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"a story of great potential overwhelmed by a genius for acts of pointless economic self-destruction"
December 3, 2008 12:32 PM   Subscribe

People with a keen strategic sense maintain a well-diversified hoard of coins and painstakingly build alliances with local shopkeepers or bank tellers, conspicuously proffering coins for one purchase or deposit in the hopes of being indulged when they're short of change at some point in the future. Argentina's coinage problem.

Further, further, further still; previously.
posted by cortex (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
a hoard of 13 million coins, amounting to 5 million pesos, in one company's warehouse.

so scrooge mcduck moved to argentina?

but really the mob was hoarding 13 million coins? probably just to kill supply and raise prices for the rest of their coin-bill operations.
posted by Glibpaxman at 12:50 PM on December 3, 2008


Does this explain why there are no dollar coins, only bills?
posted by DreamerFi at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2008


Does this explain why there are no dollar coins, only bills?

You mean here in the U.S.? We've had dollar coins for ages, but there are just too many dollar bills in circulation to make them at all convenient, much less preferred.

I also don't think it's hoarding, since the government there has been minting coins in record numbers. What it says to me is that there's an increasing public fear (justified or not) that the coin will soon be worth more for its raw materials than its denomination.
posted by mkultra at 1:30 PM on December 3, 2008


To the side: not along ago, I tried without success to find that "Notes from an Economic Collapse" link in your "previously". So, karma points for you.

And remember...

NO HAY MONEDAS!
posted by Joe Beese at 1:33 PM on December 3, 2008


What it says to me is that there's an increasing public fear (justified or not) that the coin will soon be worth more for its raw materials than its denomination.

The Timothy Leary of survivalism - James Wesley, Rawles [don't ask about the comma] - is way ahead of you on that one.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2008 [1 favorite]


the coin will soon be worth more for its raw materials than its denomination.

Well, come the Maker Revolution, coins--hard discs of high-quality hard metal, provided at a small number of standard sizes with extremely small size variation between individual coins of a denomination--may well see more uses than presently.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 1:41 PM on December 3, 2008


Wow. Argentina has gone completely off the rails since I lived there forty years ago, when it was pretty much paradise. Thanks for the post.
posted by languagehat at 1:55 PM on December 3, 2008


I LOVE the "falta monedas" in Argentina. Shops just DO NOT have coins, especially if you're a gringo. Everybody there claims to have no idea why "No se, no se!" they all blame the government, but every Argentinian I know (quite a few, I've been in BsAs on and off for about 9 months) has a stash of coinage in there house. One friend has a box at least 1ftx1ftx1ft filled to the top with coins, it must be 100lbs of coins. The whole crisis is self propagating, newspapers write articles about the lack of coins, people hoard what coins they have, the crisis gets get worse, the newspapers print articles, and so on...
posted by youthenrage at 2:33 PM on December 3, 2008


Also the lack of coins is nothing new - people were giving me dirty looks and rolling their eyes at me 3 years ago when I first visited Argentina and tried to buy things with 20 pesos notes or candy with a 5 peso note. Argentina is such a great, but f'd up in the weirdest ways, country.
posted by youthenrage at 2:38 PM on December 3, 2008


I was there a year ago and I don't think I ever saw a single coin while I was there. I even took the bus and nobody paid in coins. At least they are still using liquid money there and haven't transferred over to a credit-based commerce system like Iceland basically did.
posted by martinc6 at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2008


"money, at least money of a certain form, will remain like the painted lanes on the grand chaotic avenues of Buenos Aires: merely a set of loose guidelines to be interpreted by the individual, depending on the circumstances"

what's the deal with nations lacking the social capital to regulate their traffic? India, Mexico, and I guess China fall into this category, plus undoubtedly others I'm unaware of.

I guess if they can't create enforceable traffic regulations, a well-regulated debit card system would require too much social capital too.
posted by troy at 2:57 PM on December 3, 2008


Fascinating. Thanks for posting this, cortex.

Joe Beese, may I ask about the comma, regardless?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:20 PM on December 3, 2008


What little social capital we have left is mostly spent trying to get those of your connections who have any crumbs of power or money to share some of it with you. Literally millions of people survive here only on those means. Enforceable traffic regulations are way down on your list of nice things to have when most of the country's systems for basic survival as an individual are fucked up beyond all recognition and, when not just dysfunctional, are downright perverse instead.

Lack of coins is a miniuniverse of the above. Yes, self reinforcing behaviours, favour trading, but also corruption, specialist mobs (there are credible rumours that a good amount of coins were melted for the metals during the commodities spike of a year or two ago), and government incompetence (documentation, money issuing, and other public titles here are handled in a way not too dissimilar to a Three Stooges running gag).
posted by Iosephus at 3:25 PM on December 3, 2008


I am fond of getting quarters for laundry in rolls, from my credit union, $50 at a time so I don't have to go back for a while.

And then I think back to before this, when I had to spend a day each week making artful purchases to transform ATM twenties into a suitable quantity of laundry quarters.

And then I think back further still, to trying to break Ukrainian 100-hrivnya bills into bus fare, which is the same task except usually with one or two more layers of indirection, because the shop's petty cash taken together is comparable to the size of one typical purchase, and if you need more change than that you are out of luck (though if it's a matter of a few kopiyki, you too might get some of your change in candy).

But I never reckoned people would actually create a kerfluffle as big as this Argentine one. Money is no longer fully fungible: Despite their face values, these four pesos are worth more than those four pesos, because of the form they're in. Holy Toledo, what a disaster. Now I'm getting the impulse to lay off my high-falutin' edjumacation and go learn a craft that makes a barterable product, possibly by hand.
posted by eritain at 6:01 PM on December 3, 2008


And then I think back to before this, when I had to spend a day each week making artful purchases to transform ATM twenties into a suitable quantity of laundry quarters.

Exactly what I was thinking. There were times in college when I would have gladly traded 3 quarters for a dollar to get some laundry done.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2008


I remember in Canada when Royal Bank was the preferred ATM because they offered cash in five dollar bills (this was long before service charges were an issue). Now there are ATMs which unilaterally provide $50 bills if you take out $100, $120 or $140, which leaves you in the same situation as Argentinians, since most convenience stores or diners will refuse $50 bills unless you're buying $30 or more.

/me also buys rolls of quarters and loonies, and keeps a separate change jar for laundry money.
posted by furtive at 8:24 PM on December 3, 2008


I'm surprised that no one has started minting slugs there. Or even cheaper "tokens" made of tin that local merchants could take from locals. If you set up a regime where, say, 100 of them would be redeemable at a government center for some sort of prize or goods worth 100 pesos, you could probably weather the crisis handily.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 AM on December 4, 2008


There is a pennies from heaven joke in here somewhere, but damned if I can find it.
posted by The Whelk at 3:49 PM on December 4, 2008


I remember as a kid reading a Hardy Boys novel where there was an Old Man Withers type villain who was minting counterfeit dimes that he changed out for legit cash money at banks, under the guise of being a like circus vendor who charged the kids a dime a go.
posted by cortex at 10:17 PM on December 4, 2008


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