by Ursula Kampmann
translated by Annika Backe
September 10, 2015 – For some millennia now, people bury their treasures in the ground when they distrust the government and the banks. Numismatists benefit from this custom because hoard finds provide them with astounding insights into the monetary circulation of a given period. Future generations, on the other hand, will be denied this exceptional source. Why is that? It is because modern money is not suitable to be kept underground.
A Chinese family living in the provincial city of Jiangsu had to learn this the hard way. The mother had hid the family assets amounting to nearly 100,000 remimbi in cash (= ca. 14,000 euros) under the floor of her kitchen. She had wrapped stacks of banknotes and put those in a plastic bag. That bag was then stored in a little iron box, before being buried under the kitchen floor. When the eldest son was getting married, the time had come to dig up the family assets. To her sorrow, however, the banknotes had turned into mush in the meantime. Attempts are currently being made to exchange this pulp at the Nanjing branch of the Bank of China.
We do not know about the guidelines in China. In the EU or in Switzerland, it would not be an issue at all. If a bank in Germany is presented with more than half of a damaged banknote, it will replace the banknote free of charge. Also in Switzerland, banks will only replace damaged banknotes if the serial number is fully recognizable in addition.
In the United States, it is the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that deals with this kind of problem. There, it takes more than 50% of the banknote and sufficient security features still intact for the bank to confirm the banknote’s authenticity.
If you decide to choose the oldest way of the world to save your money then you might better turn to the oldest kind of money: coins made of gold and silver.
The story, and many pictures with it, was published for the time here.
The mentioned lady was not the only one to accept financial losses as a result of this outdated way to save money. In another incident, banknotes were destroyed by termites. Please read the story here.
By the way, Germany has its own forensic institute in charge with the reconstruction of torn banknotes. How destroyed euro notes are reconstructed can be seen in this sequence of images.