Saturday, December 17, 2011

Coins with Holes (Holed Coins)

Ancient Chinese "cash" coin

Americans, when asked about coins with holes in them, probably picture the old Chinese "cash" coins which are featured so prominently in Chinese-style decor.  These coins had a square-shaped hole in the center, with Chinese characters around it.  The United States has never had a coin with a hole in it, so it's not something we're used to seeing. Plenty of other countries, however, have had one or more of this type of coin (known as "holed coins" or "holey coins") in their recent history.

As far as I know, the holes put into modern foreign coins don't serve any specific purpose. They are not there to make the coins work in a particular machine, or to be easier to carry (although they would be slightly lighter than a coin without a hole). The main reason that you would make a modern coin with a hole in it (or, for that matter, with an unusual shape), besides pure decoration, is to make it more easily distinguishable (by touch and sight) from other coins in circulation.

(Putting a hole in a coin would also use less metal, which may be important when metal is needed for other uses (such as during a long war). However, coins are usually made out of the most common and least expensive metals possible (you don't want to make a $1 coin that uses $2 in metal) so I'm not aware of any examples of a country putting a hole in their coins for this reason.)

Coin from India with a large hole
Most coins that have holes in them have a relatively small hole - usually 1/4 of an inch (6.3 mm) or smaller. The hole is meant to be seen and felt, but not to be worn like a ring (wouldn't that be interesting?). The one exception I've seen is the 1 pice coin from India and Pakistan in the 1940s, which had a 3/8 inch (9.5 mm) hole in a coin that was less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) across. It gives the coin a unique look, like you could almost wear it as a ring.

Coins with holes drilled in to them
to make jewelry
On coins that intentionally have holes in them, the hole is always in the direct center of the coin, and usually the design of the coin incorporates the hole (so you don't have a hole directly in the middle of a person's head, for example). If you see a coin that has a hole near the edge, or has multiple holes (see pictures), someone has drilled a hole in the coin in order to use it for decoration or jewelry. A single hole near the edge means that the coin may have been worn on a necklace or bracelet. Two holes toward the center of the coin, such as the one pictured, indicates that it may have been used as a button on a piece of clothing. This kind of destruction makes the coin worthless to collectors.

Japan 5-yen (left) and 50-yen (right) coins
I believe that the only country currently using coins with holes is Japan, whose 5 yen and 50 yen coins both have holes in the center. They are also nearly the same size (the 5-yen is bigger), but the 50-yen coin has a reeded edge while the 5-yen has a smooth edge. The 100-yen coin is the same size as the 5-yen, but with a reeded edge; so the hole in the center helps to make the 50-yen more noticably different than the 100-yen.

Besides Japan, many countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East have used coins with holes in the recent past, and you might be surprised by who they are. Spain added a hole to their 25-peseta coin in 1990 and kept it until switching to the euro in 2002. Hungary had a hole in their 2-filler coin, used from 1950 until 1992. Greece had holes in their 5-, 10-, and 20-lepta coins from the 1950s until the 1970s. Fiji had holes in their half-penny and penny in the 1930s through the 1950s.

Here is a list of the countries that I've found that have circulated coins with holes since 1900. This is definitely not a complete list, so I will update it when I find out about other countries. And since I bet that you readers know of examples that I haven't listed, I'm going to turn on blog comments this month - so post any countries that are missing from this list (list specific denominations and years if you can).

Countries which have had a coin with a hole since 1900:

Belgian Congo
British West Africa
East Africa
French Indochina
New Guinea
Papua New Guinea

Looking for coins with holes to add to your collection?
Check out our Coins With Holes Set.

Update 1/1/2012: Added Lebanon
Update 1/22/2012: Added East Africa, Nepal, and Philippines
Update 3/20/2012: Added Papua New Guinea
Update 4/21/2012: Added Turkey
Update 5/14/2012: Added Nigeria
Update 7/22/2012: Added Zambia, Belgian Congo, British West Africa, Congo, French Indochina, and Poland
Update 12/9/2012: Added Greenland, Mongolia, Morocco, Netherlands, New Guinea, and Palestine
Update 12/25/2012: Added Romania, Syria, Tunisia, Vietnam, and Yugoslavia


  1. HI,
    This is Rohit, very good and informative blog keep it up 
    I too share the same interest like you and I am developing my blog, kindly visit and give your valuable feedback. It will be helpful for me to share the information.
    Thank you
    Rohit B

  2. One of the coin that I like to collect. Not many people seen other coins beside Ancient China Cash coin. When I told my friends that my country, Malaysia once has a coins with holes and square coins, they're totally amazed.

  3. I agree, it is surprising how many countries have used coins with holes in them.

  4. In Norway and Denmark, several coins have holes. This is, in adittion to the size, a good way for people with visual impairment, to recocnize the value.

  5. hahaha i thought holes were put there so you can put the coin on like a string or a wire to stop pickpockets from easily steeling them from a coin purse hahaha :P

  6. Poland 2003 2 zloty

    1. Wydaje mi się że to chyba nie obiegowa moneta

  7. Zambia 1966 1 Penny

  8. hi, that 'ancient chinese cash coin' at the top of the article, does it have a more specific name/date etc?
    I've just found one in a box and this is the only one I've found exactly the same so far.

  9. The 1-cash coins were used in China for hundreds, if not thousands of years. I don't know the exact date of the one pictured, but Numista has pictures of several dozen different coins at that you could try to match up with yours.

  10. I'm attempting to identify a foreign blank that was struck as an Australian coin in 1992. It weighs 3.8g and is magnetic with a center hole. Can anyone identify which country and denomination this planchet was intended for?

    1. If we assume that the planchet was intended for another world coin regularly minted in 1992, there are two that it could be: Denmark 1 krone and Japan 50 yen (at the weight you mention). But both of these are a copper-nickel mix, which is usually not magnetic. Perhaps the hole in the center is not from the original blank and was cut after the coin was minted?

  11. Hello,

    Is there a coin that is roughly the size of a 5 yen coin that has a hole in it and can be attracted by a magnet? I need something like that for a magic trick.

    Thanks in advance.

  12. Magnetic coins are in the minority, and the combination of holed *and* magnetic is rarer still. The France 20-centime (1941-1944), Finland 10-pennia (1943-1945), and Hungary 20-filler (1941-1944) were holed coins made of iron, which should be magnetic. A 5-yen coin is about 22mm in diameter, and these coins are between 20 and 24mm. But being so old, these might be hard to find (check eBay). The Papua New Guinea 1-kina (2005-2010) is made of steel, and is 30mm. And the Philippines 5-sentimo (1995-current) is copper-coated steel (and is magnetic) but is only 16mm (so quite a bit smaller).

  13. Hi! How do you think, have your writting skills improved so far?

  14. Territories/Countries occupied by Nazi Germany, as well as the German military in these places.

    5 and 10 reichskreditkassen (5 and 10 reichspfennig equivalents). Mint years 1940 and 1941.

  15. Indeed! These coins are fantastic and I have not seen these kinds of coins yet. So thanks for the sharing.

  16. Whatever the design of a coin may be, it was based on their culture and belief. Take the Chinese coins for example, the square hole symbolizes the shape of the earth, while the round hole symbolizes heaven. The ancient people have their own reasons in designing those like that, but we're all thankful that we have more things to appreciate in our generation. Since these coins are the treasures of their countries, it's a must that collectors will take care of them. They can also store them in banks and vaults to make sure that they can totally preserve the coins' quality. :)

  17. i am looking for british east africa coins... the half penny (10 cents) must be from 1947- 1952 (george Vl) . i am hoping to gtve them to my dad as a christmas present... he served there in the royal engineers (british army)... cheers... mark...

    1. Hello, Mark. Send us a message using the Contact Us link at our Web site ( and we'll see if we can help.

  18. I just bought a 5shilling (crown) coin of British South Africa, 1948.

  19. The Rhodesian penny had a hole in it too! Please add it to your list

    1. Yes - check this out for images of same

  20. I have do disagree with the United States not having a coin with a hole in it. Kansas had a one cent sales tax coin with the center hole . .The coin was about the size of our current dime.

  21. I have a 19?? US quarter where the tiny hole covers the last two digits of the year. The coin also has a one mark serial number which is a letter or number right next to George's curled hair on bottom; I cannot make out if it is a number or letter. Why would someone place a hole in this specific spot and why only a lone serial number? Thanks so much.

  22. May I take it that among the countries with holed coins, the one that India produced had the largest hole?

  23. The pennies of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi) had a hole in the middle. See this link for images of same.

  24. Curious if anyone knows if and/or when China stopped punching holes in their coins.

  25. this octagon shaped copper coin which a whole in it of course...Danbury ct. And can only read(me...made in USA) that's all I can make of it?

  26. this octagon shaped copper coin which a whole in it of course...Danbury ct. And can only read(me...made in USA) that's all I can make of it?

  27. I have a us quarter with q hole in the middle. It was giving to me as part of my change from my local Walmart. How do you explain that since the US does not make coins with hole