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?