Collectible banknote set spurs nationwide shopping scramble

Friday, September 9, 2011
The China Post news staff

A commemorative banknote set was expected to sell out in a matter of hours yesterday as local collectors and investors vied with those from Hong Kong and China for the memorabilia expected to rise in value soon.

Commissioned by the Central Bank of China (CBC), the 500,000 “Collector's Version of the Republic of China Founding Centenary NT$100 Banknotes” set were almost all gone shortly after the beginning of sale yesterday and immediately resold for as much as NT$2,000 each, far more than the face value of NT$300 and retail price of NT$500. Each set has three NT$100 bills in it.

College students, housewives, and old folks with time to kill were hired to stand in line, some since early in the day, for the private collectors and investors. Some college students who had tipped off each other on line came in hordes, hoping to reap a handsome windfall of more than NT$1,000 before the beginning of a new school year.

Some speculators, armed with NT$10 million cash each, even stood in the streets outside the CBC building in downtown Taipei offering cash in broad daylight to smiling people for the prizes in their hands. The more enterprising among them, allegedly from Hong Kong, even brought mobile toilets and provided lunchboxes and cold drinks for their hired hands, who were paid around NT$180 an hour.

At nine o'clock sharp, the crowd rushed past security and squeezed into the CBC entrances, causing a mayhem never witnessed before in such sales in the history of the republic. Bank security personnel trying to restore order had to use megaphones to rise above the din.

According to analysts, the unprecedented rush on CBC was caused by the insatiable demand for currency sets in mainland China, where such items are easily resold for a profit, especially after the Jan. 6, 2011, first CBC sale of these banknote sets. On the other hand, contract-bound local coin and banknotes dealers were so anxious to avoid being penalized for failure to deliver the sets they simply bid up the prices.

The first 300,000 sets, all sold out at the beginning of the years, could then fetch a price up to NT$8,000 in a resale, more than 20 times higher than their face value and retail price. The markup this time is not expected to be as exorbitant as that in January.

As of press time, there was no word whether or not the 500,000 sets were all gone.

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