Foreign exchange

Japanese coins infiltrate U.S. rolls
Published : 02/05/12
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Searching through rolls of U.S. quarter dollars is always an exciting endeavor. Naturally, I expect to find coins that exhibit the many designs used on the Washington quarter dollar since their first release in 1932.

Barring a few occasional modifications, the earlier design, which included a bust of President George Washington on the obverse and an eagle with its wings spread on the reverse, was used from 1932 through 1998.

Then, beginning in 1999 and ending in 2008, the United States issued the State quarter dollars series. They were closely followed in 2009 by the six-coin District of Columbia and United States Territories quarter dollars program.

We are now in the midst of the America the Beautiful series of quarter dollars that feature images based upon our national parks and historic sites. First issued in 2010 and hopefully continuing until 2021, I can expect to see even more variation in the coins as I search through rolls of quarter dollars in the future.

What makes this hobby so much fun is that, while so much variety can be expected while searching through rolls, the unexpected can still happen, and so it is with my finds for this month.

As I searched through 50 rolls of hand-wrapped quarter dollars, I discovered not one, but 13 coins like the one pictured here. I recognized them as 10-yen coins of Japan. The obverse of each coin depicts the Phoenix Hall of Byodo-in, a Buddhist temple in Uji, Kyoto prefecture. Also seen is the kanji for “Japan” and “ten yen.”

The reverse shows the numerals “10” and the date of issue in kanji surrounded by an evergreen wreath composed of bay laurel leaves. Kanji are the adopted Chinese characters that are used in the modern Japanese writing system.

Composed of 95 percent copper, 3 to 4 percent zinc, and 1 to 2 percent tin, 10-yen coins issued between 1951 and 1958 have a reeded edge. Coins issued from 1959 onward have a plain edge.

Known as Nengo dating, the dates on the coins are based upon the practice of displaying the name of a current emperor and year of that emperor’s reign. The coin seen here shows the Japanese characters for Showa and 51. This means that the coin was minted in the 51st year of the reign of emperor Showa (Hirohito). If the date is Showa 51, start with the first year of Hirohito’s reign (1926), subtract 1 and add 51. This coin is therefore minted in 1976. Other 10-yen coins found were dated: 1951, 1952 (three), 1954 (two), 1958 (two), 1961, 1971 (two), 1976 and 1988.

Go to and check the links on the right side of the page for one that will help you to date your Japanese coins.

Bill O’Rourke is a collector who has spent the past several years searching coin rolls in pursuit of his hobby.

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