Nanryo Nishu Gin (Silver Coins) (南鐐二朱銀)

Nanryo Nishu Gin was a type of silver coin circulated in the Edo period and was high-quality Nishu (1/8 of 1 Ryo) gin issued in the early Edo period.


They were rectangular, and on their surface was engraved '以南鐐八片換小判一兩' (Nanryo 1/8 of 1 Ryo Koban). Nanryo' was also called 'Nantei' meaning high-quality cupellated or pure silver, and in fact the purity of Nanryo Nishu Gin was quite high at that time by 98%.

They were minted on the instructions of Hisataka KAWAI, Kanjo Bugyo (commissioner of finance), who received the order from Okitsugu TANUMA in September 1772. The minting was stopped temporarily during the Kansei Reforms but started to issue again soon after that. After the re-mint in 1824, new Nanryo Nishu Gin of similar quality were issued.

Documents such as "Ginza Kakitome" (a collection of copies of documents from the organization in charge of casting and appraising silver during the Edo period) describe its formal name as 'Nishu no Buban', or 'Nishu Ban' for short. Some believe that "Nanryo Nishu Ban" would be a more appropriate term to describe this currency as it belongs to the same category as Koban (flat, oval gold coins that were used in the Edo period) and Ichibukin (flat gold coins with a value of 1/4 of 1 ryo Koban).

Ko (old) Nanryo Nishu Gin

Until the end of Meiwa period, not only were used silver coins in western Japan and gold coins in eastern Japan commonly, but also the exchange rate between those coins were flexible and unstable. To improve this, Tamura proposed that issuing silver coins with the value of Nishu gold coins, and fixing the exchange rate between silver and gold coins, would eventually unify the currency system.

Out of regret that Gomon gin silver coins had not circulated, it was Meiwa Nanryo Nishu Gin that was issued by some alterations, such as increasing the silver content and engraving 'Exchangeable to 1 ryo Koban with 8 of these' on it instead of a face value. For money exchangers however, who were making profit from the flexible rate between Koban and Chogin, the issue of Nanryo Nishu Gin was a matter of life and death and was feircely opposed. They asked for a 25% fee when exchanging Nanryo Nishu Gin to Koban and/or Chogin. While 1 ryo of Nanryo Nishu Gin contained 21.6 monme (81g) of silver, the silver coins in currency (Gembun Chogin) did 27.6 monme (103.5g) when 1 ryo of these was considered as 60 monme (225g). So for business people, to whom value was important, nominal money was something hard to accept and they wanted to trade on the basis of silver content.

So the Edo bakufu (shogunate) gave priority to exchangers and business people who dealt with Nanryo Nishu Gin. For example, it was '4 bun when selling, 8 bun when buying' which means when money changers sell Nanryo Nishu Gin silver coins they would give 4 ichibu gin coins per ryo (0.6%) to the buyers but when they were buying they charged 8 ichibu gin coins (1.2%) to the sellers of Nanryo Nishu Gin. For business people, the Nanryo Nishu Gin loans were up to 10,000 ryo in Edo (Tokyo) and 40,000 ryo in Osaka, no-interest and no-collateral for three years.

Due to this development or not, it was gradually integrated in western Japan where a silver-by-weight standard had been familiar and was driving out Chogin and Mameitagin slowly
Another reason for Nanryo Nishu Gin circulating well was that auxiliary currency in between was much in demand because Kanei Tsuho Ichimon Sen (a coin currency unit) had been the only lower face value than Ichibu Ban (Koban) before the Meiwa era.

On the other hand, as Chogin was reformed to Nanryo Nishu Gin, the shortage of silver coins by weight standard in market caused a steep rise in the price of silver, 50 monme of silver per 1 ryo of gold in 1786. Because such a rise in the price of silver would lead to high cost of living in Edo, Nanryo Nishu Gin was stopped to mint in May 1788 and re-refined into Chogin as a part of the Kansei Reforms carried out mainly by Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA judging the Okitsugu TANUMA's politics.

However, returning to Chogin which had a high silver content caused financial difficulties for the bakufu and forced it to change the policy again. After the Ginza Reform in 1800, the minting of Nanryo Nishu Gin was restarted. The coins minted after this reform were called Kansei Nanryo Nishu Gin. However, there were no obvious differences between these coins and the ones minted before the reform in terms of the purity of silver or their weight. Some Kansei Nanryo Nishu Gin with a surface engraving similar to that of the later introduced Shin Nanryo Nishu Gin were sometimes mistaken for the latter, but some other Kansei Nanryo Nishu Gin seem to have been categorized as being in between. Meiwa Nanryo Nishu Gin and Kansei Nanryo Nishu Gin are collectively called Ko (Old) Nanryo Nishu Gin.

Although the standard ryome for Ko Nanryo Nishu Gin was originally 10.12g, it was allowed to excess the weight by up to 0.18g for the convenience of the Ginza business at their expense and there were many weighing 10.30g.

Buichigin, the Ginza's profit from cupellated silver and re-refining Nanryo Nishu Gin from old silver coins, was set as 7% of the total amount of mintage.

From that time, the nominal money like this came to surpass Chogin in circulation.

Shin (new) Nanryo Nishu Gin

In 1824, Bunsei Nanryo Nishu Gin/Shin (new) Nanryo Nishu Gin were issued with less ryome and, in 1837, production of countable silver coins was completed with Tenpo Ichibu Gin. This nominal money generated profits for the bakufu which was suffering from chronic financial difficulties and they could not stop issuing nominal money. While this was a policy that could only work in national isolation from the viewpoint of the international situation at that time, it caused gold to move overseas after the Treaty between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan.

Buichigin (the profit of Ginza) was set at 3.5% of the total amount of the mintage of Bunsei Nanryo Nishu Gin and "Ginza Toshiyori Goshosuji Negainogi Moushiagesouro Kakitsuke" (Ginza top official's report on prize application) said that the profit bakufu made by re-refining Bunsei Nanryo Nishu Gin from Chogin and Ko Nanryo Nishu Ban was 1,705,191 ryo.

[Original Japanese]