Feeling lucky?

Special serial numbers on some Federal Reserve notes prosperity to owner according to Asian cultures

Good fortune is something many people only wish for but some paper money collectors know where they can actually find it.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing has been offering a Lucky Money/Prosperity Collection of products for the past seven years. These specially packaged items have Federal Reserve notes with serial numbers that have numerals that are considered by Asian cultures to bring prosperity and good fortune to the owner.

Some of the products are $1 Lucky Money notes, $2 Double Lucky Money sets, $5 8888 Prosperity sheets and $20 Lucky Money notes. Collectors can assemble a relatively low-cost collection or a collection that could qualify as museum quality.

$1 Lucky Money notes

First offered in the BEP’s 2002 Summer Catalog as the Prosperity Note Collection, this initial offering was packaged in a folder with decorative Chinese symbolism capturing the significance of the numbers 168 and 8888. All of the notes in this collection were priced at $5.95 each. The offerings included the Prosperity Forever note with a Series 2001 $1 FRN with serial numbers beginning with 168 and a Fortune note with a Series 1999 $1 FRN with serial numbers beginning with 8888. The text within the folder indicates that the numeral 8 signifies wealth and prosperity in many Asian communities. After that initial offering, the Fortune note was recast as the $1 Lucky Money note and the folders were redesigned.

Year of the Horse note

The Chinese lunar calendar consists of 12 symbols, each represented by an animal and a corresponding date range. The Chinese lunar calendar continually cycles through these 12 symbols. The Year of the Horse corresponds to the Gregorian calendar years of 1990, 2002 and 2014, as examples.

The folder accompanying the Series 2001 $1 FRN extends the hope that “this Year of the Horse Note brings you good fortune as you ride your way to success in the New Year.” The 2002 BEP Summer Catalog indicates in bold text that the Year of the Horse note was limited to 88,888 notes. The notes have serial numbers beginning with 8888.

Each note is individually packaged in a red folder displaying shimmering gold-leaf script and images. Text within the folder is expressed in both Chinese and English.

In subsequent years, $1 FRNs were issued annually to correspond with the current Chinese Lunar Year: 2003, Year of the Goat: 2004, Year of the Monkey (both a Chinese language and Vietnamese language version were offered); 2005, Year of the Rooster: 2006, Year of the Dog; 2007, Year of the Pig; 2008, Year of the Rat; and 2009, Year of the Ox.

As with the initial Year of the Horse note, the serial numbers of these notes begin with a minimum of four 8s (8888xxxx).

For these various products, the series of the particular issue corresponds, for the most part, with the series designation of $1 FRNs being issued at the time.

For example, in 2002, when the Year of the Horse note was originally issued, Series 2001 notes were being produced. Series 2001 serial number 8888xxxx notes were included in the Year of the Horse offering.

Current information indicates that 88,888 notes were made available for sale by the BEP for each of the Lucky Money issues until 2007, when the number was reduced to 68,888 for the Year of the Pig and Year of the Rat products. The BEP also offered a product called Lucky 7 notes as part of the Prosperity Note Collection but the bureau did not include any references to Chinese symbolism. These FRNs have no fewer than three numeral 7s, and each note was packaged in a decorative folder.

Extra luck

Some collectors have found the Lucky notes to be truly lucky. Solid 8 serial number notes (88888888) are very popular with collectors and sell in the $2,500 to $3,000 range. For each 10,000 Lucky Money notes produced, one has solid 8s (remember, the notes all begin with 8888xxxx to start with).

Also, many other fancy-numbered notes, such as 88880008, 88888808 and 88881234, are also randomly distributed among the group the BEP offered and these fetch an additional premium from collectors. At $5.95 per note, this group probably offers the best value around when it comes to assembling a currency set of distinction, beauty and intrigue. The chance of receiving a note with a very desirable serial number just brings home the whole concept of good fortune and prosperity.

$2 Double Lucky Money sets

Offered for sale beginning Jan. 22, 2008, this unique set sold out within days. The set offered two Uncirculated Series 2003A $2 FRNs. One has a serial number beginning with 8888, to symbolize good fortune; the first four digits in the other note’s serial number start with digits matching the year, 2008, to commemorate the New Year. The pair of notes in each set also have serial numbers with the last four digits matching.

The packaging of two $2 FRNs is a reference to a Chinese saying “good things come in pairs.” The total production was limited to 4,888 sets with a maximum purchase limit of 10 sets per household.

To add to the fun, $2 FRNs produced for the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank were used for this product because the unique letter-number designation assigned to the St. Louis bank is H and 8. The numeral appears in four places on the face of the note in addition to the serial number. In fact, the sets were the only source of Series 2003A $2 H-C block notes and 2003A $2 H-D block notes.

A block is a run of notes with serial numbers that include a specific prefix letter before the serial number and a specific suffix letter after the serial number. For example, a note with serial number H 88 880 001 J would be from the H-J block.

Contrary to the usual practice, these sets were not issued consecutively from number 20080001 to number 20084888. Instead they were issued in serial number groups of approximately 1,000, with the most common serial numbers available in the United States appearing to be in the 20086xxx and the 20089xxx ranges. Other serial number ranges identified include 20081 xxx, 20088xxx and others. The set includes a colorful outer box, a custom-designed binder stamped with the Department of Treasury seal and a brochure with information about the Double Lucky Money set and the $2 FRN, and dual certificates of authenticity (one in English, one in Chinese) signed by the director of the BEP, Larry R. Felix.

1995 9888 Prosperity sheets

Each 8888 Prosperity sheet contains eight Series 1995 $5 notes. The sheets were the only source for Series 1995 $5 FRNs printed for the St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank for the following blocks: H-D, H-E, H-F, H-G, H-H H-l, H-J and H- K. No other notes from these blocks were issued for circulation or in other special products.

All these $5 FRNs begin with serial numbers 8888.

This issue is strictly limited to 1,125 sheets per block. These eight-subject sheets have a maximum of 9,000 notes per block.

This is a distinctive and unique collectible, and the only group of fancy sheets of $5 FRNs ever issued by the BEP.

According to the BEP, these sheets were marketed to the overseas Asian communities. As a result, certain blocks for the Series 1995 $5 FRNs, such as the H-F and H-G blocks, are extremely difficult to locate in the United States.

The sheets are a great complement to the other $1, $2, and $20 «8888” Lucky Money notes and provide a challenging but realistic opportunity to craft a matching serial number set across the four denominations. It generally adds value to the underlying notes when you have multiple examples with identical serial numbers.

Collectors can still buy the sheets from the BEP As of early November 2008, the BEP still had for sale approximately 400 sheets in total at the $88 issue price.

$20 Lucky Money note

On Jan. 30, 2007, the BEP began offering $20 Lucky Money notes, which were limited to an offering of 8,888 notes. This is the first and only time the BEP has offered Series 2004 $20 FRNs with a serial number beginning with 8888.

The notes were and still are available from the BEP for $39.95. Each note is packaged in a Lucky Money folder decorated with a gold-leaf image of bamboo on the cover. Inside is an image of two panda bears and text stating “The Panda loves Fortune Bamboo throughout its life; May peace, love, and happiness fill in your seasons.”

For the collector looking for an intriguing niche that includes a variety of scarce and underappreciated notes, you can’t ask for much more than the BEP’s Lucky Money/Prosperity Collection.

Whatever you decided to collect, may the challenges and pleasures of collecting enrich your life, and may it bring forth happiness, fellowship and good fortune. Peace and love would be nice too. Or one of those 88888888 notes.

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