20 yen coin

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Twenty yen
Value20 Japanese yen
MassVaries by date g
DiameterVaries by date mm
Composition90% Gold
10% Copper
Years of minting1870–1932
Catalog numberY13, Y-34, Y-40.2, & Y52

The 20 yen coin (二十圓硬貨) was a denomination of Japanese yen. These coins were minted in gold, and during their lifespan were the highest denomination of coin that circulated in the country. The first coins were minted in 1870 following the introduction of a decimal currency system. Twenty Yen coins spanned three different Imperial eras before mintage was halted in 1932. Many of these coins were then melted or destroyed as a result of the wars between 1931 and 1945. These coins are now collected by numismatists for academic study, and by those with a hobby.


In November 1869, new units of yen were established in the form of a metric system. During this time it was decided that silver would become the standard unit of value leaving gold coinage as a subsidiary.[1] The Japanese government considered adopting the gold standard as early as December 1870 after hearing about its implementation in the United States.[1] This system was officially put into place on May 10, 1871 setting standards for the 20 yen coin.[1] Gold coinage eventually ground to a halt within a few years as coinage regulations that had been put into place were not sufficient to maintain a healthy growth of gold monometallism. This was in part due to the issuance of large amounts of in-convertible paper currency which drove gold coins out of the country.[2] Coinage of the 20 yen piece had all but stopped by 1877, and those struck in 1880 were only done so as part of presentation sets for visiting dignitaries and heads of state.[3]

New coinage reform was adopted on March 26, 1897 which re-established the gold 20 yen coin. These new standards lowered both the size and weight of the coin, the new diameter was set at 28.78mm (previously 35.06mm), and the weight was lowered from 33.3g down to 16.6g.[4][5] Over 1.5 million coins were struck during this year before production ceased until 1904.[a] Coinage of 20 yen pieces then continued past the reign of Emperor Meiji, into the reign of Emperor Taishō where coinage stopped in 1920. The decision to stop minting 20 yen pieces came as Japan's gold reserves were quickly depleted from excess imports.[7] These reserves were eventually stabilized and coinage started again in 1930. By this time though, the gold coins minted were described as "not in general use".[8]

This resumed coinage was brief under Emperor Shōwa as Japan abandoned the gold standard in December 1931.[9] The reasons behind this move were that Japan's gold reserves were again being depleted, and allowing the yen to depreciate would help the economy which was struggling at the time.[10] Gold coins of the 20 yen denomination were last minted in 1932, it is unknown how many Shōwa era coins were later melted. Some of these coins were kept away in bank vaults for decades before being released as part of a hoard in the mid 2000s.[11][12]

Weight and size[edit]

Image Minted Size Weight
20yen-M3.jpg 1870–1880[5][13] 35.06mm 33.33g[b]
20yen-M30.jpg 1897–1932[4][14] 28.78mm 16.66g[c]

Circulation figures[edit]


The following are mintage figures for the coins that were minted between the 3rd and 45th (last) year of Meiji's reign. Inscriptions on coins for this period all begin with the Japanese symbol 明治 (Meiji). While coins were struck in 1892, none were released for circulation.

Japanese coins from this period are read clockwise from right to left

"Year" ← "Number representing year of reign" ← "Emperors name" (Ex: 年 ← 七十三 ← 治明)
20 yen coin from 1870 (year 3)
Design 1 - (1870 - 1892)
20 yen coin from 1897 (year 30)
Design 2 - (1897 - 1912)[d]
Year of reign Japanese date Gregorian date Mintage[15]
3rd 1870 46,139[5]
5th 1872 42,845[16]
6th 1873 3,251[16]
9th 1876 954[5]
10th 1877 29[5]
13th 三十 1880 103[5]
25th 五十二 1892 Not circulated[e]
30th 十三 1897 1,861,000[14]
37th 七十三 1904[a] 2,759,470
38th 八十三 1905 1,045,904
39th 九十三 1906 1,331,332
40th 十四 1907 817,363
41st 一十四 1908 458,082
42nd 二十四 1909 557,882
43rd 三十四 1910 2,163,644
44th 四十四 1911 1,470,057
45th 五十四 1912 1,272,450


The following are mintage figures for the coins that were minted from the 1st to the 9th year of Taishō's reign. Inscriptions on coins for this period all begin with the Japanese symbol 大正 (Taishō).

Japanese coins from this period are read clockwise from right to left:

"Year" ← "Number representing year of reign" ← "Emperors name" (Ex: 年 ← 六 ← 正大)
Year of reign Japanese date Gregorian date Mintage[15][19]
1st 1912 177,644
2nd 1913 869,248
3rd 1914 1,042,890
4th 1915 1,509,960
5th 1916 2,376,641
6th 1917[f] 6,208,885
7th 1918 3,118,647
8th 1919 1,531,217
9th 1920 370,366


The following are mintage figures for coins minted between the 5th and the 7th year of Emperor Shōwa's reign. Inscriptions on coins of this period all begin with the Japanese symbol 昭和 (Shōwa).

Japanese coins from this period are read clockwise from right to left:

"Year" ← "Number representing year of reign" ← "Emperors name" (Ex: 年 ← 五 ← 和昭)
Year of reign Japanese date Gregorian date Mintage[15]
5th 1930 11,055,500
6th 1931 7,526,476
7th 1932 Unknown


The value of any given coin is determined by survivability rate and condition as collectors in general prefer uncleaned appealing coins. For this denomination all 20 yen coins are scarce as the amount remaining today are dependent on how many were saved or kept away. Early Meiji era coins with the first design are now considered rare due to their low mintages. These coins which are dated from 1870 to 1876 (year 3 to 9) are all priced in five digit dollar amounts (USD) in average condition.[21] The rarest of these early coins are dated 1877 and 1880 (year 10 to 13) as one has an extremely low mintage, while the other was not meant for general circulation. Twenty yen coins dated 1877 (year 10) have an extremely low mintage of just 29 coins struck. Of those available to collectors just 1 mint state example is recorded by PCGS.[22] Coins dated 1880 (year 13) were only released as part of presentation sets[g] that were widely destroyed or melted down between 1931 and 1945.[23] An auction held in 2011 featuring one of these coins sold it for $230,000 (USD).[23] Less than 10 coins dated 1880 (year 13) of the original mintage of 103 are thought to exist today.

Millions of minted coins were recorded during the Shōwa era, but it is unclear how many of these coins survived. Examples from Shōwa's 7th year of reign (1932) were once considered to be virtually unknown until a hoard was discovered in the mid 2000s. Between 2005 and 2007 the Ministry of Finance released over 30,000 gold coins of 5, 10 and 20 Yen denominations that had been kept in vaults.[12][24] It is recommended by those in the numismatic field that all 20 yen coins be authenticated first by an expert, as counterfeits exist.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b 1903 (year 36) dated coins are not mentioned in annual coinage reports.[6]
  2. ^ These coins were legally allowed to weigh anywhere from 33.30 to 33.36 grams each (converted from grains).[13]
  3. ^ The legal limit of weight deviation was 0.0324 grams per piece. This means that 20 yen coins could legally weigh anywhere from 16.62 to 16.69 grams each.[4]
  4. ^ The 2nd design was used until the series ended in 1932.
  5. ^ Several unique coins dated 1892 are known to have been produced to display at the World's Columbian Exposition.[17] While there are no known existing examples of twenty yen coins dated 1892 (year 25), they are mentioned by Krause Publications.[18]
  6. ^ 5 pieces were struck in platinum sometime in the 1950s for reasons unknown.[20]
  7. ^ Low mintage 1880 (year 13) dated denominations include: "1 rin", "5 sen", "10 sen", 20 sen", 50 sen", "1 yen" (gold), "2 yen", "10 yen" and "20 yen" coins.


  1. ^ a b c Report of the Adoption of the Gold Standard in Japan. Government Press. 1899. p. 2–8.
  2. ^ Report of the Adoption of the Gold Standard in Japan. Government Press. 1899. p. 11–12.
  3. ^ "Meiji Proof gold 20 Yen Year 13 (1880)". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved March 14, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Japan (1897). "The Coinage Law of Japan, Enacted in 1897". p. 23-25.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Japan 20 Yen Y# 13 Yr.10(1877)-Yr.9(1876)". Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  6. ^ Annual Report of the Director of the United States Mint. United States. Bureau of the Mint. 1903. p. 253.
  7. ^ Annual Report of the Director of the United States Mint. United States. Bureau of the Mint. 1922. p. 206.
  8. ^ M. Epstein (1932). The Statesman's Year-Book: Statistical and Historical Annual of the States of the World for the Year 1932. p. 1074. ISBN 9780230270619.
  9. ^ Foreign Commerce Yearbook (1935). U.S. Government Printing Office. 1935. p. 295.
  10. ^ David Flath (2000). The Japanese Economy. Oxford University Press. p. 58. ISBN 9780198775041.
  11. ^ "Showa 5 (1930) gold 5 Yen". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved March 24, 2020. The Showa gold 5 and 20 Yen were essentially unavailable to collectors for over seventy years until the Japanese Finance Minister hoard was released for public auction.
  12. ^ a b "Japan Ministry of Finance Holder Coins in Original Holders of Sale". NGC. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "The Japan Daily Mail". 1874. p. 71.
  14. ^ a b "Japan 20 Yen Y# 34". Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Retrieved March 28, 2018.
  15. ^ a b c Chester L. Krause & Clifford Mishler. Collecting World Coins 10th edition. Krause Publications. pp. 433–434.
  16. ^ a b "Japan Weekly Mail". Jappan Meru Shinbunsha. 1875. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  17. ^ "Japan: Meiji gold Proof 10 Yen Year 4 (1871) PR66 Cameo". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved August 19, 2020.
  18. ^ "Japan 20 Yen Y# 13 Yr.25(1892) None struck for circulation". Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Retrieved October 21, 2021.
  19. ^ "Japan 20 Yen Y# 40.2 Yr.2(1913)-Yr.9(1920)". Numismatic Guaranty Corporation. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
  20. ^ "Japan. Platinum 20 Yen, Year 6 (1917)". Goldberg Coins. Retrieved March 24, 2020.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "旧10円金貨と旧20円金貨の価値と買取相場". Antique Coin Info (in Japanese). Retrieved April 6, 2021.
  22. ^ "20 YEN (1870 - 1932)". PCGS. Archived from the original on March 21, 2020. Retrieved March 21, 2020.
  23. ^ a b Heritage Auction (December 12, 2016). "Japanese Proof Collection Star of Heritage NYINC 2017 Signature Auction". www.coinweek.com. Retrieved December 22, 2016.
  24. ^ "Showa gold 20 Yen Year 7 (1932)". Heritage Auctions. Retrieved March 18, 2020.
  25. ^ "Japan 2, 5, 10, and 20 Yen (Fakes are possible) 1870 to 1900". coinquest.com. Archived from the original on December 23, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2016.