Do you have a new plastic fiver stashed in your wallet? The smaller, polymer notes, which feature Sir Winston Churchill rather than Elizabeth Fry, were released last month. And while they’ll soon become commonplace, some collectors are forking out big time for rare new notes with special serial numbers.
Now, it’s important to stress that recent headlines of fivers fetching six-figure sums on eBay may be overblown, as buyers don’t always pay up. (For example, the winning bidder of one fiver pulled out after pledging £80,000.)
Yet if you’ve certain rare notes, you could still be in line for a payout – and it seems some really are fetching £100s. When we checked eBay’s search results, we found 1,006 listings for £5 notes that have sold for £200 or more since the new notes launched on 13 September.
While we can’t check how many of the winning bidders paid up, it seems extremely unlikely that these are all prank bids. And we’ve also heard direct from MoneySavers who have had more modest successes:
- Amanda says: “We sold an AK47 [serial number]… £5 note for £35 a few weeks ago.”
- Aimee says: “I got £59.96 for an AK47 fiver and the buyer messaged me to ask if I had more.”
Check the serial number
Don’t get too excited when the cash machine spits out any old plastic fiver – most are worth precisely… £5. To see if you’ve pocketed a sought-after note, the main thing to check is the serial number (see main pic above).
Look out for the following numbers. Though nothing’s guaranteed, they’re usually worth more uncirculated and fresh from the bank.
- Numbers starting AA01. The most valuable notes begin with AA01, the first batch to leave the presses. At a Bank of England charity auction, a note with the lowest publicly available serial number, AA01 000017, sold for £4,150. Some AA01 notes appear to sell for £100s on eBay, though some also sell for a lot less (eg, AA01 229695 is listed as selling for £19).
- Numbers starting AB01, AC01, AD01, etc. These later numbers are much less likely to be worth selling – they might get perhaps £8 if you’re lucky.
- Significant numbers, eg, AK47. Notes with the serial number AK47 can fetch decent sums thanks to the assault rifle connection (they typically fetch £20 to £50, but some have sold for £100s). Weirdly, fivers featuring 666 seem to have fetched £10ish. Plus look out for blocks of numbers, eg, 123456, 111111, 222222 or 333333.
- A set of fivers with consecutive numbers. If you have two or more notes with consecutive numbers, which also feature one of the desirable types of serial numbers above, you might find a collector willing to pay.
How much are they REALLY worth?
The quickest way to get an idea of a note’s value is to search eBay* for sold items – enter a few details, then click ‘sold listings’ on the grey left-hand bar. (You need to be logged in on eBay to see completed items.)
Yet as we’ve said above, you need to take very high ‘sold’ figures with a handful of salt. In reality, eBay doesn’t force winning bidders to buy the goods – it just puts a black mark on their account if they don’t pay up. We asked eBay how many of these ‘sold’ fiver auctions result in a proper sale, but it wouldn’t give out the info.
Thomasina Smith, bank note specialist at auctioneers Spink, told us: “There was one case where a £5 note with the prefix AK47 sold for £80,000 online, which unsurprisingly turned out to be a hoax. We held a charity auction on behalf of the Bank of England and the lowest publicly available serial number sold for £4,150. It’s unlikely any have genuinely sold for more than that.”
How to sell your rare fiver
If you think your fiver might be worth more than its face value, the quickest way to flog is on eBay. Here are a few tips to get you started – see eBay Selling Tips for more help.
- Remember to include close-up photos. Put the note’s selling point in the auction title too, eg, an AA01 serial.
- Always start the auction at at least £5.50. You’ll pay 10% closing fees if the item sells, so your auction will need to close at at least £5.50 to make a profit. You’d be surprised how many £5 note auctions have closed for less than £5 (as my tweet last week shows).
- Post with an insured, signed-for service with online tracking, such as Royal Mail Special Delivery Guaranteed. This covers cash sent in the post for loss or damage up to £500. When I asked Royal Mail if it would pay more than £5 compensation for a £5 note (eg, if a buyer paid £40), a spokesperson said: “Every claim is considered on a case-by-case basis. We would advise customers to include proof of the value of the item to help us fully consider the claim.”
- If you think you have an especially valuable note, consider selling via a specialist dealer. Find them through the British Numismatic Trade Association. As a rule of thumb, always try at least three and play them off against each other.
Remember, as with other collectables, rare-note prices fluctuate. If you cash in now, you may lose out or gain more later – but no one knows for sure.
If you’ve tried to flog a fiver for more than its face value, please let us know below how you got on.