Japanese Dating - understand character meanings - for retirees and others who are interested in Japanese coin collecting
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Some hints on the dating of Japanese Coins

What to look for

Most coin inscriptions are divided into three clear sections:-

Date Value Country


Different types of coin may have different lay-outs of the date characters, but generally they fall into the same system of date recognition. The imprints on coins will usually be a little different from a characters' printed form.


(after Showa 22 - read left to right)

The date is divided into three sections:-

1 - The NENGO, or Reign Era. This consists of two characters (KANJI) which may be written in any order indicating the name for the era and the name of the Emperor. It is not a requirement that the era name follows the same dates as the actual reign.

2 - The characters for the number of years since the era started. This can be one, two, or three characters. One character would be a simple number from one to ten (or the character 'gan' meaning 'first'). Two characters would be a number of years from 11 to 19 (e.g. 10+1 thru' 10+9) or '20', '30', '40' etc. (e.g. (2 x 10), (3 x 10), (4 x 10) etc. Three characters would be any number from 21 (2 x 10 + 1) onwards (except for whole 'tens' e.g. '30', '40', etc.)

3 - One final character called 'nen' which means 'year'.

Here is a list of 'NENGO' for the period from 1868 to date

MUTSUHITO (MEIJI ERA) 1868 (Year 1) NengoEnded in 1912 (Year 45)
YOSHIHITO (TAISHO ERA)Commenced 1912 (Year 1) Ended 1926 (year 15)
HIROHITO (SHOWA ERA)Commenced 1926 (Year 1) Ended 1989 (year 64)
AKIHITO (HEISEI ERA)Commenced 1989 (Year 1) Continuing

Now the numerals


AND FINALLY............the NEN character for 'year'



When the value is not written in Western script or numerals, use the following characters to identify the value.


Lastly - The COUNTRY

It is customary on Japanese coinage to include the statement 'Dai Nippon' meaning 'Great Japan' as below...remember - read right to left.


Here is an example


Understanding what to look for when dating Japanese coins, and where to look for this information, can seem like a daunting task to some. Many business people who have retired and picked up coin collecting as a hobby may find the information provided on this page helpful in determining the age of Japanese coins in their collections. Dating a coin doesn't need to be difficult, especially if you have the right background information to guide you along. You will find that determining the age of a Japanese coin takes some practice, just as those of you who have attempted to understand annuities and other such financial investments have found that what may seem daunting at first really isn't: it just takes some time and practice in order to understand and feel comfortable with the process.
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