Buying Money with Money


For most of us, paper money (use the word “paper” hereafter) are nothing more than a medium of exchange. We get it from ATM, then we use it. Usually this is the end of the story. However, money may have different symbolic meanings to a group of money collector. Beyond medium of exchange, paper can serve as a collection. Coincidentally, most of these collectors must have known a place, Ho Mong Kok Shopping Centre. This shopping centre is sort of special, unlike conventional shopping centre which sell fashions, entertainments … this centre concentrates shops which sell antiques and special collections. Among all, “special paper money” is one of the most common commodities you can see in that centre. Shops basically sell and purchase them from you.

Shops in there sell and purchase paper money issued in different years and from different places, but all of them share a similarity, their prices are higher than the “printed value”. Why people are willing to buy money with higher prices, isn’t this dumb? The second similarity might be able to explain this non-sense phenomenon, is that all those money possess “special characteristics” that make it special and stand out from the money that you and me having in our pocket.

Their value could be determined by different criteria. It may possess higher value because it was issued in special years. For stance, in picture 2, the tag explicitly stated that this paper money was issued in the year of Hong Kong handover (回歸年). Another reason making this paper rare is its serial number. The first three numbers is the same, which display the same case in the last 3 numbers, giving a double triplet pattern (the word“雙豹” on the tag is describing this pattern). These two special features allowing the storekeeper confident that this $100 paper worth $600, despite the keen competitions among the same type of stores in the same shopping centre.

Double triplet is not the only rare case in serial number. In fact, other pattern like ladder (picture 3, 456789) is also appealing for many collectors and collection stores. Another feature is the homophonic pattern, for instance in picture 4, In Cantonese pronunciation of “8” is similar to prosperity (“發”). In Chinese society which flourish with mythology, such an homophonic pattern is considered as “lucky number” for asking a higher prices.

Despite one paper money can already gives so many possibilities, from serial number, homophonic pattern, to issued year. It is even more scarce and worth-collecting to have several papers to show special patterns cooperatively (Picture 5). Just like this store which succeed to collect a set of papers showing the identical serial number in different value. Making this set of New Zealand money ($185 New Zealand dollar ≈ $1029 HK dolloar) is assertive to sell as high as $3500 HK dollar.

“Money can buy good art”. Perhaps many would disagree. But it is possible that money itself can be a form of art!


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