Astonishing Fancy Serial Number US FRN Denomination Set

While we have auctioned off hundreds of thousands of lots of paper money through the years, we have never handled one quite like the lot we are about to offer in our upcoming August Hong Kong Sale.

It is unique in multiple ways:
1) Every piece in this seven-note set carries the coveted "SOLID EIGHTS" serial number.
2) U.S. currency, unlike currencies in other countries, carries an EIGHT-DIGIT serial number, where many others have only six digits. The frequency of this specific serial number being printed on U.S. paper money is one in 99,999,999.
3) This set contains the ONLY known $50 denomination serial #88888888 and one of four known $2 #88888888s.
4) Each note has been authenticated by either PMG or PCGS as being both Uncirculated and having Premium or Exceptional Paper Quality.
5) It took the consignor over a decade to locate each note, working with multiple currency dealers to assemble this set. As a bonus, this set also includes the bookends for the run of 88888880-9 for the Solid 8 $20 note in the below group.

Denomination Series Serial Grade Comments

$1 2003 G88888888D PMG 67 EPQ. Superb Gem with near perfect centering. As fresh as the day it was printed, carefully removed from its pack.

$2 2003 H88888888C PCGS 64 PPQ. Only four $2 FRNs with s/n 88888888 exist. This one is printed on the 8th District

$5 2006 IF88888888A PCGS 67 PPQ. Superb Gem with bright, bold colors and wonderful embossing. The purple and green inks contrast beautifully.

$10 2006 IF88888888B PMG 67 EPQ. Superb Gem with exceptionally bold inks. The paper color on $10 notes with the red overprint is stunning.

$20 2009 JC88888888C PCGS 65 PPQ. This is a 10 note set w/888888880-88888889, with the solid serial #88888888 being graded Gem Uncirculated.

$50 2013 MG88888888A PMG 67 EPQ. This in the only known $50 serial #88888888 graded Gem Uncirculated. $50 and $2 denominations are printed in much lower quantities in the United States.

$100 2006 HB88888888Q PCGS 66 PPQ. Wonderful centering and well inked. They don’t come much nicer that this Near Superb piece.

Since a set like this has never been auctioned in Hong Kong, it is worth noting what collectors have paid in the past for coveted license plate numbers. On February 22, 2006, an individual in Hong Kong paid $2,300,000 USD for this plate: Quoted Verbatim from CityLab 2-22-2016: "If money could buy you luck, then the luckiest person in Hong Kong right now should be the bidder who recently paid 18.1 million Hong Kong dollars, or $2.3 million in U.S. money, for an ‘auspicious’ license plate bearing the number 28."
That sounds like a wildly exorbitant amount of money (and it is), but the thinking is rather simple. In Cantonese, "28" sounds similar to the words for "easy" and "to prosper," so the number is thought to bring good fortune to its owner. Number combinations that include 6, 8, or 9 – which typically create homophones for phrases associated with getting, and staying, rich – are considered lucky. Sometimes the numbers can end up costing far more than the vehicles they identify. Since Hong Kong began license-plate auctioning in 1973, the numbers 18 and 9 sold for $2.1 million and $1.7 million, respectively.

The practice doesn’t end with plates. People are willing to pay premiums to get their hands on apartment units on the eighth floor, or prosperous phone numbers. When the Chinese cell phone market was beginning to grow in the early 2000s, a "lucky" number could be priced at $40,000. As The New York Times wrote in 2001, "prestige with a mobile phone is less about Nokia, Ericsson or Motorola than about 6, 8 and 9." Meanwhile, 4 and 7 are generally considered unlucky, as their pronunciation associates with death. That explains why Beijing has had trouble easing congestion via a vehicle plate restriction program: the distribution of lucky and unlucky plates is uneven.

The "28" plate went for almost six times the initial asking price of $413,000 (U.S. money), setting the record for the highest price ever paid for a license plate in the 40+ years the city has been auctioning them. It had 70 offers before a man in a mask outbid his competitors. The same man also bought 232 ("easy business") for $174,000. Altogether the city auctioned off 40 license plates, including ones like 8999, GG868, and 380, pulling in a total of $3.9 million.

The result above is not unique to Hong Kong. From Gulf News published on 2-17-2008: Abu Dhabi: "License plate No 1 broke the world record as the most expensive, fetching a whopping Dh52.2 million in fierce bidding in Abu Dhabi on Saturday. Saeed Al Khouri, 25, a businessman in Abu Dhabi, won the number plate after a furious contest in the final stages of the auction conducted at the Emirates Palace hotel. No, it’s not made of solid gold — just ordinary aluminum. But it does come with the swagger of being labeled no. ‘1.’ And that’s evidently worth a record $14.3 million. Today, a businessman named Saeed Abdul Ghafour Khouri was willing to pay 52.2 dirham — the equivalent of $14.3 million — for the local license plate labeled ‘1’ at an auction at the 7-star Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, making it the world’s most expensive license plate."

In addition to this group of notes, we will have plenty of other fancy serial numbered lots, including more United States pieces, rarities from India, and of course Hong Kong, and Chinese notes with special serial numbers.

We are currently in the final stretch of gathering consignments for the August Hong Kong sale, so if you are interested in consigning for this auction, or the August ANA sale, please contact Aris@StacksBowers.Com right away. For additional questions regarding bidding, and registering, please contact Info@StacksBowers.Com.

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