The United Kingdom released the new plastic-style £5 notes last year, along with four special editions featuring an engraved portrait of writer Jane Austen and a quote from some of her most famous works. Although three of these special notes have been found, one of them is still out there.
This year is the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death , and the Royal Mint so these notes as a fitting way to commemorate one of literature’s most enduring figures.
The four banknotes each bear a classic quote from Pride and Prejudice, Mansfield Park and Emma, which is engraved around a tiny portrait of the author. The gold engraving can only just be seen, but a microscope is essential to fully read and appreciate the tiny five millimetre image. They are the work of micro-engraver Graham Short, and art experts have valued each of the banknotes with a worth of up to £50,000. This could increase as interest grows among collectors of unusual banknotes.
The four notes were released into circulation in September 2016, with one in each of the home nations of the United Kingdom. Rare fivers have already been discovered in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, but the fourth has still not been found. It was originally ‘spent’ in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, but after several months in circulation it could now be anywhere.
Austen would no doubt be pleased, and maybe amused, with the intrigue the £5 notes have caused, and she may have regarded them as fitting engraved awards for her contribution to English literature.