The UK banknotes have gone through some big changes since they were first introduced but do you know the story behind them?

In this blog, we guide you through the history of UK banknotes as we take a look at just how far they’ve come…

7th Century – China

The first recorded use of ‘paper’ money was in China back in the seventh century! However, it was until over a thousand years later that paper money made its way to Europe.

16th Century – Goldsmith-Bankers

In the 16th century, the goldsmith-bankers would issue receipts for cash, known as ‘running cash notes’. They were made out in the name of the depositor and also carried the words, ‘or bearer’, after the name of the depositor.

This similar phrase still appears on British banknotes today: “I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of…”

1694 – Bank of England

When the Bank of England was established in 1694 to raise money for King William III’s war effort, they issued notes in exchange for deposits. These were the first recorded bank notes to feature a cashier’s signature!

18th Century – Fixed Denominations

The issuing of fixed denomination notes first started in the 18th century. Notes were printed with the pound sign and the first digit included, but any following digits were then added by hand!

By 1745, notes were issued in denominations ranging from £20 to £1,000 but it wasn’t until 1759, as a result of gold shortages caused by the seven years of war, that a £10 note was issued.

The £5 note followed in 1793 at the start of the war against Revolutionary France and by 1797 the £1 and £2 notes were issued.

1853- Fully Printed

In 1853, the first fully printed banknotes were introduced, meaning hand-written denominations on notes were phased out.

Early 20th Century – 10 Shilling Note

During the First World War, the link between notes and gold was broken. The government needed to preserve bullion stocks and so the Bank stopped paying out gold for its notes.

In 1914 the Treasury printed and issued 10 shilling and £1 notes and in 1931, Britain left the gold standard.

Late 20th Century – Feature of Historical Figures

The late 20th century saw the first introduction of historical figures on the designs of UK banknotes. Since 1970, we’ve seen figures including scientist Isaac Newton, composer Edward Elgar and nurse Florence Nightingale featured on our banknotes.

21st Century – Polymer notes and BAME figures

In the 21st century we have seen the introduction of the polymer £5, £10 and £20 banknote, as a cleaner, safer and stronger alternative to the paper notes.

These notes have become incredibly popular with collectors, with some polymer £20 notes fetching far over their face value on the secondary market!

However, a lack of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) figures being recognised on legal tender led to campaigning for greater inclusivity in 2020.

These campaigns come after Chancellor Rishi Sunak stated he was considering proposals from a campaign group. He has since asked the Royal Mint to come up withnew designs honouring BAME figures who have served the nation – such as military figures and nurses.

Whilst details of these figures and designs remain under consideration, we look forward to hearing more as the story unfolds.


Did you know how far back in history our banknotes date? Let us know in the comments below!


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We’re excited to present your latest eBay Tracker and Valuation Index for the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes!

The secondary market can be a bit of a minefield, but if you’ve found a rare coin or banknote and want to work out how much it might be worth, we’ve done the hard work for you…

eBay Tracker

Find out which coins and notes have been the key movers and shakers in the updated eBay Tracker below.

The most notable increase from the last update goes (unsurprisingly) to the Kew Gardens 50p, which has increased in price on the secondary market by £5 and is currently selling for around £102 on eBay – more than 200 times its face value!

Whilst many collectors were concerned that the 2019 Brilliant Uncirculated re-issue of this 2009 coin would make it less collectable, it seems that in fact the opposite has happened and the reinvigorated hype surrounding the UK’s rarest 50p in circulation has led to an increase in demand for the coin, meaning collectors are willing to pay more to get their hands on one.

2009 Kew Gardens 50p

Other increases to mention are the AA01 serial number polymer banknotes, as both the £5 and £10 notes have increased by £2 since the last update, which is a 20% increase on January’s figures for the £5 and 11% for the £10 note.

Overall there has been a decrease in value for the Top 10 coins and banknotes and this is mostly due to the 2018 Sir Isaac Newton 50p, which has dropped by 32% on January’s figures and is currently selling for £40.50.

This coin was issued as a ‘Strike Your Own Coin’ from The Royal Mint Experience in 2018 and due to the short time frame it was available for, the number of coins struck could be really low, meaning it may well be very rare.

However the mintage figures for this coin haven’t been revealed by The Royal Mint yet, so we don’t know exactly how many were struck. When the official figures are released we could well see this coin increase in value on the secondary market.

Valuation Index

My coin isn’t on the eBay Tracker

The eBay Tracker follows the movements of the Top 10 UK coins and banknotes, however if your coin doesn’t appear on the tracker you can use our 6 point guide to help determine realistic a value for your coin.

So now that you’re up to date with our latest eBay Tracker, will you be selling any of the coins in your collection or will you continue to save them? Let us know in the comments below.

How does the eBay Tracker work?

The Change Checker eBay Tracker takes the last 9 sold prices achieved on eBay and gives the median price achieved (rounded to the nearest 50p). By taking the median, rather than an average, we avoid skewing created by one or two excessive prices achieved.

Please note that the Change Checker eBay Tracker is only ever designed to be a guide as to prices achieved on eBay. Prices may vary depending on collector demand and the quality of the coin being sold. It does not provide any guarantee as to future values of coins.


If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:

– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers

January 2019 eBay Tracker Update

Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app