Lottery lover finds stories in his tickets
Updated: 2012-04-29 07:04
By Xu Jingxi in Guangzhou (China Daily)
Chen Jiquan rummages through the box of scraps of paper and randomly picks up one of the more than 16,000 lottery tickets stuffed in there, stares at it awhile, and gets lost in memories of a life spent on the go over the past 14 years. Two boxes of lottery tickets, which he keeps with him at all times, are a sort of record of that life, or a "diary" as he calls them.
The 43-year-old Chen is a migrant worker who left home in Jiangxi province in 1998 to work in clothing factories in Guangdong province and the city of Hangzhou, Zhejiang province to try to earn a living and follow his dream of opening his own tailor shop someday.
"The address of the lottery kiosk is printed on the back of a ticket," Chen explains to this reporter, "so I can remember where I was working at the time and recall the memories."
He bought his first lottery ticket with a space to scratch-off the cover to get the number, back in 1990 when he left the country life to go to Ganzhou, in Jiangxi, and saw his very first lottery kiosk.
Excited, he bought five of a series of tickets designed for the 11th Asian Games in Beijing, but got nothing out of them.
He was a bit disappointed, but that didn't last for long. He hung onto the lottery tickets, handling them as if they were gold.
"There weren't any of these newfangled things in my remote village at that time, so I took them back home instead of just throwing them in the dustbin as other people did," Chen recalls.
"Besides, I could learn something new from them, from the pictures on them showing five events in Chinese sports of the past."
And that's how Chen got the habit of hanging onto lottery tickets even if they brought no prize.
"I'd buy a lottery ticket with a design that I'd never seen before," Chen explains further, pulling a few tickets out of his box of treasures to show the reporter.
Chen has long been interested in a wide range of things: plants, insects, literature - three of his lottery tickets have the images of three of the 12 beauties in The Dream of Red Mansions - and historic sites such as the Leshan Giant Buddha and Beijing's Temple of Heaven.
Chen didn't buy his lottery tickets in a random way. He also bought them to express his mood that particular moment.
To celebrate the launch of the Shenzhou V, China's first manned spacecraft, he bought the series of tickets with the images of Shenzhou I to Shenzhou V on them, to express his pride.
Once, to cheer up his son who was preparing for the college entrance exam back home in Jiangxi, the father bought a ticket with "No 1 in the imperial examination" printed at the top and an image of a student in ancient China.
"I was really happy when I learned that he'd been admitted to college. It was better than winning a big prize," Chen says, a smile crossing his face.
Still, he's a fan of all sorts of lottery ticket designs, so it's a bit sad that he can't afford a complete set of lottery tickets, for example, the 12 tickets with the Dream of Red Mansions beauties.
"I usually spend 10 yuan on a lottery ticket, to bet on five groups, two yuan per group and generally buy a ticket a day, which means about 300 yuan per month, or more than a tenth of my monthly salary," Chen says.
But his tight budget doesn't keep him from buying a ticket and it's not that he's only attracted by the design. In fact, Chen says that he really does hope to win the prize and get rich overnight, just like many other ticket buyers.
Back in 1998, when Chen left home to head for Guangdong to find work, he was in debt. "I was dreaming of paying off my debt and starting my own tailoring shop with the money from the lottery."
Unfortunately, the biggest money Chen has won over the past 14 years, was 600 yuan.
Even Chen's collection, the incomplete series of lottery tickets, won't fetch a good price in the market.
Liang Di, a lottery ticket specialist and a member of the Guangdong Collectors Association, explains that collecting lottery tickets is not as profitable as, say, stamps or coins or clay teapots.
"The rarer the thing, the more valuable," Liang says, which is hardly surprising. "But lottery tickets are sold in the hundreds of millions and even a complete series of a regular edition won't see its value go up a lot,"
"Many of the so-called limited editions are tickets that came out long ago and it's difficult to find one," he added.
A dated, perfectly preserved lottery ticket can bring more than 1,000 yuan, while it might cost the owner only 1 yuan.
But, it takes a great deal of time and digging around and studying the history of lottery tickets to find the really valuable ones.
"Nonetheless, as a hobby, collecting lottery tickets can be good because it can keep people positive about life," Liang adds usefully.
Meanwhile, Chen did finally manage to pay off his debt with the money he earned from his own hard work - and opened his own tailor shop last year.
"Trying to find a short cut to get money by winning a lottery just doesn't work," he says. "Still, it's good to keep up hope for a better life from a lottery ticket."
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