That Hoard Of Old Bank Notes May Not Be Worthless

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Written By Hossein Soltani

Trying to find a wad of cash left over from a holiday lounging on the exotic beaches of Goa, India, years ago has prompted a warning for expats hoarding old bank notes.

After searching high and low, the notes were found – around 2,500 rupees mainly denominated in 100 rupee notes from the Mahatma Gandhi series.

But the worry was this £30 or so windfall was now worthless because these notes may have been superseded in India.

A quick web search has revealed they are still currency.

However, other people who thought they were lucky to come across financial windfalls found they were less fortunate than they first thought.

Trading in old bank notes

Central banks set a time limit on swapping old currencies for new notes.

The limits vary between banks, so even within an area like the Eurozone, the time to trade in notes varies between countries.

In 2016, Angela Vargas, 60, from Genoa, Italy, discovered 37 million lire when clearing out her mother’s home. She took the money to the bank to find that instead of handing her today’s equivalent of 19,100 euros, the paper notes were worthless.

The deadline to exchange notes expired in December 2011 in Italy. In France, Finland and Greece, the exchange had to be made by December 2012, while nine Eurozone countries, such as Germany and Eire, have no deadline for exchanging their old bank notes for euros.

The European Central Bank maintains a list of how and when to exchange old currencies to euros.

Out of date currencies

In some cases, Italians can appeal to a court for permission to swap their lira for euros.

This is good news for hoarders who are believed to have more than 1.5 million worth of euros stashed away in old lira.

Judges granted a three-month window for exchanging any old lira in September 2015 after a 50-year-old woman found 15 million lire secreted in a hidden compartment in some furniture.

She argued that as she had no opportunity to exchange the notes as she did not know they existed, she should not be subject to the ban on swapping them for euros.

British bank notes hold their face value for ever and can be exchanged through the Bank of England free of charge.

For expats, keeping up with cash limits and exchange deadlines is complicated. Money in banks is not an issue – it’s old bank notes that are the problem.