How to check if you have a rare and valuable banknote as the new £50 note is released today
TODAY marks the launch of the all-new polymer £50 banknotes featuring WW2 codebreaker Alan Turning.
If you receive one, it’s worth checking the serial number, as rare notes can be worth much more than their face value.
Indeed, banknotes with unusual or meaningful serial numbers are often sought after by collectors – with polymer £5, £10 and £20 notes regularly selling for up to 30 times their value.
It’s hard to predict which £50 notes will be hunted the most by collectors, but keep an eye out for low serial numbers.
Notes that usually start with the code AA01 were among the first to make them valuable.
If one ends up in your wallet, it’s worth hanging on to for a while, as you might be able to make a profit by reselling it.
It’s not just the new £50 notes that can be worth a lot – here’s our roundup of the best prices people are getting for £5, £10 and £20 notes on eBay and serial numbers and oddities to watch out for.
What do the serial numbers on banknotes mean?
According to the Bank of England, THE first four letters and digits of a serial number are known as the “cypher”.
The number, which is the AA01 part of the code, represents the position of the ticket on the sheet when it is printed.
The serial number is made up of the six digits that follow the number and refer to the sheet on which the note is printed.
For example, there are 60 £5 polymer banknotes on each sheet and the first print run had the number AA01 through AA60.
There are just under a million serial numbers printed for each digit – from 000001 to 999000.
This means that there will be just under 60 million notes starting with “AA”, before the number becomes “AB”.
No banknote has the same serial number, which is why they can be worth a lot to a collector if you have an interesting one.
Jane Austin £5 note – up to £5,000
The most valuable note you could be sitting on is an extremely rare £5 note – there are only five in the world and four in circulation.
In 2016, the first polymer notes were released. The new £5 notes featured the face of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Micro-artist Graham Short etched a small portrait of author Jane Austen into the hologram on five of the notes.
One of them is in the Jane Austen Museum, but the other four were put into circulation by the artist.
They were originally expected to be worth £50,000 each, but the most they have ever sold is £5,000 at a charity auction.
So far, three of the four have been found, which means one is still missing and it could be in your piggy bank, wallet, or the back of the couch.
£5 AK47 note – up to £650
Typically, £5 notes with an AK47 serial number sell for around £100, but one lucky eBay seller managed to snag £650 in May this year.
AK47 banknotes of any denomination tend to be more valuable due to connections to the famous machine guns.
Beware of online sales notes, in 2016 we reported how Gareth Wright sold his AK47 Fiver for £80,000 online, just so the buyer wouldn’t cough up the money.
£5 note with serial number 888888 – up to £150
Another thing to watch out for are notes with recurring numbers in the series.
For example, earlier this year a rare £5 note with a serial number of six eights was sold on eBay for £149.02.
This equates to nearly 30 times the face value of the note. It was put on eBay with a starting price of £5 and received 19 bids in total.
Recurring serial numbers £20 note – up to £255.02
While 888888 is the most popular recurring serial number, it’s always worth looking for notes with other recurring numbers.
For example, this £20 was sold for £255.02 in April this year because it had the serial number 666666.
This is true for all notes, whether £5, £10, £20 or £50.
The Dangers of Selling Your Parts on eBay
The most valuable coins are usually the ones with a low number of mintages or those with an error.
These are often considered the most valuable by collectors.
Once you find out if the coin is real or not, you have a number of options – either sell it through a coin dealer, at auction or on eBay.
Sell it at auction
If you have a coin you wish to auction you can contact a member of the British Numismatic Trade Association.
They usually sell very old pieces, but they can help you assess whether your piece is worth selling at auction or if it would be valuable to a collector.
Sell it on eBay
If you want to sell the part you found in your spare change on eBay, you need to know the risks.
Don’t forget to set a minimum price higher than or at least equal to the coin’s face value.
Even if your part “sells” on eBay for a high price, there is no guarantee that the buyer will cough up.
In its terms and conditions, the auction website states that bidders enter into a “legally binding contract to purchase an item”, but there is no way to enforce this rule in reality.
All eBay can do is add a note to the buyer’s account about the unpaid item or remove their ability to bid and buy.
Indeed, to register on the website, users do not need to provide valid bank or PayPal information before placing an offer.
If a bidder refuses to pay, the only option for sellers is to make “second chance offers” to other bidders or relist the item.
For high value items, eBay recommends that sellers limit their listing to approve bidders.
This means bidders must email you before placing a bid, but NOT pay the money if they win.
Low Serial Numbers £10 – up to £89
Low serial number tickets are usually highly sought after and usually sell for around twice their value.
Generally, with a £5 note you tend to get the best return, with a serial number AA01 usually selling for £12.50.
Most £10 notes tend to sell for just under £20 each, but in June this year a mint condition version from one seller sold for a mere £89, nearly nine times its face value.
In June, someone sold a £20 AA01 for £48.25, more than double what it’s worth if you spend it in the shops.
A listing for an AA01 version of the new £50 note currently has a maximum bid of £57 with three days remaining on the auction, so keep an eye out if you receive a new note this week.
£5 James Bond Note – Up To £50
Just like the popular AK47 numbers, James Bond’s 007 can increase the value of any banknote.
Because 007 occurs quite often, collectors will generally only pay much more than face value if the note also has a low serial number and is in mint condition.
For example, in April this year, a seller managed to secure £50 for a £5 note containing 007 and produced the first year the notes were available.
Misprint £5 – up to £24
Be careful of printing errors, especially on older notes, as they can make them more valuable.
For example, in March this year someone sold a £5 note for £24 because the image of the Queen in the watermark was in the wrong place.
The note wasn’t even in perfect condition, suggesting it might have cost more.
Old Notes Fishtail Mistakes – up to £116
Older notes sometimes had manufacturing errors where an extra piece of paper was still attached in one corner.
Collectors often call this a “fishtail error” and it can add value to your grades.
For example, an old £1 note from 1967 sold for £116, thanks to its fishtail.
A new £50 plastic note featuring Alan Turing went into circulation today.
When a release date was announced, the ghosts of GCHQ released their toughest puzzle to honor the former codebreaker.
The number of people paying in cash fell sharply during the coronavirus pandemic after several stores encouraged contactless payments instead.