The Bank of England has revealed there are still almost 250 million paper £5 and £10 notes that haven’t been returned since they stopped being legal tender. So what can you do if you’ve got one?
The Bank confirmed we are holding onto 124 million old paper £5 notes worth around £620m and 122 million paper £10 notes worth around £1.22bn.
In total that means we’ve got almost 250 million notes worth £1.84bn that legally shops don’t have to accept when you try to use them.
But if you discover any old notes, don’t throw them out, as you can still cash them in. Or you may even have a rare note that could be worth more than face value. Here’s what you need to know.
The old notes to look out for
The Elizabeth Fry £5 note was withdrawn in May 2017, while the Charles Darwin note was pulled in March this year, meaning these are the most common defunct notes you’re likely to find.
Source: Bank of England
But you might also come across earlier paper versions of these and other denominations. You can see all the withdrawn banknotes on the Bank of England website.
Both the £5 and £10 note have been released by polymer versions. The new £5 note, featuring Sir Winston Churchill, entered circulation on 13 September 2016, while the new £10 note featuring Jane Austen became legal tender on 14 September 2017.
These are the only versions of these denominations that shops are legally obliged to accept.
Currently, there are 269m polymer £5 notes and 777m polymer £10 notes in circulation.
- Find out more: over 169m ’round pounds’ still in circulation
What to do if you have an old paper note
If you have an old paper note, you can’t use them to make payments anymore. But you can return them to the Bank of England, which will honour every bank note it’s ever issued, even if it’s damaged.
You can do this in person by going to the Bank of England’s headquarters on Threadneedle Street in London, where the counter is open Monday to Friday from 9am to 4pm.
You’ll need to provide two original forms of ID – including a photo ID and a proof of address – to swap your notes for a polymer version.
Alternatively, to avoid the queues that can sometimes be up to an hour, you can post in your old notes along with copies of one photo ID and one proof of address to Department NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London, EC2R 8AH.
The value will be deposited into your bank account (within 10 working days), or you can opt to have a cheque posted. If the swap is less than £50, you may be sent new banknotes.
Full details on how to exchange old banknotes can be found on the Bank of England website.
Some banks including Bank of Scotland, Barclays, Halifax, HSBC, Lloyds, NatWest, Royal Bank of Scotland and Ulster Bank will allow customers to deposit old paper notes.
However, if you’re not a customer or don’t have a branch nearby, the Post Office will allow customers of a bigger range of banks and building societies to deposit notes into their current account, including:
- Allied Irish Bank (GB)
- Bank of Ireland
- Bank of Scotland
- Clydesdale Bank
- Co-op Bank
- Danske Bank
- First Direct
- First Trust Bank
- Lloyds Bank
- Metro Bank
- Royal Bank of Scotland
- Think Money
- Ulster Bank
- Virgin Money
- Yorkshire Bank
Why are we keeping old paper notes?
The Bank of England says the number of unreturned paper tenners is roughly in-line with its expectations 18 months after the withdrawal of its legal tender status.
However, the number of unreturned paper fivers is higher than anticipated.
This may be because the £5 note is a lower denomination so will be more likely to be lost or damaged over the years or kept as souvenirs.
How to spot a rare £5 or £10 note
Before cashing in a paper note, it’s worth checking if it’s rare before cashing it in as it could be more worth much more than its face value to collectors.
Here are some tips to check if you old paper note could be valuable.
- Find out more: how to spot a valuable note
See how old it is
You can look up banknotes on the Bank of England website to determine when it was last issued.
Withdrawn notes are collected and destroyed, while a large number are simply lost – so the older a note, the more scarce (and possibly valuable) it’s likely to be.
Check the serial number
Typically a note’s serial number (printed on the right-hand side of the Queen’s head) is what will determine how rare it is.
Collectors are often keen to get their hands on the first note in a series or notes with significant serial numbers.
The first batch of notes printed in a series will begin with AA01 followed by six digits, and those with low number below 200 are most in demand.
Some collectors may also pay above the odds for special sequences of numbers like 888888.
Assess the condition
If your note has a sought-after serial number, it’ll be worth more if it’s in ‘mint condition’.
This means the note must look as good as new with no creases, fading or spots.
Look for printing errors
The Bank of England rarely makes printing errors so when a misprint occurs it can boost the value of the affected notes.
Richard Beale, a valuer at specialist auction house Warwick & Warwick told Which? a missing chief cashier signature can bump up the value of your note to £100 or £150 while those missing the Queen’s head can go for £200.
What to do if you have a rare £5 or £10 note
If you think you’ve got a paper note that could be valuable you could try selling it online through an auction website like Ebay.
Alternatively, you could take it to a traditional auction house to sell it, just watch out for the commission fees.