Friday, August 28, 2009

Thoughts on Assorted Japanese Imports

August 28, 2009
Posted by John Beety

Recently, I was shopping in a bookstore when I came across a most unusual display. Then again, considering this was a national chain, perhaps it’s not so unusual. Close to the shelves of manga (Japanese comics, generally sold in the U.S. as translations bound in trade-paperback format) were a variety of other products possibly of interest to the manga purchaser. I came face to face with temptation, in the form of light breadsticks dipped in chocolate.

I was not stronger than the Pocky. I bought a box to take home with me. It didn’t last the night.

Like many others in my generation, I have a taste for imported Japanese popular culture. Video games and manga are two of my particular vices. I’ve previously referenced my fondness for the video game series Final Fantasy, but I also pick up the odd manga title, such as Detective Conan, a mystery series featuring a teen-aged investigator trapped in a first-grader’s body. (It’s marketed in the United States as Case Closed to avoid entanglements with a certain loincloth-wearing barbarian, but Detective Conan sounds cooler.)

Between my interest in things Japanese and my obsession with coins, perhaps it was inevitable that at some point, I would become intrigued by Japanese coinage. Unfortunately, my level of sophistication is not high; I know just enough to realize how little I actually know! That doesn’t stop me from appreciating Japanese coins in my own peculiar way, though.

I was paging through the upcoming Monthly Internet World Coin Auction and came across the sale’s small but intriguing Japanese section. There are several coins from the Ministry of Finance gold auctions; the best American comparison would be the GSA sales of silver dollars, in that a long-term government holding of its coins was offered to the public, though numerous details (method of sale, etc.) were necessarily different.

One of the visual hallmarks of the Ministry of Finance gold coins was a large-format plastic holder, with a deep red insert framing the coin and a tag with serial number and other information also enclosed. Certain dates and denominations were much more heavily represented than others; the Meiji 4 (1871 in the Western calendar) one yen gold was one of the more common dates, and there are three of them in the auction. Among 10 yen gold pieces, Meiji 42 (1909) was also a year with a large stock sold; there’s one in the auction.

A number of Ministry of Finance pieces can also be found in the Japan section of Heritage’s September 2009 Long Beach World Coin Auction. Why not take a look and see if there’s a Japanese import that interests you?

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