Thursday, September 22, 2005

It's only a market as long as they let it be 

The Eclectic Econoclast notes that there is a market in Saudi Arabia for old coins to operate payphones, as it is hard to get a phone in the country and the payphones use a coin no longer in general circulation. My readers who remember post-Soviet Ukraine will smile wrily at this story. There were payphones, which used old 1- and 2-kopeck coins. Since a kopeck was worth a very small fraction of a penny by 1993, they had no other use. Babushkas would stand near phones and sell you the coins for perhaps 1000 times their face value (still likely to be $.02 or less). In its infinite wisdom, the Ukrainian telephone company made all the pay phones free to use, killing off the kopeck coin market.

John wonders whether there are pre-paid cell phones in Saudi. They are all over Ukraine.