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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Japanese ¥2,000 Bill Rarer Than A Steak

I am a coin collector - having collected coins since I was 10 years-old, and always on the prowl for something rare and exciting.

Unfortunately, with my personal fortune not so fortunate, most of my coin collecting these days revolves around what I find digging a grubby finger into a return coin slot in a vending machine or immersing a hand deep down into the cool water fountains at the local shopping mall.

I do know a thing or two about coins and paper money, but I was still surprised when I read a story about how Japan's ¥2,000 paper note has been largely unseen by the public in years.

I thought to myself - "Say what? I didn't even know Japan had a ¥2,000 bill?!"

If you didn't either, it's because Japan put out the bill on July 19, 2000 to commemorate the holding of the Group of Eight summit in Kyushu and Okinawa in 2000 - hardly the stuff of legends, and is merely some old-fashioned chest-beating, this time produced by former Japanese Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo (surname first) who was in office at the time of the summit.    

According to a survey, over 60 per cent of the population has not received a ¥2,000 note in the past two years - even though there is supposed to be 110-million of these bills in circulation, which represents about one per cent of all Japanese currency.

I've been paying attention to the same phenomenon here in Canada, as the purple $10 bill is a rare animal as well... I believe I have seen and handled two in the past two years. In Canada's market, our ATMs (automated teller machines) spew out $20 and $50 bills - not $10s, so fewer people have them, as you have to go and line-up at a bank and either request payment in $10 bills or ensure that your withdrawal equals an amount ending in ten.

Hey... U.S. - go and ask your bank for a $2 bill. They'll give you one. Do you even know which president is on it? It's Thomas Jefferson, for your information. I got my last one back in 1976.  How about the $1 coins? A couple of years ago, I showed mine to a friend in Illinois, and he seemed surprised to know they existed. Hmmm... maybe they just give these things out to the tourists. 

But wither Japan's ¥2,000 bill?

From what I've read, the bill was not all that popular when it was first revealed - that it was rare enough for people to look at it and not believe it was real! Like the proverbial $3 bill.

I do own a $3 bill, however. From the Bahamas. It's a rare bill in the Bahamas, as idiot tourists like myself come down and take one home, leaving few to remain in circulation in the islands!

Anyhow... the survey asking about the ¥2,000 note involved about 1,200 people between the ages of 15 and 79.

The results show that 63.1 per cent had not received a ¥2,000 bill in over two years, although all respondents from Okinawa Prefecture had.
Okinawa? Well, yeah - of course they would like it. Bloody pride. Not only was the bill released to honor the Okinawa-Kyushu G8 summit, but the obverse of the note shows the famous Shureimon Gate in Naha, Okinawa's capital city.

Shureimon Gate. Photo from Wikimedia.
Built in the 16th century, Shureimon Gate is the main gate of Shuri Castle, and is known as a symbol of peace.

Okinawans have said that they want to "promote the spirit of peace from Okinawa" via the ¥2,000 bill.
I'm sorry, but what a load of crap. If you want to promote peace - promote peace. It's been 65+ years since there was a decided lack of peace on Okinawa.

Anyhow... because vending machines in Japan aren't really built to accept the ¥2,000 note, it's just not all that convenient for a lot of people to have, according to 69.3 per cent of the survey.
Okinawa, however, seems to be stockpiling the little buggers, and has actually converted ATM machines to accept them and has encouraged local shops to offer the ¥2,000 bill in change. 

However, while banks have not yet pulled the ¥2,000 bill out of circulation, the ministry did halt production on new ¥2,000 bills in 2004 after only five years of production.

Other Japanese paper notes in circulation are the ¥1,000, ¥5,000, ¥10,000 bills.

Andrew Joseph
FYI: In 1987, Canada got rid of its $1 bill, and 15 years ago did the same with the $2 bill in 1996, replacing each with a coin - affectionately called a Loonie (it has a loon on it) and a bi-colored Twoonie (because it rhymes with Loonie). The 2012 $1 and $2 coins, however, have been light-weighted and do not work in vending machines or parking meters meaning cities will fork over $millions so people can park legally. 
We have also recently begun replacing our paper money with a plastic polymer blend that makes counterfeiting a bitch. However, static does tend to make the bills adhere to each other, so you better snap the bills down to make sure you don't give away more bills than you should. 
Plus - we recently decided to mothball the penny - the $0.01 coin meaning that all taxes on purchases will probably be rounded up to screw us... and just because the penny cost more than $0.01 to manufacture. Of course... it's been that way for about 30 years ago, I believe.
PPS: If anyone in Japan would care to trade a ¥2,000 bill for a - no wait a minute! That's like $26 Canadian! That's a chunk of change. Forget I said anything!  
PPPS: All images except the Bahamas $3 note are from Wikimedia Commons. The $3 Bahamas note is my own, but anyone may use the image freely except for counterfeiting purposes, because that would be bad.

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