Banknote frenzy forces rethink
Bank of China (Hong Kong) yesterday changed the arrangements for the sale of its commemorative HK$100 banknotes after tens of thousands of people besieged its branches across the city for a second day.
Angry customers complained that the bank's change of plan caused chaos after they queued from early yesterday morning hoping to obtain a ticket to buy two of the banknotes, which mark Bank of China's centenary. A ticket gives the holder the right to buy the two notes for a minimum of HK$150 each on designated days this week.
The manager of a Mong Kok stamp and banknote collection store said he had been offered HK$1,300 for a pair of the banknotes yesterday, down from HK$1,700 on Monday. Dealers outside North Point and Wan Chai branches offered HK$1,600 for a pair, but some potential sellers said they had heard of prices of up to HK$2,000 on Monday.
BOCHK said it had handed out all tickets for the remaining 1.1 million single commemorative bills by 9pm yesterday. It apologised for inconvenience to the public and shops.
Housewife Pitty Lo, 52, could not get a ticket despite arriving at the bank's North Point branch at 5am.
Staff were already handing out letters on Monday evening giving the right to a ticket, she said. 'The staff told us yesterday [Monday] to come back at 9am the next day, but they started handing out letters last night,' she said. 'It's not fair.'
She said she wanted to buy the banknotes for her children. On Monday she had been able to buy a set of two notes after arriving at 8am.
The sale began when BOCHK opened on Monday. It is also selling 100,000 sets of three uncut notes and 20,000 sets of 30 uncut notes, for HK$600 and HK$6,000 respectively. The notes are legal tender but are not intended for general circulation.
BOC, founded in Shanghai in February 1912, is the only bank that has been continuously operating on the mainland for 100 years.
Yesterday's queue outside the North Point branch stretched along King's Road for 400 metres, with some people sitting on small stools.
In Cheung Sha Wan, where queues started forming on Monday night, police were called in after bank staff were prevented from leaving the branch by angry customers who had failed to get a ticket.
'The arrangements are poor and very confusing,' said one 70-year-old customer who had queued outside the Tsuen Wan branch since 8pm on Monday night. 'One person who had lined up since yesterday was joined by eight people this morning.'