"A nickel ain't worth a dime anymore." - Yogi Berra

If you follow news or blogs about Costa Rica even a little then you've read that the country has been upgrading its paper currency for about a year now. New look, new feel, lots of anti-counterfeiting technology included. 50,000 and 20,000 Colones bills are being introduced where previously the largest denomination was 10,000 (approx. 20 U.S. bucks at the current exchange rate). I'm not going to re-hash all the features here that have been covered generously elsewhere. I only use this currency shuffle as prelude to commenting on how easily humans in other countries (notably the U.S.) have a tendency to seek out fault with other countries and cultures. 

In particular, one off-hand remark from a U.S. commenter on a different blog ticked me off: "50,000 bill? Why don't they just reset the currency?". Count to ten... 

Well, Mr. Armchair Head of the IMF, why don't you take a moment to think before you speak? And, while you're at it, think about the dripping irony of such a statement from a country that still uses a measurement system based on the length of long-dead Kings' feet? Sheesh! Or, maybe the guy just has zeroes-phobia?

Let's do a very basic arithmetic comparison of the U.S. system of currency to that of Costa Rica (arithmetic, since obviously Costa Rica wins the aesthetic race hands down). The Costa Rican systems has one unit, one only, the Colon. The U.S. has just one (sort of), the Dollar, but it chooses to break down its dollar into smaller bits, pennies. That means you have to have a decimal point and in effect have two units. Seems a bit awkward to me compared to the C.R. system. 

And, why do they still even have pennies up north? They are expensive to make and their only use seems to be as a marketing tool. $1.99 sounds a lot cheaper than $2.00, right?. The monetary value equivalent to a penny in C.R. currency is the 5 Colones coin. And judging by the feel of these and the 10 Colones coin they must be a lot cheaper to make than the U.S. penny. Play money. 

By the way, there is no 1 Colon coin, though they did exist in the past. If for some reason the total on the cash register comes up with the least digit not a multiple of 5 then you your change, 90% of the time, is adjusted to your favor. The equivalent to that in the U.S. is the practice in many stores to leave a bowl of pennies on the checkout counter from which you make your own "least significant" change.

Nobody here really cares about those extra zeroes. Notice how nearly all the bills above just abbreviate them out as "mil" which is Spanish for one thousand? That's how you come to think about the denominations after a short time, it's a 1, a 2, or a 5, or a 10, etc. And, I would argue, even though extra zeroes might cause a slip up in someone's accounting, it's more probable to make mistakes when you have a decimal point to worry about. 

Yeah, it's a mountain made from a molehill, not really a big deal either way, but I just find the flippancy of some commentators outside the country whose message is essentially "why don't you dopes just do everything the way we do it and you'll be better off" too much to take sometimes. Costa Rica's going to have a bit of a hassle changing the bills over as it is (get rid of the old 1 Mil and 2 Mil notes before the end of August or you'll be standing in bank line). A reset? Oh yeah, like that would be an easy process and actually simplify anything.


1 comment:

  1. Great post!! I love how simple the money system is here. I am even beginning to not convert to dollars in my head.........


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