As you know, most countries outside of the United States use coins instead of bills for all but the largest denominations. For example, the Euro has up to a €2 coin, and the first bill is €5. That’s contrary to the U.S. where our coins are only fractions of a dollar and all dollar increments are bills, except for the few times the Treasury has tried to introduce dollar coins (like now).
In Israel, where we recently visited, the Israeli New Shekel (also spelled sheqel) has coins up through ₪10 (10 shekels). That’s around $2.50 at the current exchange rate.
But while in Israel, I found one of the major problems with using coins for higher denominations. While many would argue for the coin’s longevity compared to paper/linen bills, I would argue against the coin’s ability to get lost more easily!
Here’s my story: I was walking out of a shop after buying some postcard stamps in Tiberias. I had a few coins in my hand (like those pictured above), including some 5 shekel pieces. As I closed my hand to put the coins in my pocket, a five shekel piece fell out, bounced on the wooden deck once and fell cleanly through the floor boards. Even if there was room to go under the deck (there wasn’t), I wouldn’t have dared to try given what other kids of garbage and muck probably existed there. Well, there went about $1.30.
But if it had been a 5 shekel bill (which doesn’t exist), it wouldn’t have fallen through the boards. It may have blown away, but I could have chased it and probably caught it. So the basic problem with using coins instead of bills is their ability to get lost.
But perhaps it’s just a problem for stupid Americans who aren’t used to handling change of such importance. Here, if we drop a few cents, it’s not as big of a deal because they’re only fractions of dollars (I mean this in relative terms. I know every cent counts). But throw some $1 or $2 coins in our fists, give us a few weeks to get used to them, and we’ll start making sure we have a better handle on them before storing them in our old lady coin purses. Yes, I foresee all Americans carrying around those little plastic oval change holders if we switch to dollar coins.
For you Europeans (or other world travelers), how do you handle your change? Is keeping track of the coins a problem? Do you carry little coin purses or just throw them all in your pockets?