The Holy Grail – Buy Lower Than Face Value; Sell Higher

MOST of my efforts have been focussed on maximising the price offered for the notable coins and banknotes I have been able to acquire for their face value but there have also been times when I have been able to pick up notes and coins for less than face value.

Now I am finally able to tell the story of how I recently pulled off the double – the Holy Grail of buying for less than face value and selling for higher – all on eBay.

Perhaps the first half of the story would better be titled “How Not To Sell Your Banknote”.

Fortunately I was able to look past a truly woeful eBay photograph of a Bank of England Florence Nightingale D-type tenner which had been demonetised (withdrawn from official circulation) in 1994  and see that it may be of interest to collectors.

crumpled tenner photograph
crumpled tenner photograph

As such, I was prepared to pay up to face value for this tenner and saw that, as its seller lived in a nearby town I visit regularly, I would be able to reduce costs further by collecting it in person.

In the end, the seller’s awful photograph of the note and postage fee of more than £2 ensured there was little interest in the note and I was able to secure it for just £8.25.

I contacted the seller to arrange a time when I could call round to pick up the note but instead he offered to post it to me for no extra fee! So the ten pound note arrived within a week for a total cost of £8.25.

So far so good but now I wanted to complete the tenner’s journey by selling it for more than its face value to a collector.

An earlier post on this blog discusses why accountants and collectors may attach different values to a note or coin. For an accountant, shopkeeper or banker, knowing the value of a coin is simple; it is written on the front. No matter how tatty, stained or ripped (as long as all serial numbers are present) a note that says £10 on the front is worth £10. The physical item of currency is no more than a notice of the value it represents.

However, currency collectors and dealers also recognise a second measure of value where condition, rarity and age are vitally important. Normally this acts to add extra worth to the physical item of currency and in cases such as this condition, scarcity and age are all.

That is why it was important that I was able to present the banknote for bidders in its best light with good, clear photographs and a comprehensive description of the note’s desirability and rarity.

demonetised note, as sold
The clearer listing photograph
The demonetised note's rear
The demonetised note’s rear

Crucial to this was also a frank assessment of its condition and an extra photograph to highlight a small tear to the base of the note.

the tiny tear
The tiny tear

As you can see, my clearer listing photographs showed the creases, folds and even the tear in the note very clearly but I felt this would add credibility to my listing.

It was first relisted two months later for offers over £19 but failed to attract an opening bid. Again, taking advantage of my free listing slots, I listed it again for £15 a fortnight later but again it failed to attract an opening bid but that changed when I dropped the price to £12.

I was thrilled when a woman in the North of England placed a bid for that amount but disappointed not to see a bidding war for the note. So the woman paid me £12 plus £1.50 for delivery by PayPal for the tenner.

Okay, I didn’t make a fortune – just a profit of £2.62 after fees and postage costs but that represented a profit of more than 30 per cent within three months. When I work out how to achieve the same rate of return on a three of four-figure investment, rather than a tenner, I’ll let you know.


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