Everything you need to know about Polymer Banknote Serial Numbers

The new King Charles III banknotes entered circulation on 5th June 2024, and whilst the reverse designs remain unchanged, this is the first time we’ve ever seen a King feature on UK banknotes – as they were introduced well into Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

King Charles III £10 banknotes
The new King Charles III banknotes will enter circulation on 5th June 2024
Image credit: Bank of England

It’s not that long ago, however since we last saw a major change in our banknotes, with the introduction of the first polymer banknotes in 2016. The polymer notes were issued to replace paper banknotes with a cleaner, safer and stronger alternative, and by 2022, all banknote denominations had been replaced with a new polymer version and the older paper notes were withdrawn from circulation.

£5, £10, £20 and £50 Polymer Banknotes
£5, £10, £20 and £50 Polymer Banknotes
Image Credit: Bank of England

The new polymer notes caused quite a stir, with collectors rushing to secure the notes with the lowest serial number. But what happened to the very first notes of each denomination?

£5 Polymer Banknotes

Whilst collectors were on the hunt for polymer £5 banknotes with low serial numbers when they first entered circulation in 2016, the very first ones never actually made it into circulation.

The Bank of England always hold back some of the notes with the earliest serial numbers, donating them to people or institutions that were involved in the development of the note, or who traditionally receive a note when a new series is issued.

Serial number Recipient 
AA01 000001 – Her Majesty The Queen 
AA01 000002 – Prince Phillip 
AA01 000003 – Prime Minister 
AA01 000004 – Chancellor of the Exchequer 
AA01 000005 – The Governor (for the Bank) 
AA01 000006 – Deputy Governor (responsible for Notes) 
AA01 000007 – The Chief Cashier 
AA01 000008 – Bank of England Museum 
AA01 000009 – British Museum 
AA01 000010 – Churchill family 
AA01 000011 – Permanent Secretary of the Treasury 
AA01 000012 – Chair of the Bank’s Court 
AA01 000013 – Chris Salmon (former Chief Cashier) 
AA01 000014 – De La Rue 
AA01 000015 – Innovia 
AA01 000016 – Royal Mint 
AA01 001704 – Blenheim Palace 
AA01 001874 – Lord King (former Governor) 
AA01 001910 – The Home Secretary 
AA01 001924 – The Chair of the Treasury Select Committee 
AA01 001929 – George Osborne (former Chancellor of the Exchequer) 
AA01 001940 – The Governor 
AA01 001941 – The US Ambassador to the UK 
AA01 001942 – The Foreign Secretary 
AA01 001945 – Churchill War Rooms 
AA01 001951 – David Cameron (former Prime Minister) 
AA01 001960 – Churchill Archive, Churchill College Cambridge 
AA01 001965 – Chartwell 
AA01 002016 – Andrew Bailey (former Chief Cashier) 

Polymer £5 banknote
Image Credit: Bank of England

The Bank of England also conducted an auction of low serial numbered £5 notes on 3 October 2016, which raised £194,500 to be split between three charities – The Myotubular Trust, The Lily Foundation and Bliss. 

The lowest polymer £5 note with the serial number AA01 000017 sold for £4,150!

It’s also worth looking out for banknotes with serial numbers that could be considered collectable, such as AK47 due to the machine gun connotations, and 007 which could be desirable to James Bond fans.

£10 Polymer Banknotes

The UK’s first polymer £10 note, featuring Jane Austen on the reverse, entered circulation on 14th September 2017, and, similarly to the £5 note, the first ones printed were donated.

In October 2017 some of the first Jane Austen Polymer £10 notes were auctioned and raised a staggering £260,900 for charities Candelighters, Haven House Children’s Hospice and Macmillan Cancer support.

The £10 note with the lowest serial number AA01 000010 sold for an incredible £7,200.

The polymer £10 note with the serial number AA01 000010 sold for a staggering £7,200

Other notes that fetched hefty sums were AA01 000011 and AA01 000014, selling for £5,200 and £3,500 respectively.

£20 Polymer Banknotes

Issued in 2020, the £20 was the third polymer banknote denomination to enter circulation.

Did you know? The letters at the beginning of a banknote’s serial number indicate its position on the sheet on which it’s printed. The 6 numbers that follow the letters refer to the number on the sheet the note is printed on.

With the £20 note being larger than the £5 and £10 notes, less notes were printed per sheet, however there were still an incredible 59,940,000 notes with an serial number starting AA!

Polymer £20 Banknote sheet
Polymer £20 Banknote sheet
Image Credit: Bank of England

As the polymer £20 note featured JMW Turner on the reverse, some serial numbers matching key dates relating to the painter the became highly collectible.

For example, 23 041775 represents Turner’s date of birth, whilst 19 121851 relates to his death and 17 751851 would be his birth and death combined.

True Turner fans might also look for 18 381839 representing the date he painted ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ (which featured on the new £20 note) and the date the painting was exhibited at the Royal Academy respectively.

£50 Polymer Banknotes

On the day that would have been Alan Turing’s 109th birthday (23rd June 2021), The Bank of England issued their final banknote in the polymer series, celebrating the famous scientist and mathematician.

The Polymer £50 note features famous scientist and mathematician, Alan Turing
Image Credit: Bank of England

As is tradition, Queen Elizabeth II received the very first polymer £50 note printed with the serial number AA01 000001, however AA01 000010 was donated to the Turing family in honour of Alan Turing featuring on the reverse of the £50 note.

Again, certain serial numbers matching key dates relating to Alan Turing became collectable, such as 23 061912 which represents Turing’s date of birth, 07 061954 which relates to his death and 09 071941 which represents the date that the enigma code was cracked by Turing and his team at Bletchley Park during WW2.

Safely store your banknote collection

With the release of these new banknotes, now’s the perfect time to start your banknote collection, by owning the Change Checker Polymer Banknote Collecting Pack – with space to securely house all four of England’s polymer banknotes!

Secure yours for just £9.99 (+p&p) >>


  1. Brett lorence on May 23, 2024 at 10:37 am

    I collected one of each AA 01 through to AA 60 in £5 notes took me quite a while to find an AA 56 and an AA 28 that I really wanted as my birthday is April 28th , guessing the collection is only worth face value though .

  2. Paul Gibson on May 22, 2024 at 2:04 pm

    How can I get the new King Charles bank notes

    • Kate on May 23, 2024 at 9:37 am

      Hi Paul, you’ll be able to find them in circulation from 5th June, but you could speak to your bank before then and see if they can order some in and reserve one for you.
      I hope that helps, Kate

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