Are you flashing cash less often these days? Thanks to contactless shopping, internet shopping and banking, and yes, the pandemic, less than 22% of purchases are made in cash, and falling.
On the 225th anniversary of the Bank of England’s first issue of one and two pound notes in 1797, it got me thinking, are we witnessing the recalibration of paper money from an object of the everyday life to a collector’s item?
For any budding notaphiles (paper money collectors), the first recorded use of paper money was in China in the 7th century. Almost a thousand years later, 16th century European banker-goldsmiths began to issue paper receipts for deposits and loans.
In 1694, the Bank of England was created to raise funds for the war against France. Combined with the fragility of the medium, the rarity of these early handwritten notes (which could be for any amount, like £62 or £84) now almost earns them a king’s ransom.
The move towards fixed value notes began in the 18th century, with lower denomination notes gradually being added, up to £2 and £1 in 1797. The first fully printed notes appeared in 1853.
Notaphilia is often overshadowed by its cousin, numismatics (numismatics). Less durable, paper banknotes also lack the intrinsic value of coins. However, they are a fascinating insight into history and often attractive pieces in their own right.
Collectors often specialize in banknotes from a period, country, decorative themes (famous people, birds, buildings) or commemorative issues.
Pound notes, which I was shocked to discover were no longer in circulation in 1988, are an interesting and inexpensive place to start and learn about things like watermarks, signatures and plate, serial and serial numbers. This example is part of a small treasure usually found in the centre, priced at £4.
Even today’s polymer banknotes can still be collected. Five of the first polymer £5 notes, released in 2016, had a small portrait of Jane Austen engraved on them by micro-artist Graham Short, four of which have been found. They were originally expected to be worth £50,000 each, but the most they have ever sold is £5,000 at a charity auction.
However, I don’t see them doing anything other than gaining in value, so keep your eyes peeled for the missing fifth number, this could definitely be a ‘remarkable’ investment.