A purported specimen of the new 1,000 yen bank note scheduled to be issued in November fetched a bid of more than 9.9 billion yen on an Internet auction site Thursday.
The item was later removed by the site’s operator, Yahoo Japan Corp. It is unclear why it attracted such a high bid.
The item was very similar to test notes printed ahead of the distribution of actual bank notes, according to officials at the National Printing Bureau.
They said it is “highly likely” that the item was one of the test notes and that it must have been stolen during the printing process. The bureau plans to ask police to investigate.
Yahoo Japan said the note was presented as a specimen of the new 1,000 yen note, which features a portrait image of renowned doctor Hideyo Noguchi. It was placed on the site Monday by someone in Shanghai.
As of early Thursday, the highest bid was 400,000 yen. By noon, however, the figure had ballooned to more than 9.9 billion yen.
“We removed the item as there were concerns that hits (to the auction site) would surge, placing excessive strain on the system,” a Yahoo official said.
The National Printing Bureau said that one side of the note put on auction featured the word “specimen” at the top and bottom.
Watermarks and other devices to prevent counterfeiting were also present on the note, though the note did not have a lot number or the printed seal of the governor of the Bank of Japan, both of which are printed onto notes prior to circulation.
“Because we do not have the actual note, we cannot determine whether it is real or not, but it does look similar to a test note,” a bureau official said.
A total of 18 million test notes of the new 1,000 yen bill were printed between July and October last year to assist in making adjustments such as ink color ahead of mass distribution.
Their removal from the National Printing Bureau was banned, and all the test notes except for a small number of samples were shredded and burned in the presence of bureau officials.
Bureau officials said there has never before been a case in which test notes were found to have been carried off the premises.
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