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10 Sep 2019

What to do if you find an old £5 or £10 note

Over 200 million paper £5 and £10 notes still haven't been cashed in

More than a year after they ceased to be legal tender, there are still £1.5bn-worth of paper £5 and £10 notes that haven't been cashed in.

The Bank of England says 94 million paper tenners and 118 million paper fivers haven't been handed in, even though they can still be exchanged at face value.

Here we look at what you can do if you find an old paper note in your home, and the rare notes that could be worth hanging onto.

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How to cash in paper notes

The Bank of England will honour every banknote it has ever issued, no matter how long ago it stopped being legal tender.

This means you will always be able to exchange withdrawn banknotes for their equivalent value in pounds.

Paper £10 notes - which feature a portrait of Charles Darwin - went out of circulation in March 2018. Paper £5 notes featuring Elizabeth Fry were withdrawn almost a year earlier in May 2017.

If you still have any hanging around, these are the ways you can turn them into money you can actually spend.

Take them to your bank

While the Bank of England will honour withdrawn currency forever, high street bank branches don't have the same responsibility. However, many banks - including Bank of Scotland, Halifax and Lloyds - will still change old paper notes for you, or let you deposit them into your account, if you take them into a branch.

Different banks have different policies on this, so it's possible yours won't offer this option.

Take them to the Post Office

If your bank won't take paper notes, or if you don't live near a branch, you can hand them in at the Post Office.

The Post Office has an agreement with all high street banks in the UK, allowing anyone to deposit cheques, coins, and notes - even withdrawn notes and old 'round pounds' - straight into their usual bank account.

Here's the full list of banks the Post Office has this agreement with:

  • Allied Irish Bank (GB)
  • Cashplus
  • Bank of Ireland
  • Bank of Scotland
  • Barclays
  • CAF
  • Cahoot
  • Cashplus
  • Clydesdale
  • Danske Bank
  • First Direct
  • First Trust Bank
  • Halifax
  • Handelsbanken
  • HSBC
  • Lloyds Bank
  • Metro Bank
  • NatWest
  • Santander
  • smile
  • Starling Bank
  • The Co-operative Bank
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland
  • Thinkmoney
  • TSB Bank
  • Ulster Bank
  • Virgin Money
  • Yorkshire Bank

Read more about banking via the Post Office.

Exchange them at the Bank of England

The Bank of England's counter in Threadneedle Street, London is open Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm. You can hand in your old banknotes here, and you'll either be paid with new notes or via bank transfer. It usually takes 10 working days for the money to reach your account.

You might need to provide photo ID and proof of address, and fill in a form while you're there.

Send them to the Bank of England in the mail

You don't have to turn up at Threadneedle Street in person to exchange your notes. You can also send them by post.

To do this, you'll need to print and complete a form from the Bank of England's website and include a scan of your photo ID and proof of address.

If you're sending less than £50, the Bank can send you new notes in exchange. Otherwise, the money will be deposited into your chosen bank account.

Do you have a rare paper banknote?

However you choose to do it, every withdrawn banknote can still be exchanged at face value.

Some of them, however, might fetch you more if they're valuable to collectors. So it's worth checking your old notes for the following things before you trade them in.

Unique serial numbers

A note's serial number, printed to the right of the Queen's head, is typically what separates a rare note from a common one.

Collectors generally seek out notes with low serial numbers - starting with AA01 - as these are the earliest of their kind to be printed. Notes with special sequences, such as 888888, can also be collectible.

One collector who spoke to Which? had found notes with a serial number starting AK47, which many consider desirable.

Misprints and errors

Misprinted notes are extremely rare, as the Bank of England hardly ever makes printing errors.

Richard Beale, a valuer at the Warwick & Warwick specialist auction house, told Which? a note missing the chief cashier's signature could be worth £100 to £150 more than face value.

Engraved notes

After the 2018 Fifa World Cup, artist Graham Short engraved six £5 notes with a tiny image of England captain Harry Kane's face, and spent them at locations around the UK.

The same artist also engraved 5mm portraits of Jane Austen on four £5 notes that he spent in December 2016.

Mr Short has previously sold artwork for £100,000, so many expect these banknotes to be worth thousands for whoever finds them.

Hear more about collecting rare currency with The Which Money Podcast's investigation into the dark side of rare coin investment: