Are there valuable rare banknotes in your wallet?

Image of a bunch of notes
Terry was sure he could spot a rare serial number in there somewhere
"If your note does turn out to be valuable, then you should also bear it in mind next time you’re totting up your valuable items when renewing your home insurance"
  • | by Kristian Dando

You’re doubtless familiar with the fascinating world of rare coins, but did you know that banknotes are also a prized item for collectors?

Indeed, early runs of the spanking-new fivers are going for nearly 40 times their ‘street value’ on ebay.

So do you have one in your wallet?

How do I spot a rare note?

Image of a new fiver

Unfortunately, rare fivers are pretty difficult to identify.

There’s no moustaches on the Queen, or upside-down Winston Churchill to look for.

Rather, it’s a serial number.

The most sought-after new fivers bear the suffix AA01, so if you have one bearing that you might be quids in.

Other valuable notes tend to be early runs in good condition.

They also usually – but not always – come bearing a similar serial number to the new fivers.

Rare notes also tend to be ones with missing or erroneous serial numbers, or slight manufacturing faults such as discolouration.

But rigorous measures where the notes are made mean that these errors are usually spotted and rectified early, making notes such as these incredibly rare…

Noteworthy notes from further afield

Image of a person looking at banknotes

While these notes change hands for big sums compared to their actual value, it's small change compared to the most expensive paper money ever sold.

Prized American banknotes from the 19th century represent the top three most expensive examples ever sold at auction.

Image of the grand watermelon banknote

Image: Wikipedia commons

A super-rare ‘grand watermelon’ $1,000 bill (above) sold for $3.2m in Orlando in 2014, making it the world’s most expensive banknote.

Curiously, the most expensive British note ever sold went for far below its ‘actual’ value.

A £1m banknote printed in 1948 as part of the Marshall Plan (America’s massive investment in rebuilding western Europe after the Second World War) sold for just shy of £70,000 in 2011.

What should I do with a rare banknote?

Image of a lockbox

If you think you’ve spotted a rare example of a banknote in your wallet, then remove it and put it somewhere safe.

Then, it’s wise to get the note correctly valued by an expert to find out what it’s really worth.

If it’s of particular value, then you could choose to keep it somewhere safe, dark and damp-free to prevent deterioration, which will devalue it.

If your note does turn out to be valuable, then you should also bear it in mind next time you’re totting up your valuable items when renewing your home insurance.

In the unlikely event of uncovering something super-rare and valuable, you might even want to consider adding it to your policy as a specifically named high-value item to protect the worth of your find.

Alternatively, you could just flog it and treat yourself with the spoils…

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