Monday , July 15 2024

Hanoian who owns every currency bill issued in Vietnam

Phung Van Hung of Ha Noi has an astonishing collection: It comprises all banknotes and coins ever issued in Vietnam.

Every year, when the Lunar New Year approaches, Hung checks up on his collection of vintage currency bills that he carefully stores in six moisture-proof cabinets.

The 32-year-old, a resident of Hai Ba Trung District, says, “Many people think they are worthless, but they are priceless to me”.

It is now known if he understands there is a huge and lucrative market for antique currency bills.

A perfect antique banknote, according to Hung, must be extremely rare and have vibrant colors and an unusual serial number.

Phung Van Hung holds up the biggest banknote ever circulated in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Phung Van Hung holds up the largest-sized currency note ever used in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

The more he collects, the more he wants to expand his collection. He is willing to travel across the country and spend tens of millions of dong (VND10 million = US$430) to lay his hands on a perfect vintage currency bill.

Before becoming interested in old currency notes, Hung was collecting postage stamps since he was in fifth grade. He bought a majority of his nearly 5,000 stamps using money given for breakfast. He has temporarily stopped collecting stamps since he cannot find any more unique ones.

While in college in 2010 he visited the Hanoi Museum and saw its collection of ancient coins. Appreciating the historical values associated with each banknote, he spent VND150,000 to buy 20 commemorative coins.

With social media not as ubiquitous then, to find vintage bills and coins, he had to look up classified websites and post buying and selling ads. He also scouted for antique stores on Hang Bo Street in Hoan Kiem District.

After a while he was able to connect with other collectors and people sharing the passion, allowing him to easily exchange and expand his collection.

Hungs vintage banknote collection through out different periods. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Hung’s vintage currency collection. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

He says: “I did not dare tell my parents about my collection. Working part-time was the only way for me to pursue my passion”.

He sells old banknotes with regular serial numbers in his possession to raise money to buy others with the numbers he desires.

His collection has 1,000 notes and coins.

The bills are divided by period.

Some are extremely rare, including a 50-dong bill, one of the few issued with a smiling image of Ho Chi Minh; a 5-dong note, the only vertical note issued in Vietnam; a 5 xu (a subunit of the dong) bill, the smallest issued; and the French Indochina 100 piastres, the largest ever used in Vietnam.

Hung and the 2 xu, the smallest banknote ever issued in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Hung with a 2 xu bill, the smallest-sized currency note ever issued in Vietnam. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Many bills have historical and cultural stories associated with the nation’s history.

For instance, the 500-dong bill issued in 1949 depicts Vietnam’s victory over France in a battle fought on the Lo River.

“They all give me a sense of national pride, and I’m looking forward to finding more bills to collect”.

Hung also has a collection of coins and banknotes from other countries. He sells them to people seeking to buy bills with unusual serial numbers or those matching someone’s birthday.

Hung also collects banknotes of more than 180 countries. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

Hung also has banknotes from more than 180 countries. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Nguyen

A few years ago he traded a $100 bill with a serial number comprising eight 8s for a Honda SH motorbike worth more than VND100 million. He had spent VND50 million to buy it from a family in the central Nghe An Province.

The Vietnam Record Organization recognized Phung Van Hung in March 2021 as “the owner of a collection of old and modern currencies with the most beautiful serial numbers in Vietnam”.

He hopes to build a private museum to display his collection for people with similar interests to see.

“For the time being I’m hoping to find more rare and valuable bills to satisfy my curiosity and add to my collection.

[I also want to put up] introductory videos on social media about currency bills issued in Vietnam to make people”.

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