Fiver worth £50,000, thanks to micro-engraving, found in Borders

Art gallery owner Tony Huggins-Haig and Alan Malone, head baker at Granny Jean's Home Bakery in Kelso.
Art gallery owner Tony Huggins-Haig and Alan Malone, head baker at Granny Jean's Home Bakery in Kelso.

A special £5 note estimated to be worth up to 10,000 times its face value has turned up in the Borders, not far from where it was put into circulation a month ago.

It’s the second of four rare plastic £5 notes featuring micro-engraved portraits of novelist Jane Austen created by artist Graham Short to be found.

Graham Short.

Graham Short.

Two more are still out there and could even be inside the purse or wallet of an unsuspecting Southern Reporter reader right now.

The £5 note discovered last Thursday was stuck inside a Christmas card sent from one Borderer unaware of its true worth to a relative in the region as a festive gift.

The new owner of the note – put into circulation in Kelso on Monday, December 5 –wishes to remain anonymous but is said to have decided to keep it, frame it and hang it on a wall rather than selling it off for a speedy windfall.

The four notes featuring Mr Short’s engravings of Austen, along with a fifth donated to the Jane Austen Society, were created in collaboration with the Tony Huggins-Haig Gallery in Kelso as an art project echoing the golden tickets featured in the 1964 Roald Dahl book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Mr Short came up with the idea of engraving 5mm portraits of Austen on the transparent part of the new plastic Bank of England £5 notes to mark the 200th anniversary of her death, at the age of 41, next year.

The 70-year-old, of Birmingham, said: “I’m always looking to do something different, and as soon as I saw the new £5 note, I thought ‘wouldn’t it be good if I could engrave something on it?’

“I didn’t know what, but then I found out it was going to be the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, and her image is also going on the new £10 note, so it ties in nicely with that.

“I don’t know whether I’m disappointed that they haven’t wanted to sell them because I wanted them to have some money for Christmas, but the fact that they are so happy to keep them, that’s nice as well.”

The £5 note first spent in Kelso and now found in the Borders was the second to be discovered, the first having been handed over by Mr Short to pay for a sausage and egg sandwich at a cafe in Blackwood, Caerphilly, south Wales, earlier last month and later given out in change to another customer.

Two more of Short’s special £5 notes, spent in England and Northern Ireland, remain in general circulation.

Their serial numbers are AM32 885552 and AM32 885554.

Mr Huggins-Haig, owner of the Bridge Street gallery bearing his name, said the latest finder had been to the gallery to have the note’s authenticity verified.

“They are completely delighted to have it, and it’s getting framed and going on the wall,” said Mr Huggins-haig, of Duns.

“They were given it in a Christmas card by a relative, and they are delighted as well because they didn’t know that’s what they were putting in the card. They knew it was a £5 but not one that could be worth £50,000.

“Of the two that have been found, both are with people who want to keep them as art. They’ve both been found by wonderful people who are very deserving.

“We’ve let the £5 notes go out there, and it’s been brilliantly received by people.

“That’s two down and there’s still two out there. Keep checking your change.”

The two notes still waiting to be found were spent in Northern Ireland and Leicestershire in England.

Short’s second most recent work, a portrait of the Queen on a pinhead, sold for £100,000, and Mr Huggins-Haig believes the engraved notes could be worth half that at auction.

“All of Graham’s work has an insurance valuation of about £50,000 at the moment. It’s a reasonable estimate,” he said.

Mr Short spent one of the notes in Granny Jean’s Home Bakery in the Square, Kelso, on December 5 to start the project, sparking a surge in custom there after he revealed the move days later.

Head baker Alan Malone said he was “gutted” to have inadvertently given the engraved fiver away in change.

Mr Short’s last piece of art, a portrait of the Queen engraved on a speck of gold inside the eye of a needle, sold for £100,000.