Three old paper bank notes are featured here. Firstly a bank of England ten-shilling note, secondly a Bank of Scotland one-pound note and thirdly a Royal Bank of Scotland pound note. All the notes bear a form of wording promising to pay the bearer the sum printed on the front. Though these notes can no longer be spent, they can be exchanged for the face value in appropriate banks. Notes in good condition can be sold for much more than their face value.

Before the introduction of money people had to acquire goods by bartering. To be trusted early coins had to have intrinsic value, but over time, even though in themselves they had little or no value, the use of coins and paper money became established for financial transactions. The Chinese introduced paper money in the 8th century and the oldest surviving notes are Chinese and date back to the 14thcentury.

The Bank of England first issued bank notes in 1694, with the first ten-shilling note being released in November 1928. As can be seen by the image, the notes were not dated and the only clue being the name of the Chief Cashier, whose signature is printed on the front of the notes. The note featured here bears the signature of Jasper Hollom, which puts the release date of this particular note to between 1962 and 1966.  A portrait of Queen Elizabeth II features on the front of the note. This was first authorised in 1960. Britannia is pictured on the back, a feature of all the Bank’s notes. The ten-shilling note was withdrawn in November 1970 following the introduction of the fifty pence coin, in advance of decimalisation. Pound notes were made until 1984 and were withdrawn in 1988 having been replaced by pound coins.

The Bank of Scotland was established by an Act of the Scottish Parliament in 1695, a year after the Bank of England. It first issued a twenty-shilling note in 1704. The pound-note shown here bears the date 10th August 1970. There is no image of the Monarch, but, in common with all Bank of Scotland notes, there is a portrait of Sir Walter Scott. He was not only a famous author, but, under the pseudonym Malachi Malagrowther, he successfully led a campaign against a UK government plan to stop the production of bank notes with a value of less than five pounds. From 1810 the reverse of the pound-note has featured a sailing ship, a shield with a saltire and a medallion picturing Britannia, another ship flying the Union flag and the word ‘DITAT’, meaning to enrich. Note there are also thistles, the national flower of Scotland. The last bank of Scotland one-pound notes were issued in 1988.

The Royal Bank of Scotland was set up in 1727 to rival the Bank of Scotland, which was thought to have funded the Jacobite rising. In 1777 it was the first bank in the UK to use colour on notes to deter forgers. The Royal Bank was the last bank in Scotland to issue £1 notes: production ceased in 2001. The note shown here bears the date 5 January 1972. The front shows the Bank’s coat of arms and the reverse pictures Edinburgh Castle.

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More information:

Date 1970s, 1980s
Material(s) Paper
Item number MBPO236

Questions to help you remember using this item

  • What pre-decimalisation money have you kept?
  • How many shillings were there in a pound?
  • Without looking, which way does the portrait of Queen Elizabeth II face on bank notes, coins and stamps respectively?
  • Do you prefer paper bank notes or the newer polymer ones? Why?
  • Have you ever tried to spend a Scottish bank note in England? If so, what happened?
  • There is another Scottish Bank that issues bank notes. Can you name it?

User Stories

Scottish notes can be legally used to purchase goods in England, but some retailers may be suspicious of them and refuse to accept them.

Scottish Banks with branches in England cannot issue Scottish notes.

Scottish Banks are businesses, not central banks and must hold gold or Bank of England notes to cover the notes they issue. To avoid huge stocks of regular bank notes being stored the Bank of England has special uncirculated £1,000,000 notes called Giants and £100,000,000 notes called Titans.

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