Could the pounds in YOUR pocket be worth thousands?

Could the pounds in YOUR pocket be worth thousands?

The hunt is on to find the last banknotes printed featuring the late Queen Elizabeth II. 

As notes with images of the beloved monarch start to be replaced with a profile of King Charles from next year, the last to be printed will hold a treasured place in history. But beyond their sentimental value, they could also fetch a record amount at auction, collectors say.

Every banknote features its own unique serial number to identify and date it.

Today, Wealth & Personal Finance can reveal the serial numbers of the last £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes featuring the Queen that were ever printed. If you come into possession of one, you may find it is worth far more than its face value.

Special or rare banknotes and coins are sought after by collectors, called numismatists, as well as by members of the public looking to hold on to a piece of history. Some of the first polymer banknotes issued sold for thousands of pounds in online auctions seven years ago, with one £5 note going for £4,150 – 830 times face value. 

Worth a mint?: We can reveal the serial numbers of the last £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes featuring the Queen that were ever printed

Worth a mint?: We can reveal the serial numbers of the last £5, £10, £20 and £50 notes featuring the Queen that were ever printed

Now, collectors will be taking a keen look at the serial number in the hope they have ended up with one of the rare last notes to be printed. And here’s why you should too.

Polymer banknotes released by the Bank of England, including the £5 note featuring Winston Churchill and the £10 note featuring Jane Austen, have a ten-digit serial number, comprised of two letters, followed by two numbers – a space – and then another six numbers.

The Bank of England has shared with The Mail on Sunday the first two letters and numbers of the last batches of notes to feature Queen Elizabeth II for the four different banknote denominations.

The last printed prefixes – known as cyphers – are:

  • £5 notes start with BC60;
  • £10 notes start with EM54;
  • £20 notes start with DM45;
  • £50 notes start with AE80.

The last batch of £5 notes featuring the Queen was printed in July 2018 and the last £10 notes in December 2020. The final £20 notes were printed a month after her death in October 2022 and the last £50 notes in April 2022.

All were printed by British company De La Rue. These notes have entered the bank’s reserves and will go into general circulation as and when required by demand. But some notes have already been issued and are circulating, the Bank of England tells this newspaper.

For each prefix, there are 999,000 notes printed, from 000001 to 999000. However, the final Queen Elizabeth II notes may not end in 999000. That is because the Bank of England says the serial numbers of the King Charles banknotes will run on from those of Queen Elizabeth II, rather than resetting at 0000001 again.

We do not yet know precisely where the Queen Elizabeth II notes end and the King Charles notes begin as the Bank of England has yet to reveal that information. When it does, we will know which are the very last to be printed – and therefore which are the most valuable. But it could pay to hold on to notes with the above prefixes until we know for sure. Richard Beale, a valuer at Warwick & Warwick, says: ‘In our June sale, a 1960 £1 A01 000122, which was the first with a portrait of Elizabeth II, sold for £380.

‘We would expect a similar premium for the last Elizabeth II banknotes.’

If you do find one of the last-ever notes issued, it could pay to keep it in the best condition you can in case it proves valuable.

Arnas Savickas, head of banknotes in Europe and the USA at Spink and Son, says: ‘Although we cannot provide guidance in terms of the value of these notes, it is most likely collectors will want to have the last prefixes of QE II notes in their collections in mint or near- mint condition. It would more likely fit that the last amount of numbers will be more sought after rather than sheets in which they were printed. There is likely to be interest in the last 5,000 to some extent, however the last 1,000 or even 100 is going to be where collectors will put their focus.’

Simon Narbeth, who runs the International Bank Note Society and is co-founder of banknote store Colin Narbeth & Son Ltd, advises collectors considering paying over the odds to err on the side of caution. ‘The possibility of owning one of the last Queen notes is very exciting. Thanks to The Mail on Sunday’s investigation, we now know what the last printed notes are likely to be.

‘The problem is, I don’t know of any last high serial numbers to go for a really high price in the past – but this last Queen run is likely to buck the trend. If sold at a charity auction this could create a new record.’

In 2016, our online sister publication This is Money revealed the serial numbers of the very first £5 polymer notes carrying the portrait of former Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

The notes, released in September 2016, proved popular among collectors, with some AA01 ones selling on eBay for as much as £200. And at a Bank of England charity event, the £5 note serial numbered AA01 000017 sold for £4,150.