The other week I spent a few hours going through old boxes containing the sort of childhood stuff that’s difficult to part with and which one therefore tends to accumulate in life – school reports, drawings, essays, post cards, letters – worthless junk that is of no interest to anyone and will never ever be useful.
But then I came across an old piggy bank stuffed full of bank notes and coins. It was really heavy, so I raided it of course, thinking I would get a decent bit of money out of it.
Disappointingly, most of the notes and coins were old French francs (leftover from a school trip). Quite a considerable amount of money too, but totally worthless now. You can’t even exchange them at a bank anymore. I also had some 50 ore Swedish coins, which are no longer in circulation either, and completely valueless.
Then, at the bottom of the piggy bank, I spotted a £10 note. Jackpot! It looked a bit different and Charles Dickens was on the reverse side, rather than Charles Darwin. But it was printed in 1992, which to me doesn’t seem like that long ago, and the Queen looked exactly the same, so I took it.
At work the following day I gave the note to my colleague as I owed him money.
That evening he texted to say that the man at the petrol station had refused to take the £10 note. He then tried to use it to top up his office card and it was rejected by the machine. Apparently it’s not legal tender anymore but my colleague told me you can still exchange it at a bank for proper currency. I haven’t tried that yet, but I’ll take his word for it.
The funny thing is, the money I had squirrelled away in my piggy bank for a rainy day was no more valuable than my accumulated memorabilia. I had saved it with the best of intentions, not realising in 10 or 20 years’ time it would lose all its value.
There must be so many of these old currencies and retired bank notes and coins floating around. I wonder how many worthless millions are stuffed away in old piggy banks like mine across the globe and how that affects the wider economy.
But with the eurozone in crisis, and the future of the single currency called into question, and general economic uncertainty, I might just hang onto those Francs. Who knows, they might come in handy.