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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Serial-number currency

When is $13 worth $9,410? When it’s embodied in a low-serial-number Jane Austen banknote, apparently.

Last week, the Bank of England auctioned off eighty-seven of its new Jane Austen £10 notes as a charity fundraiser, offering speculators and collectors a shot at owning notes with serial numbers beginning AA01.

The very lowest-numbered note – AA01 000001 – wasn’t available: That one is given to the queen, the only person whose portrait appears on every piece of British currency. The next eight notes in the series also went to VIPs, and the AA01 001817 was donated to Winchester Cathedral, where Austen was buried in – yes -- 1817.

But the tenth-lowest serial numbered note -- AA01 000010 -- was up for grabs, and the lucky bidder forked over a whopping £7,200, more than double the top pre-auction estimate of £3,000. Notes with slightly higher serial numbers went for less, but they also sold for far more than their face value, helping the auction raise £263,200 (about $344,000) for health-care charities.

It’s possible many of these notes will soon be starring in an eBay auction near you, though I will not be bidding. Personally, I’d be more interested in the other £10 note serial-number series expected to generate some excitement: the series whose numbers start with “JA.”


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