Queen Elizabeth II Portraits on Banknotes - An Overview

Of all the dignitaries throughout the entire human history, Queen Elizabeth II's portrait has appeared on the most number of banknotes from countries across all the continents on this planet. Her image appear on Canadain banknote when she was as young as 8, then Princess Elizabeth, before her uncle abdicated, making her father the King of England, hence making her the next in line for the throne.

The Washington Post did a wonderful piece on QE2 and the author summarized it rather neatly in an infographic potraying the countries and years of which QE2 appeared on their banknotes. All in there are 33 countries involved since her ascension to the throne in 1953. And today, less than half of those countries still retain her portrait.

The full article is here : Every Country that Feature Queen Elizabeth II on it Currency

So here's to all you collectors of QE2 banknotes.

A numismatic story of the Chinese New Year

Ang Pow or 紅包

he 2017 Chinese New Year is just around the corner. We wish all fellow collectors and numismatist a very prosperous new year ahead and may you find what you seek for your collections.

The Chinese New Year (of the Lunar Calendar), also know was Spring Festival (春節) in China, is widely celebrated throughout East Asian countries like Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. In Malaysia, we get 2 days off and most ethnic Chinese folks will travel to their home towns for the reunion dinner with their families on the new year eve, followed by 15 days of celebration, visiting friends and relatives, with lots of feasting and gift giving.

Speaking of gifts, one of the most prominent practices during this period is the giving of  紅包 (hong bao) or "Ang Pow" meaning "red packets". These are essentially decorative red colored envelopes filled with money, given to unmarried children by parents and also to all the children of  their friends and relatives whom we visit or even bumped into!  As a child, we all grew up looking forward to receiving them during the new year and would most probably spend them on sweets, toys and fire works, despite our parents advising us to save the money!

Curious as to where and how did this practice came to be, we did a little research of our own.

As expected, there are several versions as to the origins of Ang Pow.

It is commonly believed that during the Sung Dynasty ( 宋朝) era in China (A.D. 960-1279), in a village called Chang-Chieu a huge demon used to terrorize the villagers once every year. No warrior can defeat it. Then along came a young orphan, armed with a sacred sabre inherited from his ancestors fought this evil demon and defeated it. Grateful for this noble deed, the villagers presented the young lad with red packets filled with money in it as a reward.

Interesting no doubt but some how it does not sound very convincing, the story is far too simple to be believable right? ....  the good news is that there is an alternative version to this, which happens to be our favorite,  the story goes like this :

In ancient times, they were not called Ang Pows, the name only came in to use only in the last century or so.  During the early Ching Dynasty era (1644 - 1911), they were called 壓歲錢 (ya sui qian), translated it means "lucky money" but the literal translation sounds more intriguing -  壓 (ya) means to press or put pressure on something,  歲 (sui) means age in years and 錢 (qian) means money.

So why such a weird name you ask? Legend has it that in ancient times, there were little demons called 祟 (sui), with dark body and white hands that goes around harming little children during the night before the Chinese New Year. Note that the sound of the word 祟 (sui) is akin to 歲 or 睡 also pronounced as sui, meaning age or to sleep.

These little demons (and mind you there are hundreds of types of demons in Chinese mythology) would roam the cities and villages late at night, they put their hand on a sleeping child's forehead and a bout high fever will ensue and they will be eventually become mentally ill for life.

Needless to say, parents are worried about these little creatures, they encourage their kids of stay up all night since the demons can only harm sleeping children. One family strung together 8 pieces of coins for their child to play in attempt to keep him awake. Unfortunately the child was too tired and fell asleep and the parents put the string of 8 coins under the child's pillow and decided to stay up all night with candles lit to keep watch over their precious little one. But they too, fell asleep ..... a gust blew off the candle.

A string of ancient Chinese coins

The little demon sneaked into the room with glee and as its white hands reaches out to touch the poor child's forehead, the glittering coins startled the little devil which shrieked and ran away as fast as it could, thus the coins have saved the child from harm.

Those were obviously brilliant uncirculated coins!

It was later revealed that the coins were a physical manifestation of the famous 8 deities or 8 immortals (八仙) in Chinese mythology. And so word got around that we should put a string of coins under the pillow to protect our children from harm. So giving coins to children is to protect them from sickness and we've been practicing it ever since.

The glittering coin scared off the little demon 

Nice ending right ?

Do note that in the story, the glittering coins that the parents used must has been in Brilliant Uncirculated condition! Which also explains why til this very day we insist in getting uncirculated banknotes to put into our red packets!


恭喜發財  紅包那來!

Translation : Happy New Year, Can I have my red packet now please? 

The Encyclopaedia of Dry Rubber Export Coupons : Malaya, Ceylon & Netherlands East Indies (1922-1942)

After about a year of working closely with Mr. Saran Singh, the book is finally launched, much to our relief. The episode started when I met with Saran quite by accident and he was talking about the book project he was working on and he need some assistance with researching on certain area of rubber export coupons. So one thing led to another and we ended up doing not just the research and fact check but also designed the entire book and its layout.

Now everyone who is into numismatics will know who the man is. For the uninitiated, he is a well known numismatic writer who as published no less than 6 books on Malaysian numismatics. His earliest publication going as far back as 1978.

Below are some of the slides displayed at the book launch event along with some of the pages of the book, including the table of contents.

Straits Settlements 10 Dollars - A Contemporary Forgery

We're back!  From a long absence because we were working on a book project with Mr. Saran Singh. Now that the book has been published and launched, we can do go back to our usual "business".

For our first blog posting of 2017, we have a interesting piece of a forgery note - a Straits Settlements $10 note, dated 1 January 1935. We believe is may be a contemporary forgery (due to the apparent ageing of the paper), which means that it as created at the time when these notes were legal tender and in active circulation.

Take a look :

Fig 1. : Straits Settlements $10 - Obverse (Counterfeit)

"Malaysia" existed before 1963?

Today, 16 September 2016 marks the 53rd anniversary of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, which comprised of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore at the time it was formed on this day in 1963.

While Malaysia as a country technically came into existence in 1963, the name "Malaysia" has been in use for much longer than that, in fact it has been around for more than 130 years! 

The name Malaysia or “Malaisie” in French, has been used on maps long before the formation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963. One such example is the map titled “S. E. Peninsula and Malaysia” published W. & A.K. Johnston in 1849. Measuring 24 by 19.5 inches (50cm x 60cm), it also covers “Pulo Pinang or Prince of Wales Island”.  W. & A.K. Johnston was one of the major publishing houses of the 19th century, they were based in Edinburgh, U.K. 

BNM Event - Works on Paper : Art Inside the Wallet

Date : 4 August 2016

Banknotes are something that we use everyday of our lives and yet 99.9% of us do not pay much attention when we take them out of our wallets or purse and handing them over to the cashier. As our newly appointed BNM Governor aptly puts it in his opening speech today, the ONLY time we ever pay attention to the banknotes is when the cashier hands it back to us and telling us it is not acceptable, for whatever reasons!  Of course we the numismatists and collectors are the exception!

Which brings us to the main purpose of this 4 month long exhibition, which is to create awareness in the general public that that paper money are essentially works of art. Did you know that the picture of Mount Kinabalu at the back of RM1 and RM100 are hand painted first before being transferred to the printing plates and printed? There is a lot of work and money, pun intended, put into printing these bits of paper in your wallet and they are produced at such a high level of consistency that the ONLY way you can tell a difference between two RM100 notes is by their serial number!

Malaysia 50 Ringgit - Extra Digit in Serial Number

This interesting 50 Ringgit piece landed on my table some weeks back. It's not mine but I was asked to take a look at it. Here's the high resolution photo of the reverse  :

Fig. 1 : Malaysian RM50 Ringgit, Reverse

Can you see the very faint extra digit on the bottom right?

For those who collect fancy number banknotes, they will know that the only way the digit at the back can only happen when the serial number reaches ten million or 10000000. And as far as I know for that last piece in each prefix, the last digit "0" is manually inserted, not printed by the numbering machine. So there is absolutely no way an extra digit is going to appear in the location above, what more it is also misaligned; the last digit is always a zero, not eight.

So at the first glance this piece looks suspicious already!

Now if you check the last digit really up close, here's what you'll see :

Comparing 2 digits of "8"
Fig. 2 : Comparing the 2 digits of "8" under a microscope

The one on the left is the last digit and the one on the right is another "8" for the same banknote. Notice the difference in the height and width?

That's the dead giveaway that the extra "8" is added after the banknote left the factory.

So folks, please be careful when you come across any such "error notes".

Happy Collecting !

Our Article on International Banknote Society Journal - Jun 2016 issue

Our article on the short snorter was published in the June 2016 issue of International Banknote Society (IBNS) Journal. The journal  is published quarterly and it was an honor to work with the journal editor for my article submission.

The International Bank Note Society (IBNS) was founded in 1961. It operates as a non-profit educational organization and in furtherance of such purpose, its objectives are to promote, stimulate, and advance the study and knowledge of worldwide banknotes and paper currencies and all matters related thereto along educational, scientific and historical lines. Currently the IBNS has over 2,000 members in more than 90 countries

Last but not least, lots of thanks for Joe Boling for his encouragement ! This is only the first of many to come, hope to be a regular contributor some day. Most of all, many thanks to all our readers!

Highlights of the Hong Kong International Numismatic Fair (HKINF) 24-26 Jun 2016

I promised myself earlier this year to visit one of the coin fairs in Hong Kong. The main purpose of the visit is to observe and learn more about numismatics of the northern Asian region and of course to meet up with old friends and make new ones.

So why did I pick this one? Well the honest answer here is that it was base more on the choice of my buddies - since they did mention earlier this year at the Singapore Coin Fair that they plan to be at the HKINF in June, I guess I will tag along. 

This time I decided to stay only one night because hotel accommodation is rather expensive in this densely packed city. Hong Kong is a very interesting place, everything is so fast paced and there is never a dull moment. If memory serves, this will be my 6th time visiting HK in the past 2 decades. 

The show was held at The Mira, a hotel in the district of Tsim Sha Tsui. There are quite a lot of tables - 60 in total, with representatives from 18 countries including Belgium, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, U.S.A., Kazakhstan, Spain, Russia, Japan, Malaysia and even from as far as Norway !

Grading companies like PMG/NGC, PCGS are also present, visitors can submit their coins or banknotes to be graded. 

Ending the Rubber Export Coupon “B. L. & P.” Conundrum

For Malaysian and Singaporean collectors as well as numismatist, the rubber export coupons is all the rage these days. We have observed a significant uptick in interest and prices of these items in the past 18 months, most notably since the Spink Auction held in Singapore back in August 2015.

Fig 2. The infamous B. L. & P. rubber coupon
Fig 1. The infamous B. L. & P. rubber coupon, 25 katis.