How much is my polymer banknote really worth?
In 2016, the Bank Of England issued their first ever polymer banknotes to replace the paper £5 note with a cleaner, safer and stronger alternative.
Collecting banknotes is a serious hobby that many thousands of people all over the world enjoy, and so it’s no surprise that when these new notes were released, collectors were eager to start building their collection.
With so many stories in the press and listings on eBay claiming certain notes were worth way over face value, it’s easy to see how the nation got swept away with the idea of their new polymer banknote being worth thousands of pounds.
So now, three years on, and with the release of a second polymer note, as well as plans for the new polymer £20 and £50 notes, how much are your polymer banknotes really worth?
‘Rare’ polymer banknotes
In the early days following the release of the new notes, I’m willing to bet that every single person in the country checked theirs at some point to see if they were lucky enough to find one with the prefix AA01.
The annual Bank Of England charity auction held at Spink and Son Ltd in London auctioned off a polymer £5 note with the serial number AA01 000017 for £4,150, however the following year, a Jane Austen Polymer £10 note with the serial number AA01 000010 sold for a staggering £7,200 – over double the guide price!
Whilst these first run banknotes may be desirable to some collectors, we must remember that 1 million AA01 banknotes were actually printed for each denomination.
They aren’t likely to fetch much more than face value, and our latest eBay Tracker suggests that prices for AA01 banknotes are actually going down, with the previous figure for AA01 £5 notes dropping by £4.50 to £10.
The story is much the same with AA01 £10 notes, which were initially selling on eBay for between £40 and £70, but have now dropped considerably – from £18 last June to £15 in January 2019 (as taken from our eBay Tracker).
Considered collectable due to the machine gun connotations, polymer notes with the prefix AK47 were thought to be worth tens of thousands of pounds following the new £5 release in 2016.
This idea emerged after a £5 banknote with the prefix AK47 fetched a winning bid of £80,100 on eBay. Whilst the seller must have been overjoyed with the jackpot amount, it actually turned out the buyer had no intention of paying up.
As exciting as a novelty serial number may be, there’s no way we could imagine paying anywhere near £80,000 for it! Could you?
A quick look at the most recent eBay sold prices for this serial number now show that people are willing to spend around £7.50 to get their hands on this note now, which we think is far more reasonable!
Whilst the same excitement picked up again following the polymer £10 launch in 2017, with some collectors paying between £20 and £40 for an AK47 £10 note, prices have again come down to a much more reasonable level, with AK47 £10 banknotes selling for around £15 on eBay now.
James Bond theme
Another novelty serial number collectors were searching for was the 007 James Bond theme.
This banknote, described as an “AK37 007 James Bond Bank of England Polymer £5 note” in a lovely condition, sold for £5,000 back in 2016.
Although there must be plenty of James Bond fanatics out there, we can think of so many other items of James Bond memorabilia that fans could spend £5,000 on!
Whilst some chancers are still listing notes with 007 in the serial number for exaggerated prices on eBay, the sold listings reflect the fact that buyers just aren’t interested now that the hype has faded, with very few sold listings of the 007 £5 note and none of the 007 £10 note.
Key Jane Austen dates
In 2017, a polymer £10 note with serial number AH17 75 (the year of Jane Austen’s birth) sold on eBay for a whopping £3,600 – 360 times face value!
Key serial numbers collectors would be interested in include 16 121775 and 18 071817 which would represent the author’s date of birth and death respectively. Serial number 17 751817 would be her birth and death year combined.
Considering all the possible prefix variations that could accompany these serial numbers, there would be just 676 notes issued for each of the key dates mentioned above, from prefix AA through to ZZ.
Whilst these might become more popular with collectors in future, the initial excitement has now died down, with hardly any genuine Jane Austen birth or death date banknotes listed for sale on eBay anymore.
Jane Austen micro-engraving
In December 2016, specialist micro-engraver Graham Short came up with the idea of engraving a 5mm portrait of Jane Austen on the transparent part of the new plastic £5 notes.
He included a different quote around each one, ensuring that each note was unique.
According to Gallery owner Mr Huggins-Haig, artist Graham Short’s work has an insurance valuation of £50,000!
The first of four notes featuring art by specialist micro-engraver Graham Short was found in a cafe in South Wales, whilst another was found inside a Christmas card in Scotland. The third £5 note was found by a mystery old lady in Eniskillen in Northern Ireland who donated it to charity.
So that means there is just one more rare £5 note left to find with the handiwork of Birmingham micro-artist Graham Short…
For those of you hunting down the last remaining fiver, the serial number to look out for is AM 32 885554.
Harry Kane micro-engraving
As football fever hit the nation in the summer of 2018, Graham Short was at it once again, creating six unique £5 notes, each engraved with a tiny portrait of footballer Harry Kane with the inscription ‘World Cup Golden Boot Winner 2018’.
Two of the notes were given away – one to Harry Kane himself and the other to the FA – but the remaining four notes were distributed around the county and each note is insured for £50,000, so anyone lucky enough to get their hands on one can expect that sum if they auction off the fiver!
As of yet, we haven’t heard of these notes being found, so keep checking your £5 notes for the portrait of Harry Kane and look out for these serial numbers:
Serious Collectors: What to look for…
Generally, collecting banknotes is not about the serial number it possesses, but instead the chief cashier is of most interest, particularly on UK banknotes.
This is where real rarities can be found – in the form of Chief Cashier signatures.
Banknote designs rarely change but on average cashiers change every 5 or 6 years with some in the position for as little as 3 years.
So if you are genuinely interested in collecting banknotes, the chief cashier is what you should really be looking for.
What about the £20 and £50 polymer notes?
The Bank Of England will be issuing a new polymer £20 note featuring
artist JMW Turner in 2020 and also plan to issue a £50 polymer note after this.
The £50 will feature someone who has contributed to science and the chosen person will be announced in summer 2019.
Are you a banknote collector and if so, which notes do you have in your collection? Let us know in the comments below!
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I have a polymer £10 that has 2 grey lines around the clear section on the hologram on the front and back, this is obviously a print error, how much could it be worth?
Hi Nick, unfortunately we can’t say how much the note would be worth, as this is down to a number of variants and ultimately depends on how much a collector would be willing to pay to add the note to their collection. If you believe you’ve found a print error, your best bet would be to contact the Bank of England to have this verified. Best of luck!
AA-AE, AH, AJ-AM and BA were originally released for Polymer £5 notes I believe. Have picked up two BB from early this year.
Was the northern bank the first to issue a plastic £5 note in 1999 to mark the new millennium and how much is it selling for.
Hi Gary, that is correct. The sold listings on ebay show that people are currently paying over face value for the note, especially if it is in uncirculated quality.
Is the George Best fiver of any value?
Hi Brian, if you check the sold listings on eBay you can see a few of the George Best £5 notes in wallets are currently selling over face value. Ultimately it will come down to how much an individual collector is willing to pay though.
I have a number of £5 and £10 notes in brand new condition with sequential numbering with up to 10 numbers. These were straight out of an ATM when they were first issued and I noticed the sequences. Are they worth anything more than face value? Are they likely to increase in value with time? I’m not sure whether to sell them now or keep them for my grandchildren.
Hi Peter, some collectors may be interested in sequential notes, but ultimately it’s all down to how much an individual would be willing to pay. Looking at similar sold listings, there doesn’t appear to be much demand at the moment, but demand is highest for consecutive AA01 notes.
I have a polymer£5 note,serial no.AAO1 016171 immaculate condition not been circulated since I got it from a bank back in 2016,how much is it worth?
Hi Kevin, I bet you were very happy when you got your hands on that one! If you check the sold listings on eBay for AA01 £5 banknotes you will see that they do sell for above face value, but ultimately it will depend on how much an individual buyer is willing to pay to add that note to their collection.
Great article – technically Sarah John is the current Chief Cashier having took up post and replaced Victoria Cleland last year, but no notes have been issued with her signature yet (the Banks’ own website states her first notes will be the polymer £20 next year) – it will be interesting to see how long before we see her signature on the other values. I collect Bank of England notes by type but in some ways the notes from Scotland/NI/Channel Islands/IOM are more challenging due to more frequent signature or job title changes (eg Ross McEwan, signatory on the Royal Bank of Scotland notes, has just stepped down), there are also commemorative issues, and importantly many have a date (B of E notes only have the copyright date included). Banknote collecting does offer the collector much to research.
That’s really interesting Jim. Lots to look forward to with the new £20 note! Great to hear about your collection and like you say, there really is a lot to it!
I’ve got a set of polymer £5 notes ( 600 ) Only done the A’s, never done B’s.
As a newsagent of 40yrs my collection of notes and coins is rather large sometime i’ll get around to sending a few pictures I do have a number of the Northern Bank polymer notes Some dated October 1999 and January 2000 as well as special editions of Scottish Notes…..
Sounds like you’ve got a good collection going Eugene!
Have the polymer £5 notes been issued from AA to AZ as I have only seen them as far as AM so far. Thanks Gary.
Hi Gary, I’ve tried to research this for you, but haven’t found a definitive answer for how many cyphers (first bit of the serial number) have been used for the polymer £5 so far. The Bank of England explains that ‘there are 60 banknotes on each sheet of notes printed, the first run was printed on a sheet with cyphers going from AA01 to AA60. There are just under one million serial numbers printed for each cypher – from 000001 to 999000. Therefore, there will be just under 60 million notes beginning with AA, before the cypher changes to AB.’ It will be dependant on demand how many cyphers have been used so far, but at 60 million notes per cypher, I can imagine it will take a while to get through to AZ.
I would like the new £20 bank note because I’m always collect the old £20 bank notes when every time I got my money out of my bank account savings card on a Monday’s and a Friday’s.