins, respectively) are widely used. In Europe, there are one and two-euro coins, as well. Britain has the 1-pound coin, and of course Japan has the 100 and 500-yen coins. What is it about Americans that we can't succumb to the allure of the high-denomination coin? I mean, holding a fistful of 500-yen pieces is like grasping a small hoard of pirate gold. Who doesn't love pirate gold?

Coins are easier to handle than bills (although I suppose their cumulative weight is the flip side of that) and they are also cheaper for the government (and therefore us) to make. Coins wear out much more slowly than bills, and thus have to be replaced and recirculated much less often. It also makes Coinstar much more exciting - in America I could usually expect one or two hundred bucks from a couple big jars of coins. A couple weeks ago I deposited a jar of yen and got the equivalent of about $350 for it! But despite these benefits, America lags behind in the coinage arena.

One of my favorite aspects of the high-value coins are how easy they are to spend or not spend. I'm sure I'm not the first to blog about this, but I am a subscriber to the practice of saving 500-yenners. About half a year ago, as close as can remember, I began dropping all my 500-yen coins into a little box. Over the months, I've conditioned myself never to spend them. It's gotten to the point where I inwardly wince when I see other people drop a 500-yen piece. And it's been paying off. To date, I've saved just under 70,000 yen - that's around $700.

I do find myself wrestling with the question of what to do with the money when I do decide to cash it in, though. Do I invest it? Spend it on a vacation? Get myself some fancy gadgets? Only time will tell...


  1. Goof idea, I think I'll start to save 500 yen coin myself

  2. Pirate gold!! Everyone loves pirate gold. Although, those kind of look like the cheap tokens you get at arcades. ;)

    Chris has this bad habit of just throwing change about. I'd forgotten about Coinstar. Need to hit that up. We have a HUUUGE amount of change from just the past year or so.

  3. They may look like tokens, but they're heavy enough to make them feel genuine.

    And yeah, do that Coinstar. Usable money is always good.

  4. I hate Japanese coins. Unless you want to carry around a man purse with all your coins in it or some kind of gold pouch that Robin Hood would want to steal they are a pain. Bills are light and fold up nicely in your wallet. Coins do not.

  5. True, they can be a pain when they build up in your pocket, but the same is true of American coins. At least a pocketful of change here is usually worth the equivalent of a few bucks.