Uh oh, turns out nobody wants these SG50 commemorative notes anymore

Oversupply and impractical sizes of notes are inconveniencing banks, businesses and everyone.

Belmont Lay| February 21, 11:25 PM

From "Limited Edition" to "I don't know what to do with these notes, please don't give them to me", it seems nobody these days wants a piece of the SG50 commemorative notes anymore.

The Business Times landed a scoop on Feb. 19, 2016, reporting that not only are the S$10 and S$50 commemorative notes to mark SG50 not wanted by the public, there is an oversupply of some 54 million pieces that have yet to be put into circulation.

Check out these numbers:

SG50 S$50 notes: 20 million pieces printed, six million put into circulation (About two-thirds still available)

SG50 S$10 notes: 75 million pieces printed, 32 million put into circulation (Less than half have been released)

This means only 40 percent of SG50 notes have been issued since they were unveiled last August by the Monetary Authority of Singapore.

And it turns out, the spike in demand initially was nothing more than an illusion, created by the perception that the notes were limited edition.

This was driven by the rationing of the commemorative notes initially when the banks issued them to the public for the first time on Aug. 20 last year.

The MAS had imposed a quota of five sets of notes -- each set consisting of a S$50 note and five S$10 notes -- per transaction per individual, to ensure that "everyone has an opportunity" to obtain the notes.

The quota was subsequently dropped in December, probably because it started to not make sense limiting the number of notes people could get their hands on when there was an oversupply of it in the first place.

In what was perhaps the most manipulative move: Nationalistic sentiment was actually played up further following the discovery of a spelling mistake in former president Yusof Ishak's name on the accompanying folder and booklet.

This caused a reprint and MAS said it was printing an additional six million folders to cope with the popular demand.

But not everyone was eligible to own a piece of it because priority to collect the new folders was given to locals.

Via The Straits Times article on Sept. 3, 2015:

Only Singaporeans are allowed to obtain the folders when they exchange the commemorative notes at the bank, with a limit of two folders per transaction. The MAS also urged members of the public to refrain from queueing repeatedly in order to get more than the allowed two.

Now, the MAS is in discussion with Singapore banks on how to issue the remaining notes.

Banks, however, are not keen to accept more notes as not enough customers want them.

Customers, on the other hand, have the added hassle of depositing the SG50 commemorative notes over the counter at the banks, extending the already long queues.

This is so as the SG50 notes are not accepted at cash deposit machines as they are slightly smaller than regular notes and are incompatible with the existing cartridge sizes.

Businesses have been reluctant to accept these notes as the onus will be on them to bank them by getting in the queue.

The irony is not lost on everyone: The specially designed notes were launched to much fanfare last year as they were supposed to mark Singapore's 50 years of nation-building.

The BT piece also revealed that the only reason so many pieces of the SG50 notes were printed in the first place was to give each and every Singaporean a piece of it.

But the authorities probably didn't calculate the effects of having too much of a supposedly good thing.

Ultimately, here's the saddest part of all: Commemorative notes that have been put into circulation but have been deposited over the counter at banks will then be returned to MAS.


Top photo via

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