Chinese Liberty Bonds

by Robert Lee

Our Dad was unwaveringly patriotic to Canada but he never lost his quiet but undying sense of loyalty to his homeland in China. And it was because of being Chinese that he bought some Republic of China Liberty Bonds in between World Wars as his small contribution to help with the re-building efforts. In fact, he kept these bonds in his files and never considered redeeming any of the coupons when the interest came due so his small contribution would remain in China. I was looking at this $10.00 certificate recently, printed in Chinese on the front with a decent English version on the back (click on the smaller images to enlarge in a new window for easier viewing).

NOTE: The 26th Year of the Republic of China referenced on the bond was 1937 and the 59th Year of the Republic when the final interest coupon came due was 1970! So these bonds were supposed to be paid out over 33 years until maturity! And which were apparently never actually re-paid from what I only recently discovered (see the article at the end of this post).

While I was looking the bond over, I happened to come across a very interesting article about these bonds, along with some new revelations about what happened to Chinese debt after the Great Revolution and a lot of other questions:

China’s secret? It owes Americans nearly $1 trillion

Posted: May 23, 2012 – 12:01am
By RICHARD PARKER

China has a secret: It owes American investors hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Chinese government doesn’t like to talk about it and the U.S. government doesn’t want to raise it. But decades ago, Beijing defaulted on debt owed to Americans, as well as investors and governments around the world. In one case, it was paid. In the rest it was not. More than 20,000 American investors own this debt. The U.S. government may also own Chinese war debt, unpaid since World War II.

With the simple stroke of an executive proclamation, President Barack Obama can begin the process of addressing this issue. A 1930s-era law has established a quasi-public agency within the Securities and Exchange Commission, known as the Corporation of Foreign Securities Holders, which can arbitrate this dispute, much as a predecessor agency did for decades. China can both afford and benefit from this solution; it will afford goodwill at a time when relations between the world’s two superpowers are strained.

The story begins nearly 100 years ago, in 1913, when the government of China began issuing bonds to foreign investors and governments for infrastructure work to modernize the country. As the country fell into civil war in 1927, paying these debts became increasingly difficult and the government fell into default. Even so, in April 1938, the Nationalist government of China began to issue U.S.-dollar denominated bonds to finance the war against Japan’s brutal invasion.

Read the rest of this article – click HERE.

Comments (4)

CraigSeptember 30th, 2012 at 11:33 am

What would they be worth if you could cash them today? I have 26 of them myself.

robertinseattleSeptember 30th, 2012 at 11:49 am

RobertinSeattle

Craig –

Thanks for commenting!

Unfortunately, as with all bonds, the value was capped when they expired (in this case, ours ended in 1970). So for example with our Dad’s original bond, it would not amount to a whole lot of money (maybe $20?). However – like with currency or coins – the intrinsic value may turn out making these certificates worth more than their face value.

On another note, I’m not even sure that if China had already defaulted on these bonds or would even consider opening the possibility of redeeming any of them as it would force them to honor and redeem all of them.

As I understand it from all the various stories over the years (like the article attached to this post), a lot of countries – particularly the United States – have been stuck holding huge amounts tied to bonds that China backed out of after the Communist Revolution. Apparently, it’s continued to be a very sticky issue in these hard times as it amounts to billions. I wouldn’t be surprised if China gets called on these bonds in these difficult times as China continues to enjoy its huge trade deficits for goods that they export.

robertinseattleJanuary 25th, 2013 at 10:06 am

RobertinSeattle

Wow! Just discovered there’s a collectors’ market out there for many of these government bonds. Just do a search on places like eBay for “Chinese Liberty Bonds” for example and you’ll see a range of bonds not only from China but many other countries like Mexico and Shanghai. Prices are all over the place ranging from a couple hundred dollars all the way up to $25,000! You have to wonder if these might even be speculators wanting to hold them for some higher revaluation for redemption in the future.

I’ve actually had several collectors try to post comments here offering to buy old bonds (but I’m not posting them – so please don’t bother!).

FrankFebruary 16th, 2015 at 10:32 am

I am looking for a LIBERTY $10,000 bond. I am only missing this one. If anyone can help please drop a line @ frank@seminolegroup.com

Leave a comment

Your comment