Paper Money

Hong Kong $150 note causes a mob scene

Hong Kong $150 note release by Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. June 9 attracted a mob of lottery winners and traders.

Images courtesy of Agence France Presse

For those who recall the “Pandamonium” that occurred at coin shows whenever China would issue a commemorative Panda coin, or the gold Kennedy half dollars released at the 2014 American Numismatic Association World’s Fair of Money for that matter, it was a case of deja vu in Hong Kong on June 9, but this time the teeming horde was over an issue of paper money. 

The occasion was the release of a $150 (equivalent to about $19.35 in U.S. funds) commemorative bank note by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. on the 150th anniversary of its founding in Hong Kong in March 1865. The note, announced in March, is dated March 3, 2015.

The bank set up an application lottery on a dedicated website offering a single note for $380 in local funds ($49 U.S.), a three-subject sheet for $1,380 ($178), or a 35-subject sheet for $23,880 ($3,080). Separately, the bank also established an auction where bidders could spend even more on sets of notes with selected desirable numbers. 

The resultant mob scene clogged parts of the city center until mid-afternoon and even prevented some workers from getting to their offices. The mob consisted of the winners of the lottery who had to present themselves with their letter of confirmation and government identification. The other part of the mob were the “traders” loitering nearby who were offering up to $650 in Hong Kong funds for a single note.

The new issue incorporates the usual variety of security features. The design itself is called “150 Years of Shared Ambitions,” which the bank describes as “imagery reflecting our 150 years in Hong Kong ... combined with specially created patterns and translated into designs that make every banknote a unique work of art.” The images are divided into phases of growth, faces of growth, reflections of growth, and security in growth.

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