February 4, 2013


Monday morning…

I think I might be coming down with a bit of a cold.  I woke up this morning with a tickle in my throat.  No sniffles yet, but perhaps, if I don’t think about it, it may just go away.

Last month, January 17th I believe, the new money came out in Taiwan.  This may seem meaningless to some people, but to me, as well as countless Taiwan residents, this is something special.

At first, to the average person, this may mean that the new issue of coins and bills is issued.  However, this is not the case.  A bit of personal history on the topic.

Several years back, one of the staff at ONE of the banks I deal with in Tainan, gave me a souvenir coin set.  At the time, I was not only shocked, but very thankful to him.  The set was in commemoration of Year of the Rooster.  I had moved into my new home at the time, and he tried to explain to me that, the word for home or house and chicken or rooster or hen, are similar in sound.  Therefore, giving someone a gift of a chicken, was considered good luck.  Who am I to argue?  I took his word for it, and thanked him.

The coin set contained a proof 20nt, 50nt, and commemorative 100nt coin in a polished wooden box.  There is also a card, written in box Chinese and English, giving dimensions and metal contents of each coin, as well a paragraph or two regarding the reverse and obverse sides of the 100nt piece.

It wasn’t until a few years had gone by, and working at Giraffe, one of the staff happened to be talking about the new money being released that year.  My ears perked up, and unfortunately, I had missed the day of release.

Around the corner from Giraffe, there is a coin shop.  In my broken Chinese and the owner’s broken English, she soon understood what I was inquiring about.  That was when I discovered that the new issue of money, were in fact, these coin sets.  Now came a decision.  Do I start to collect these sets or not?

As it turned out, she had all the sets issued since Year of the Rooster.  However, she didn’t have that particular set.  That was fine.  After having looked at each of the sets, I knew that I wanted to continue the collection – somehow.  Each month, I would go in around payday and purchase one or two of these sets from her.

For those unfamiliar with the Chinese Zodiac, there are 12 years dedicated to 12 different animals.  Only one, in my opinion and I hope others agree, is a mythical creature – dragon.  The first year is in honour of the Rat.  However, since these coin sets started with Year of the Rooster, the order of the release of coins is:  Rooster (2005), Dog (2006), Pig (2007), Rat (2008), Ox (2009), Tiger (2010), Rabbit (2011), Dragon (2012), Snake (2013), Horse (2014), Sheep (2015), and Monkey (2016).

As you will notice, the sets for Horse, Sheep, and Monkey have not been released yet.  One of my students asked why I didn’t have these three sets yet!  I just sort of shook my head and figured he did not understand the concept of space and time.

Last year, 2012, was Year of the Dragon.  Apparently, someone said that it was Year of the GOLDEN Dragon, and so the line-ups at the Bank of Taiwan the day of issue, was apparently insane.  And of course, I was unable to purchase a set.  This year however, I decided to get up early, and wait in line like any insane person would do!

I was at the bank at about 6am in the morning.  You’d think that no one would be up at that time, but, upon arrival, there were already over 200 people in the line-up!  How do I know?  I counted.  At about 200, I stopped counting and just got into place.  The bank didn’t open until 10am.  So, approximately 5 hours of waiting time.  Good thing I had two thermos’s of hot coffee (and a large bladder!).

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Once the bank opened for business, it seemed the line went really fast.  Everyone was given a ticket.  My ticket number was 0054.  After having counted over 200 people in line, I was a bit surprised.  The lady in front of me had 0053, and in front of her, 0052.  A bit of deduction meant that, since everyone was given one ticket, that meant there were only 53 people in front of me.  Cool!

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There are only 150,000 of these sets issued for all of Taiwan.  Of that, 2,800 are given to the Tainan branch.  That got me wondering then, what was the big rush and why the long wait and line-up?

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When I finally got to the counter to obtain my set, the lady who had ticket number 0052 bought 20 sets of these coins!  She gave the bank staff a stack of 1000nt bills, and one ticket!  From what I was told, the ticket entitled the holder to ONE (1) set only?  So how was she able to purchase 20 sets?  I had also noticed while waiting, that others were walking away with multiple sets.  I actually wanted to get two sets – one for me, and one for a gift.

Then, the lady in front of me with ticket 0053, bought 6 sets.  When it was my turn, I asked for two.  The staff almost went crazy and kept yelling (seriously), “ONE ONLY!”  I tried to point out that both people in front of me had a lot more than one, but they just kept saying over and over, “ONE ONLY… ONE ONLY!”

Okay, after having very little sleep, and sitting on the sidewalk for 5 hours, I wasn’t about to get into an argument.  I was tired, and just wanted to get back home, and get a couple of hours of sleep before classes began.  I did get my ONE set, and for that, I was happy.

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Later that evening, during a break in my classes at Giraffe, I went over to the coin shop to purchase something else.  We chatted about that morning, and she informed me that she purchased four sets, but couldn’t really explain how she was able to do it!  Then I asked about the set from last year, Year of the Dragon.

But that story will have to wait until later…

That’s it, that’s all… for now!

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