Trick to get paid for old, defunct UK and foreign currency – including coins

Trick to get paid for old, defunct UK and foreign currency – including coins

Also works with, eg, Euro or American dollar coins

Many of us haven't been travelling internationally as much in the past two years due to the pandemic, and instead we've been clearing out our houses. If, like me, you've found a veritable treasure trove full of random coins and notes from countries you're not sure you ever visited, or even still exist, this is the blog for you. I'll show you how I turned mine easily into spendable cash and how you can, too.

I love travel, so the last couple of years haven't been a fun time for me stuck in my house looking at everything I've hoarded over the years. So I set to the task of having a good sort out and found so many random coins, many from places I've never even been, in containers I inherited from my Mum... 16 years ago.

Of course, currencies like French francs and Italian lire are no longer used after being replaced by the Euro - and UK banks no longer accept old 5p, 10p or... sixpences and shillings. Yes, the hoard of Pirate 'gold' contained those, too!

I had a search of my house for errant coins inspired by the MSE news article warning £1.4 billion pounds in old notes and £1 coins could be stashed in people's houses. So have a read of that if your sofa and piggybank-breaking coin collecting antics unearthed old £5 or £10 notes, or old round £1 coins as it goes through all the steps on how to make those spendable.

So, what did I do with my coin cache and why? My goal was to collect all the non-spendable in the UK coins together and exchange at the same time. However, the type of coin as well as its age needed to be taken into account to get the best bang for my bucks. Here's how I did it...

UK coins removed from circulation, eg, large 5p, large 10p, Sixpence, Shilling, Threepence etc

If, like me, you found no old round £1 coins but old 5p and 10p coins - removed from circulation in 1990 and 1993 respectively – then you might be wondering what to do with them if your bank doesn't take them. As I only found one of each I didn't want the hassle of going to a local bank branch to check.

My colleague MSE Kelvin might be of MoneySavingIdiot fame, however as you can tell from his blog he knows what to do with coins. It was his mention of The Brittania Coin Company online valuation tool that struck gold with my scheme. Well, it struck silver specifically – let me explain.

If you've a stash of older pre-decimal currency like shillings, sixpences, and threepenny bits 'thrup'ny bits' then it's worth checking the date on each coin. Coins minted pre-1947 contain about 50% silver by weight, and as such are worth more than their face value due to their silver content. If you find any pre-1920 coins then you're even more in the, err, money as they're made from sterling silver (92.5% pure silver). 

Sadly, from my 56-coin collection of pre-decimal goodness only three coins were minted before 1947 (top tip: look for King George VI on the back to quickly sort them out from the rest, then check the dates) which weigh about 15g, so I'd only get £3.47 – probably not worth the cost of sending them in.

Where to exchange other defunct currency coins, eg, francs

If you're interested in my haul, I also found French francs, Italian lire, Swiss francs, Norwegian krone, Icelandic krona, US dollars, Euros, English florin (two shillings), sixpence, and Romanian leu. I've never been to Italy, Switzerland, Norway, or Romania so these coins have either been inherited from my family, or given to us in change instead of UK coinage.

Given a lot of this currency was unusable, I wondered what could be done with it which sparked a memory of an MSE blog from 2017 asking people Do you still have leftover francs? – my answer was of course yes. So I checked, and Leftover currency, an online currency exchange service, is still operating (the other company mentioned in the blog isn't). Given its five-star Trustpilot rating, I went online and added all my coins to the basket to see what I could get.

With the promise of £20.07 for them all, I taped them to a piece of cardboard and sent them, paying £3.39 for a signed-for Second-Class Large letter up to 500g (coins are heavy) service. Yes, it's annoying to have had to pay for postage as it means I actually only got £16.68 back but the coins are no longer in my house, and it's much better than nothing! I taped all my coins down then predictably found more (and since writing this blog have found even more!) and had to repackage everything and get another quote. It does take time putting in every coin but I'm committed to trying to get rid of all the extra clutter in my house, and the promise of £20 spurred me into action.

Getting the best rates for defunct and/or foreign bank notes

If your notes are in an old, defunct currency you'll usually still be able to exchange them with Leftover currency but do be advised that as with the defunct coins, they're being bought for their collectable value – so you may get less than you expect. This is why I chose to keep my English £1 bank note, also because it's pretty cool.

You may be able to sell them for a little more on eBay (a quick check suggests I could get up to £2 for my note), but obviously that's going to take longer, be more hassle, and you'll have to pay eBay fees. See our eBay & second-hand selling guide for tips if this is what you choose.

If you still have notes in a non-defunct currency and have the receipt from your purchase of currency, eg, Euros bought from the Post Office, you should be able to return them and get a pretty decent rate. As the only note I had was a 10 Euro note from 16+ years ago, I opted to send it in with the coins as it meant I could get everything done at once.

However, if you can't take your notes back to where you got them it's worth checking MSE's TravelMoneyMax tool to see where you can get the best buyback rates. Some allow postage, with others you'll be able to take your notes to a physical location, handy if you're looking to avoid postage.

Have you found any weird and wonderful coins down the back of your sofa? Do your family also hoard defunct currency? Let me know on Twitter how much you've made or could make by exchanging them.