World Business: Shortchanged

Italy may be prosperous, but it is also almost penniless—thanks mostly to a coin shortage that has put small-change business transactions on a barter basis.

Most popular (and hardest to find) coin is the 500-lire piece, worth 80¢ in U.S. terms. Only last year, the government issued 5,000,000 new 500-lire coins commemorating the 700th anniversary of Dante's birth. Today the Dante coins have just about disappeared —except on the black market, where they bring as much as $4.80. For many Italian bank clerks, the first order of daily business is to roam the streets trying to scrounge coins from train stations and...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!