If you’ve looked on eBay recently, or if you’ve delved into Facebook’s new Marketplace, you could be forgiven for thinking the entire world has gone bonkers.
The Bank of England’s new polymer five pound note has turned into a huge collecting craze - with some people prepared to bid tens of thousands for rare serial numbers.
Facebook’s marketplace is filled with fivers on sale for four or five times their face value, and eBay is filled with notes being auctioned for up to £249,000.
Some of these are clearly jokes, of course: wags have been selling ‘upside down’ five pound notes, and had bids in the tens of thousands. Coin collector site Change Checker says the frenzy is due to the fact that collectors want to get their hands on the notes while they’re still in pristine condition.
Doron Cohen, CEO of business payments service Covercy, said, ‘“People love collecting what they believe will be historic items and it is effect a bet on what will gain huge monetary value as the years go by.
‘However, a key consideration is when the time is right to actually sell something, for example the first ever $1 coin from 1794 was sold in 2013 for $10 million, yet I doubt those who got their hands on the new fiver will wait as long to sell their prized notes.’
But could you be sitting on a fortune in your back pocket? Here’s how to tell - and how to avoid paying out extra for a five pound note that is only worth a mere five pounds.
AA01 notes are definitely worth money
If you’ve got a five pound note from the first batch - with a serial code beginning AA01 - it’s definitely worth far more than five pounds, so don’t spend it in Sainsbury’s.
AA01 notes often change hands for up to 40 times their face value on eBay - and are sometimes listed for even more
Currency collector site Change Checker says, ‘There are 999,999 new fivers with the AA01 prefix. 440million of the notes have been printed.’
Look for low serial numbers
Don’t expect to lay your hands on the very first AA01 notes - the first one has been given to the Queen.
But low serial numbers are worth hanging on to, as these have sold for thousands - including one at a Bank of England auction for £4,150.
Notes in sequence
If you’ve got notes where the serial numbers are in sequence, you could be sitting on a goldmine.
Currency collectors prize sequential series of notes, according to eBay.
Alan Scrase, 52, was given three consecutive AA01 notes by his bank - and sold them for £460.
Avid currency collector Scrase said, ‘You just go in your bank and ask for them. I got a few. I am surprised how much they have gone for.
‘Any collector wants the first issue but they seem to have gone up in value very quickly.’
These have attracted bids of over £100,000 on eBay - but it’s not clear whether any have actually sold at this price.
They are worth money, though - people have paid up to £100 each for AK47 notes, and there are multiple live auctions where notes are selling for several times their face value.
Even AK46 and AK37 notes have sold for far more than their face value.
Gail Meikle from the Wirral sold a note with a slight misprint for £1,700 earlier this week - saying she had received the note, with a slight printing error below the Queen’s head, from a taxi driver.
Meikle said, ‘‘It’s absoutely mad, there must be thousands out there with a misprint.
EBay says that such errors are valuable to collectors, saying, ‘Printing errors add to the value of bank notes. Errors may include notes without all the colours, with ink blurs or running ink, or with missing serial numbers. A noteworthy printing error occurred in 2002, when printed serial numbers rubbed off new British five pound notes.’
Other AA notes
But even if your note doesn’t say AA01, other low, or unique, serial numbers could still be worth money - with other AA notes having sold for £20 or more.
If it sounds memorable, and you’re lucky, you could be quids in - with people having bid on AA11 notes, and even AB and AC notes.
Reporting by Rob Waugh