They are issued from time to time, usually on the anniversary of an event, such as a famous person's birthday. They are a treat for collectors, and some even consider them as an investment. Collector banknotes in certain circles generate a great deal of interest. Which of them are the most expensive, and what affects their price? Everything you need to know about them is here.
First collector banknote in Poland
In Poland, banknotes — including collector's notes — are released by the National Bank of Poland. Precisely on 16 October 2006, it issued the first collector banknote in the history of the country. It was PLN 50 with the image of John Paul II. The banknote was released on the 28th anniversary of the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope.
The issue price was PLN 90. Today, at popular auctions, you can bid it out for a similar amount. It does not have much collector's value, mainly due to the relatively large circulation of 2 million banknotes.
PLN 19 in one banknote
Slightly different is the case of a unique 19-zloty note issued in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Polish Security Printing Works. The symbolism of the number 19 and a small circulation of only 55,000 pieces made the banknotes sold out just a few hours after the sale started.
The issue value of the 19-zloty banknote was PLN 80. The collectors already realised they could get quite rich on it. Unusual denomination made it very popular. Although its theoretical value was PLN 19, in the days following the release on numismatic auctions, the prices reached PLN 500, and in the case of certain serial numbers, even PLN 1000. The high value of these notes remains to this day.
What do collector banknote prices depend on?
The prices of collector notes are influenced by several factors. One of them is the amount of circulation. The fewer banknotes are issued, the harder it is to get them, and thus they become more expensive. This can be perfectly illustrated by the example of the first Polish collector banknote. Due to its high edition volume, it is not very popular among numismatists, and its price remains at the level of 2006.
The "attractiveness" of a banknote is also affected by its serial number. As a rule, the lower it is, the greater its value for collectors. This means that a given banknote was produced as one of the first. Sometimes the combination of digits in the serial number or an orderly sequence of figures may also be relevant. Money with a number composed of only one will be worth more than that containing random numbers. Banknotes with several sixes alone are of particular value. According to superstitions, such a banknote is supposed to attract capital. Here, again, it is not difficult to give an example — at present, in one of the auction services, you can buy a 19-zloty note with a serial number consisting of only ones and nines. The symbolism of the number 19 is, therefore, even more prominent here. Along with it goes, of course, a much higher price.
The physical condition of the collector notes must not be neglected as well. The better they are preserved, the higher price can be achieved at auctions.
Collector banknotes — hobby and investment
Collecting banknotes is considered to be a hobby. Notwithstanding, others perceive it as an investment and an opportunity to get richer. However, as with any other investment, it is not guaranteed that any profits will be made, so the relevant knowledge and experience of numismatics are simply mandatory.
Those who want to earn more money on the collector banknotes must be very patient. In contrast to coin collection, this is a less popular and accessible field of numismatics. However, the relevant knowledge and intuition can succeed, such as the 19-zloty note case shows. A few hours after the release, it was sold from second-hand for a much higher amount than its issue price. Nonetheless, many other collector banknotes keep a low level of value, so the profit is not apparent in every case.
Collector banknotes as official means of payment
All collector notes issued by the National Bank of Poland are official payment method in Poland. Therefore, they can be easily paid in shops, similarly to rare coins.
However, it will almost always be a bad decision. The value of such money is usually much higher than stated on the banknote. In the shop with a 19-zloty note, we would pay for the goods worth PLN 19. From a collector for the same banknote, we can get even several hundred PLN.
Simultaneously, it is worth remembering that the 500-zloty note, although rare, is not a collector banknote. It has been in regular circulation since 10 February 2017 and should not be treated as one. Nevertheless, this does not change the fact that it is rare, and some have certainly never seen it before. The reason behind all this is the low circulation of only 50 million pieces, of which only 20 million were in circulation at the end of 2019. In comparison, the common 'hundreds' were around 1.4 billion units at the same time.
The most expensive banknotes
Although a few hundred PLN for a 19-zloty note seems to be a staggering amount, real treasures can be found at special auctions organised for this purpose. There is a rule of "the more limited, the more expensive," and the prices for some of them successfully beat the value of more than one new car.
In Poland in 2019, a 500-zloty banknote from the 18th century was sold for a horrendous price. The uniqueness lies not only in its age. It was issued only in 500 pieces. This particular copy also contained a watermark in the form of an inscription, which was not printed on each banknote, but only once on the entire printed sheet, which added the distinctiveness. The lucky buyer purchased it for 220 thousand PLN.
Collector banknotes are popular not only in Poland but also in other countries around the world. For example, a rarity is one released by the Bank of England in 1948 with the face value of GBP 1 million. Only 9 such notes were issued as part of the Marshall Plan. One of them was sold for EUR 131 000 in 2011.
Even more valuable are the first Australian banknotes, issued in 1817. Their uniqueness lies in their low circulation of only 100 pieces. For this reason, the 10-shilling banknote can now be worth up to EUR 186 000.
The same applies to the 20-rupee note issued over 100 years ago in Zanzibar. Although it is not too old (for the most expensive banknotes in the world), its price can reach as much as 190 thousand EUR due to its very limited availability. That is how much one of them was sold at a collector's auction, becoming the most expensive African banknote in history.
This is nothing compared to the 1000-dollar banknote issued in 1891. Its characteristic feature is the red colour and stamp on the obverse. It is estimated that there are currently only two such notes, which is why one of them was auctioned off for an impressive amount of EUR 2.12 million.
Nevertheless, the absolute record holder is another 1000-dollar note from the same period, issued only a year earlier. The note, in which zeros resemble watermelons, is called 'Grand Watermelon' among enthusiasts. It was sold at auction for EUR 2.791 million, making it probably the most expensive banknote in the world.