Kids’ craze for ‘counterfeit’ currency bookmarks could be illegal, China’s central bank says

Authorities may take action as retailer in central Chinese province admits to selling almost US$1,000 worth of ‘fake notes’ annually

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 10:01am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 31 October, 2017, 10:00am

A craze among schoolchildren in central China for collecting bookmarks printed to look like Chinese and US banknotes could be against the law, according to local media.

In a report by Changsha Evening Daily on Monday, the mother of a fourth-grader in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, said she spotted one of the “billionaire bookmarks” when she was checking her son’s homework.

The boy said that he and his classmates bought the notes from local shops and traded and collected them with friends. It was the hottest craze in school, he said.

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While the printing on the notes closely replicates the look of genuine yuan and US dollar notes, their size and form – some come in the classic cartoon shape of a dog’s bone – clearly suggest they are intended for nothing other than fun.

“They look exactly like real paper money,” the mother, surnamed Zuo, was quoted as saying, “only in different shapes”.

However, that does not appear to be sufficient for the local branch of the People’s Bank of China, an official from which was quoted as saying that it was illegal to reproduce Chinese banknotes and that it reserved the right to take legal action.

The owner of a shop near a school in Changsha said he sold about a dozen packs of the banknotes a week, with each pack of 24 retailing for 10 yuan (US$1.50). Based on the South China Morning Post’s calculations, his share of the “counterfeiting” business would therefore be more than 6,200 yuan a year.

The report did not say if he would face any criminal charges.

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Most people on social media found the claims of counterfeiting baffling.

“The regulation is too strict,” one person wrote.

“Schools use them as teaching aids in maths class. That can’t be illegal,” said another.