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Chinese Birthday Banknotes

According to recent reports, the Chinese have been looking for new gift ideas for the major holidays which differ from the more traditional gifts of wine, cigarettes, moon cakes, etc.

Of course, the most traditional gift has always been the giving of paper money in a red envelope.

In line with the rapidly rising standard of living, many people are now interested in “updating” this traditional form of gift giving.

Instead of giving ordinary paper money, many Chinese are now giving “birthday banknotes”.

A “birthday banknote” is paper money which has a serial number in the same sequence as a particular date or, in this case, the birthday of the person receiving the gift.

While most “birthday banknotes” are paper money currently in circulation, there is new interest in giving the older historic banknotes.

Old Chinese banknote issued in 1936 with a birthday serial number

The banknote shown here was actually issued in 1936.

The serial number is D880817.

Since the Chinese express dates in the order year, month and day, the serial number on this old note can be read as 1988 August 17.

The chance of finding a bill in circulation with the specific date you are seeking is, of course, extremely small.  And, if you want an older banknote then the quest is even more difficult.

But as you might expect in a country with a rapidly growing economy, there are now companies which specialize in selling “birthday banknotes” both recent and old.

For example, the “birthday banknote” displayed here had a denomination of “20 cents” in 1936 but can be bought from one of these dealers today for 50 yuan or about US$8.00.

Finally, giving an old Chinese banknote can be considered as a “gift which keeps on giving” since it is seen as a good form of investment and prices are expected to continue to rise.

Vignettes (pictures) on old Chinese paper money, including the archway at the entrance of the Cemetery of Confucius shown on this banknote, are discussed in detail at Chinese Paper Money.

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