‘Better than gold’?: Hong Kong collectors eye HK$100 special edition BOCHK banknotes

But traders are sceptical about the resale value of the centenary bills, with some questioning if the bank can sell off its total issue volume of HK$5 million

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 3:53pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 September, 2017, 10:23pm

In a move marking its largest ever release of new notes, the Bank of China (Hong Kong) unveiled a total of HK$5 million in special edition HK$100 bills for sale on Thursday to celebrate its centenary.

But while collectors were enthusiastic about the freshly minted banknotes, resellers were less upbeat about making huge profits, amid the slowdown in market demand in mainland China for stamp, coins and banknotes over the past year.

Buyers from across the border formed the bulk of customers for such items.

From now till October 18, the HK$100 banknotes will be up for sale to citizens aged 18 or above with a valid Hong Kong ID. Potential buyers first have to subscribe online or at any of the bank’s branches in the city to purchase the notes.

Three packages are available – single notes priced at HK$288, three-in-one uncut notes at HK$988, and 30-in-one sheets at HK$13,888. If demand exceeds supply, buyers will be selected through a computer-generated ballot. Results will be announced on November 1.

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This was the third time the mainland-backed bank had issued commemorative notes in Hong Kong. The issue exceeded previous similar releases by other banks HSBC and Standard Chartered.

On Thursday morning, as BOCHK’s Whampoa branch opened for business, a retiree who only wanted to be known as Chan, arrived to submit her subscription for the banknotes.

“I want to buy four single notes for my four grandchildren,” the 66-year-old said.

Chan said she hoped to leave something special for her grandchildren when she was gone. “I think commemorative banknotes are better than gold,” the former factory worker said.

Meanwhile, at the bank’s Central branch, Stanley Ho, a collector who owns hundreds of commemorative banknotes, showed up to secure his purchase of the 30-in-one uncut sets.

“The 100th anniversary of Bank of China’s service in Hong Kong is a very memorable event, and many historical materials are shown on the banknotes,” Ho said.

“The design is pretty. I will definitely keep it if I can buy one,” he added.

Despite the enthusiasm of collectors, traders did not expect an overwhelming response from the public for the centenary items. Some even said they were worried the bank might have to destroy unsold notes.

“HK$5 million is way too much for traders to make a profit [in the resale market],” said Goldfield Coins and Stamp owner Chan Wing-fai, who has been trading commemorative banknotes for three decades in Hong Kong.

Chan said Standard Chartered could not sell all of its world-first HK$150 bills when it celebrated its 150 years of existence in 2009, despite a much smaller issue at HK$1 million.

“I think only about 60 per cent of subscribers will actually buy the banknotes,” Chan said, referring to BOCHK’s offering.

The market was even tougher this year with a trading slowdown on the mainland for banknotes, a result of tightened regulations by Chinese authorities, he said.