JAPAN, HOEI TSUHO, copper 10 mon, 1708 AD


JAPAN, 10 mon, no date (1708 AD), Obverse: HOEI TSUHO, Reverse: EI KYU SEI HO on outer rim, countermark: CHIN, copper, 37mm, 9.87g, JNDA1, KM57, F

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The Hoei Tsuho were an unsuccessful attempt at a fiat currency. They were supposed to trade at 10 mon but they had about 6 mon of metal value, so people didn’t accept them and the government was not able to force their use.

The Japanese took their idea of coinage directly from China, making square holed cast bronze coins starting in the 8th century AD. The chinese had been making coins for 1300 years already, so the Japanese could see what the benefits and problems were. There is the possibility, given the rarity of the earliest Japanese coins, and the existence of silver versions, that the whole coinage thing started with a palace game of Let’s Play Chinese. My main reference is the book: Early Japanese Coins, by David Hartill.

China calls itself “Central Country.” That is in reference to the vast Asian hinterland that is not China, and to the island peoples out in the Pacific Ocean. Because China tended to do organizational things earliest in that part of the world, the outsiders would notice and adopt useful practices that they observed. Among those borrowed cultural practices was the adoption of the money economy to replace direct barter, or to replace less convenient shapes of metal, rings and tools and jewelry bits. The Chinese style of market money being square holed cast bronze coins, that became the form of the coins made in Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the islands out to Java, into Siberia and as far west as Kazakhstan.