A family surnamed Hsu (徐) in Pingtung County has an unusual money problem: They have wads of cash at home, but cannot use them. The banknotes have to be sorted out and verified, as they have hardened like bricks in the aftermath of a flood.
Hsu, the owner of the house, said there are probably 600 to 700 banknotes in there, including New Taiwan dollars, Chinese yuan and US dollars. He estimated their total value at more than NT$100,000 (US$3,300).
He also has a bag of corroded, rusty coins. Both the banknotes and coins were waterlogged and damaged from a flood several years ago. After the water receded, the wet bills got dry but were stuck together like bricks.
“We are a big family with many people. So just before the Lunar New Year holidays, I always go to the bank to get 500 to 600 pieces of new banknotes in denominations of NT$100, NT$200 and NT$500. These are hong bao [red envelope] gifts that we give to the children and young people,” Hsu said.
He said the family’s home was inundated in a flood, and at the time he could not find a sack of money placed in one of the cabinets.
“As time went by, I forgot about the money. On Wednesday, our family did a big house cleanup. By accident, we found the long-lost sack of money,” he said.
“At first we were overjoyed, but when we opened the bag, our mood turned sour,” he said.
Seven wads of bills were found damaged and hardened like bricks. One bag was filled with NT$10 and NT$50 coins that were corroded beyond recognition.
“We tried to clean them up, but still couldn’t get them back to their original form, so we cannot use them. If we cannot exchange them for new bills, then it would be a loss of more than NT$100,000. This is heart-breaking for me,” Hsu said.
According to an official at the Pingtung County branch of the Bank of Taiwan, if the damaged New Taiwan dollar bills are still intact and recognizable, they can be exchanged for new bills at the bank.
However, if the damage is substantial, the bills have to be sent to the Investigation Bureau of the Ministry of Justice (MJIB) for authentication.
“For coins that are damaged and difficult to verify, they have to be transferred to the Central Mint for authentication. The service charge will depend on the total amount of money, but the Central Mint does not handle foreign coins,” the official said.
Damaged foreign banknotes are passed on to foreign banks that have offices in Taiwan, which can help send the damaged bills to their country of origin for authentication.
“However, these procedures are tedious and time-consuming. In many cases, permission for authentication is not granted,” he said.
An officer at the MJIB office in Pingtung County said the ministry is commissioned by the central bank to undertake forensic authentication of banknotes tarnished or mangled by fire or water.
People can take damaged money to a local branch of Bank of Taiwan for an initial assessment, the official said, adding that badly tarnished banknotes that cannot be exchanged for new bills at the bank will be transferred to the Investigation Bureau with an official request for authentication.
The official letter of authentication issued by the Investigation Bureau can then be taken to the Bank of Taiwan for verification and exchange for new bills, he said.
He confirmed that the bureau does not handle the authentication of coins and foreign banknotes.