It Makes No Cents

The other day I was at my part-time job and I was helping a Brazilian couple. When it came time to ring them up, the gentleman went in his pocket and then held his hand full of change towards me. With a slightly apologetic look, he said, “I’m sorry, your coins have no numbers. They are very confusing.”


I immediately told him not to worry about it, I picked out the change that was needed, and finished the transaction. After the couple left, I stood there for a while thinking about what had happened. And I realized that for pretty much my whole life, I had not noticed something that was so blatantly obvious: our coins make no sense!


With all the places I’ve traveled to, I don’t really remember having a difficult time anywhere when it came to counting change. When I first moved to Germany, it took me awhile to get used to the fact that they have coins for €1 and €2; I kept thinking I was getting shortchanged when all I was handed back was coins and no bills. But I never actually had a hard time counting the change.


Americans count their change just fine, but only because we memorized what each coin is. We know that a nickel is worth 5 cents, not because there’s a 5 on it, but because that’s what we were taught. All this time I had never really thought about it! Sure, our dime says “ONE DIME” on it, but even if I’m a tourist that can read English, how am I supposed to know that a dime equals 10 cents? Maybe the coins could at least be in size order, like in China. But no, our penny is bigger than our dime.


So now that the light bulb has turned on, I can’t help but wonder why our coin system is not so user-friendly. I’d really like to hear from you all about this, especially from people that have traveled to the US. What are your thoughts on the US coin system? What country do you think has the easiest coins system to understand?


Similar Posts


  1. I never thought about the lack of numbers either, but the sizes always bothered me because they don’t make sense. From what I remember of the coins in Europe they had a size order that made sense. Why our dimes are smaller than our pennies and nickels is mind boggling.

  2. Hilarious! Yeah…it’s pretty lame.

  3. Brian Thorne says:

    I agree but we as American`s don`t travel like you do so exchanging it for another currency never crossed our minds. I can see very quickly how someone else would be very confused.

  4. Interesting. I’m Canadian and we give the number of cents on the back of each coin. I live in Korea right now, and Korean coins also show the number on won on the back of each coin. I wonder if this is unique to American coins.

    1. Hi Nancie! I’m not sure, but I feel bad the the people that come to the US to visit! LOL

  5. HA! Like you, I NEVER realized this!! And you know what, when I go to other countries and get coins, the FIRST thing I do is check out the number on them. And if I have a hard time finding one, I get annoyed like “Tsk, why are they making it so difficult to figure out what this is worth,” and come to find out in my own homeland they don’t have numbers at ALL on them?!!! Crazy. Thanks for opening up my eyes to this!!

    1. Right?? It’s crazy to think how something so obvious can escape us! LOL

  6. I never really gave a thought about the lack of numbers on American coins, either! And I’m not even American! I guess, which so much American TV, and other influences, I’ve known, for years, how much a quarter, nickel, or dime is worth. Ok, so I wasn’t sure of the sizes until I first went there. But, as soon as I saw a dime or a quarter, I’d automatically understand that it’s 10 or 25 cents respectively. I do recall that nickels and pennies actually state either 5 cents or 1 cent.

    Australian coins are minted according to size, with the exception of the $1 and $2 coins (which are gold in colour). They all have numbers on them.

    1. Hi Stephen! I’m glad that you didn’t have as much trouble as some others. And I think I may need to go to Australia so I can further investigate the coin system 😉 lol

  7. Are you serious. I never noticed. So I just ran to my travel change pan and realized that it’s true. The thing is, when I travel, if I get coins I hardly look at them. But if I need some coins to pay a bill I would normally drop the lot on the counter and tell the cashier take what you need. After reading this now I’ll be trying to figure it out. What!

  8. Ha ha ha! It’s so funny how you can just take for granted some things in life. I’ve never thought about that, and honestly can’t say whether Canadian coins have numbers on them or not!

  9. I can’t believe I never noticed that! Maybe on the same day congress can abolish the penny and throw some numbers on these coins.

  10. Ha! I loved this post. I was teaching English in Cambodia for a few months and I focused on 2nd grade. That was the age that we were teaching money and we had to learn about coins too. In Cambodia, they use US dollars as well as Cambodian Riel. But no coins so when someone gets less than a dollar back in change, they get Riel back. Seeing coins was so much fun for them but it was really hard for them to grasp the concept. I never even put it together there weren’t numbers on the coins. Something to think about.

  11. I’ve been in the US for over a year now and I still cant for the life of me figure out your coins – if I need to deal in them I let the cashier figure it out too lol!

  12. As an American, it frustrates me too. I never really noticed that we didn’t have the numbers on our coins, BUT it doesn’t surprise me. It’s like everything else we do; like, we don’t use military time, or the metric system, like everybody else. We use Fahrenheit instead of Celcius to measure the temperature in weather. I have a theory that our forefathers ran from England and really wanted to build America in such a different light from England that they changed every way of life once they found this land.

    1. Hi Brenda! I think you’re right. We want to differentiate ourselves so much that we do the complete opposite of everyone else!

  13. Never thought about that either! I’m trying to remember if in Canada we have the actual worth of the coin on our money, but it doesn’t ring a bell. I have yet to go to a country that does not have a value on it. Interesting thoughts about currency and travel!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.