What to do with your old coins and banknotes

Hannah Jolliffe / 29 June 2020

Most of us have the odd old coin or banknote lurking in a drawer, but are they worth anything – and if so, how can you cash them in? Use our handy guide to find out.



What to do with old £1 coins

The old £1 coin went out of circulation in October 2017 and has been replaced by a thinner, lighter 12-sided coin. The old round coins are no longer legal tender, and shops, restaurants and other retailers aren't accepting them.

The new coins are more secure and harder to counterfeit thanks to the distinctive 12-sided shape, the combination of two metals (gold and silver), and a hologram.

Exchanging old £1 coins

If you still have some old £1 coins, chances are that you can deposit them into your bank account. Many banks still allow you to pay them in, but they won’t exchange them for new coins. Be aware that this is done at your bank’s discretion and they are under no legal obligation to do so.

Many charities are happy to accept old £1 coins – look on their website to see if you can send them in by freepost, or ask at your local charity shop.

Keeping old £1 coins

You may want to hold on to the odd £1 coin as a souvenir or keepsake, or to pass them on to your grandchildren in future.

If you have one of the rarer designs, your pound coin could be worth more than its face value. The “Royal Arms” is the most common design, however there are 24 different designs in circulation, and certain coins could fetch you up to £20. Some reports suggest the very rarest have sold on eBay for up to £35.

Do you have antique money? Find out about getting old coins valued.

What to do with old bank notes

The paper £5 note was the first banknote to be overhauled to a polymer version featuring Sir Winston Churchill in 2016, and the £10 note followed in 2017 with an image of Jane Austen. Now the £20 note has had the same treatment, with an updated version featuring the artist JMW Turner, launched in February 2020.

As with the redesigned £1 coin, these new notes have been introduced for greater security. The new notes are harder for criminals to forge due to features such as a transparent window with a portrait of the Queen, colour-changing pictures and holograms.

This is not the only benefit, however. The new polymer notes are more durable, and this should be better for the environment as they won’t need to be replaced as frequently. They are also easier to keep clean and, while not indestructible, they are significantly stronger – and should withstand any accidental spins in the washing machine or exposure to high temperatures.

Exchanging withdrawn banknotes

Many banks will still accept old notes as deposits from customers. The Post Office may also accept them as a deposit into bank accounts you can access at the Post Office. You can also exchange withdrawn notes with The Bank of England.

Again, many charities will accept old banknotes as donations.

Spending paper £20 notes

The old paper £20 note has not been withdrawn from circulation yet, so these are currently accepted by all banks, retailers and other businesses.

When The Bank of England announces the withdrawal date it will also give six months’ notice of the date to allow time for paper notes to be spent or exchanged.

Are old notes worth anything?

Many factors determine the value of old notes – if you think you have a valuable note, it’s best to get it valued by an expert. Here are some of the main things to consider:

  • Condition – the better the condition, the more it is worth.
  • Rarity – collectors want the hard-to-find versions.
  • Low serial numbers – the note contains two serial numbers, and notes beginning with AA01, followed by a low number for the second prefix, could be worth more.
  • Special serial numbers – there is also speculation that dates related to the figures on each banknote could also be worth more. For example, the birth and death dates of Jane Austen as serial numbers on relevant banknotes.
  • Age – if you have notes from before 1960 it’s worth getting them valued.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.