Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Hong Kong Dollar: A Tale of Two Currencies

     As a kid I used to collect all sorts of things like stamps, rocks, foreign money, and PEZ dispensers (which actually went a little past the "kid" days).  My foreign money collection wasn't very extensive, however, since I didn't make it out of the country until I was 12 or 13.  The only exotic currency that I had was from Saudi Arabia, sent to me from my uncle serving in the first Gulf War.  I was nine years old at the time and I'll never forget writing him letters and receiving some back with colorful paper money covered in Arabic script.

     I suppose it was partly those memories that have inspired me to hoard any coins or bills (within reasonable limitations) that we come across on our travels to send back to my younger brother, Jake.  He's also 12 years old now and since I've been either in college or overseas for most of his life now, it's been difficult to have much of a brotherly relationship.  So, in order to remedy that I've tried to send postcards and money from every new place that we visit.  All of that to say that whenever we're in a new place I'm eager to see what their currency looks like and what its called, etc.

     So the official currency of Hong Kong is the Hong Kong Dollar (HKD).  At present its value is approximately 1 HKD = 0.13 USD, or to put it in easier terms, 1 USD = 7.75 HKD.  Marisa and I usually go with the Euro conversion because it's still familiar to us and it's a much easier conversion rate:  1 EUR = 10.1 HKD.  Like most countries outside the US, Hong Kong's money is very colorful which is the first thing that one notices.  However, there was also one more thing that caught my eye during my first few weeks............there are different versions of the same bill.  Now I don't mean like the old $5 and the new-and-improved $5 where Lincoln has a big head, everything is off-centered, and there's a neat little watermark inside.  I mean these bills had totally different color schemes, but still looked new.

 Two versions of the $20-HKD note.  Top one issued by the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (HSBC) and the bottom issued by the Standard Chartered Bank.  Apparently the Bank of China is also allowed to print money, but I haven't seen one from them yet.

 Two of the major banks in Hong Kong - Standard Chartered on the left, and Hong Kong and Shanghai on the right.

     So it seems that instead of one central mint issuing all of the currency in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA) allows three different banks to circulate notes.  It is also my understanding that the only notes that the HKMA circulates is the 10-dollar note.  While this concept seems very foreign to me, apparently it's not completely unique since the United Kingdom allows for eight different banks to circulate their currency.

     I suppose that just means that I've got twice as many bills to collect before sending them back to the States!

--Justin
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...