Alex Massie

A Nation of Numismatists

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Well, sort of. There's a serious shortage of coins in Argentina at the moment, possibly because they're worth more, as commodities prices rise, when they're melted down and resold. Or it may have a different explanation. It's a mystery! Anyway...

The coin scarcity has created a strange predicament: Merchants regularly refuse to sell their goods or services if it means they’ll have to give coins back as change. For small transactions, they’d rather lose the revenue than spare the change.

Black markets have reportedly cropped up for the resale of coins at more than 7 percent above their face value. And starting in June in Buenos Aires, more than half of the 3,200 members of the Chamber of Chinese Supermarkets (ubiquitous small groceries run by immigrants from China, not markets of Chinese food) will start issuing their own special bonds as change for purchases, worth 10 percent more than the coins they would otherwise give customers. The move is expected to cost the groceries less than the 450 to 600 pesos ($120 to $160) they spend weekly buying coins on the black market, according to chamber estimates. Poor, sweet, Argentina, perhaps the most melancholy country on earth and a place where everything is accompanied by a sigh wondering What Might Have Been. Justifiably so too, given that 100 years ago Argentina was richer than Canada. Now? Not so much.

[Via Marginal Revolution]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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