Arcade tokens have always been a form of currency. Oftentimes, they come in the form of smaller or lighter coins with cute, arcade-themed decals; but what happens when an arcade token is minted like actual legal tender? For the buses in Shenyang, China, it means unscrupulous passengers getting free public bus rides.
Earlier this month in Northeast China's Shenyang, Liaoning province, two young men were spotted standing in front of the 240 bus line bus stop. Reports by Shenyang Evening News, one of the biggest papers in Shenyang, say the two young men were soliciting passengers to purchase coins, which were in fact arcade tokens.
The tokens were very similar to the one yuan ($0.16) coins that are used in China. Like real money, the coins were emblazoned with the symbolic depiction of a chrysanthemum flower, however unlike real money, the flower was on both sides. In the above image, you can see the arcade coin compared to a real one yuan coin.
The duo tried to sell the coins to people waiting for the bus, advertising them as arcade tokens. The tokens were going for five for one yuan. According to a witness named Liu, the duo explained to potential buyers that the coins can be used to fool bus drivers and at night they can used to "buy groceries." Liu also says he saw buyers use the arcade coins on the bus without getting caught.
Seeing this blatant disregard for the law, Liu contacted the Shenyang Evening News, which proceeded to do an investigation on the subject. According to them, the coins were being sold by a shop that specialised in selling arcade cabinets, at a price of $16 for 500 coins. Each of the coins looked oddly similar to the 1 yuan coin, the only noticeable differences being that the arcade cabinets had flowers on both sides and lacked the words "ZHONGGUO RENMIN YINHANG" on it or "China's People's Bank."
The Shenyang Evening News reporter went on to ask the bus company about the coins. An employee of the bus station said that because of the amount of passengers, they can't possibly check every coin at every stop. The same employee also said that it's not uncommon to find some of these tokens when they open up the fare box each day.
Shenyang Evening News also visited a few tech shops that focused on arcades and arcade machinery, where the reporter was told that arcade coins can be minted to look like anything the customer wants.
While it seems that these guys are pulling a fast one on the Shenyang public transportation system, they're not alone. In China, one can buy arcade tokens online to use at arcades or various other locations. A quick search on Chinese mega e-commerce site Taobao.com bring up hundreds of different coins, including coins that look like real currency.
2毛/枚游戏币双面印菊花 频频混进公交投币箱 [Shenyang Evening News via People's Daily]
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Eric is a Beijing based writer and all around FAT man. You can contact him @FatAsianTechie@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @FatAsianTechie.