[Dave Birch] Does anyone know if this story is true? Apparently, In 1997, to mark the handover of Hong Kong, coins bearing the Queen’s head were replaced with coins engraved with a bauhinia flower. Passionate speculators, Hongkongers began hoarding the old coins, convinced they would be worth something. By the end of the year, when the Octopus card was launched, there was a serious coin shortage. Convenience stores began giving change in kind – either as chewing gum or other small items – or simply insisted on the correct money. Anyone trying to buy tickets from machines taking coins had a problem, unless they had the time to queue up at the bank to get their (carefully rationed) coin supply. So when buses and minibuses, which had taken coins, began accepting Octopus cards, it was not hard to persuade people to get them.

Please let this be true, so I can use it to start my library of non-market drivers for contactless payments! Talking of which, I’ve decided to change one of the sessions at this year’s Digital Money Forum to look at non-market drivers as I thought it would make a change from technology fun and business cases. One of the drivers that we’ll be talking about is making electronic payments more accessible for disabled people, which is not a topic I’ve seen dealt with at other payment-related events recently. As you know, the Forum is a not-for-profit event and any money left over from our generous sponsors (Visa Europe and Webmoney) and you, our public, goes to a number of charities, including a number that support the disabled in a variety of ways. That’s why we’ll also be giving a complimentary copy of Brian Breed’s posthumous “From Scorn to Dignity: A Brief History of Disability”, published by Forum friend John Coleman at New European Publications, to all delegates this year.

These opinions are my own (I think) and presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public [posted with ecto]


  1. Something similar happened to WebMoney. About a year after they launched their system, the Russian payments systems collapsed… WebMoney emerged as the only untouched system.
    I don’t know the details, or even how close this story is. Unfortunately, the full WebMoney story is encrypted in their local language.

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