by Jay Turner
In a world where the glitz and glamour of value and assets reign, there are many coins out there that seem unimportant because they are essentially valueless. There are a great many coins from a large number of countries that hold little value and have been demonetized. Yet, one coin has the honor of being the least valuable of these coins while still holding monetary value, and that honor goes to the Uzbekistan tiyin.
Uzbekistan went through a monetary reform in 1994. As a result, a new so’m was issued worth 1,000 old s’om. New coins were issued for the occasion with the so’m being divided into 100 tiyin. For the new monetary reform coins in the denominations of 1, 3, 5, 10, 20, and 50 tiyin were issued and dated 1994. These coins are still legal tender, and with one Uzbekistani s’om worth about 0.00010 United States Dollars, the tiyin is worth about 0.0000010 United States dollars. In other words, it would take about 1,000 tiyin to equal one cent from the United States. The mintage is unrecorded for the Uzbekistan 1994 tiyin coins. However, two different varieties exist: one with the denomination featuring a smaller straight-top “1” and a “1” in a larger size and a curved top. Due to the value of the coins of Uzbekistan, since 1994 no new coins valued below 1 so’m have been issued.
While the Uzbekistan tiyin buys little else but curiosity, it is still legal tender. Yet countries around the world, including Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and others have all eliminated equivalent small-denomination coinage. The purchasing power of these coins makes no sense given current economic standards thus these nations are no longer required to produce such coinage.
Meanwhile, the United States still produces the one-cent piece, a coin that has infinitesimally little purchasing power. The National Public Radio Show, Planet Money, did an episode on December 12, 2018, called “What’s A Penny Worth?” in which no single item could be found to be purchased by a United States cent. Unlike Uzbekistan, which recognized the value of their tiyin and hasn’t produced one since 1994, the United States every year mints billions of new one-cent coins only to end up in jars, car cupholders, and even in the trash.
Several bills have been introduced in United States Congress since the late 1980s pitching legislation to eliminate the one-cent coin or at least switch the coin’s metal composition to a cheaper option. However, there seems to be little political will to move such proposals forward for the foreseeable future.
*The opinions stated here are those of the author and don’t necessarily reflect those of PCGS.