Where has all the old money gone?
Irish consumers who are strapped for cash might want to look behind sofas and rifle through the pockets of little-worn suits in search of some of the €361m worth of punts that were never exchanged for euro after the old currency ceased to be legal tender a decade ago.
Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of the formal demise of the punt and the Central Bank confirmed that the latest figures, which have yet to be published, show that hundreds of millions euro worth of the old currency remain unaccounted for.
Despite the passage of time, the old money is, however, still coming in and an average of more than ¤10,000 worth of punts was brought into the bank to be exchanged every working day last year and a Central Bank spokesman told me that not a day passed without at least one person calling into to its Dame St offices to swap the old for the new.
On January 1st 2002 the Republic became one of seven euro-zone countries to convert all ATMs to euros and within days of the introduction of the new notes and coins, the vast majority of cash payments were being made in euro as Irish people adopted their new currency with gusto.
Some six weeks later, on February 9th, the punt stopped being legal tender and overnight the only place it could be exchanged was the Central Bank.
The bank said yesterday it could not give out information about exactly how many punts were being exchanged daily because of what he said were security concerns, but in 2011, a total of €2.6m worth of the old currency was exchanged at the bank’s Dame St office, an average of €10,317 every day. Some €2.3 of the punts exchanged were notes with the remainder being made up of a variety of coins.
Despite this stream of money coming in, the Central Bank said that by the end of 2011 there was still €236m in Irish banknotes missing while €125.2 million worth of coins remained unaccounted for.
The good news for punt-hoarding consumers is there is no time-limit for people to cash in their old money. The Central Bank said yesterday that it would continue to accept the money indefinitely with the exchange rate permanently frozen at 2002 levels.
Some people chose an alternative route and a lot of old cash goes through auctioneer John Weldon’s hands and he regularly holds Irish currency sales at his Temple Bar auction house.
While some Irish pounds which feature the smiling face of Lady Lavery are worth a whole lot more than face value, there has been no appreciation of the Robert Ballagh designed notes, which first appeared in 1993, Mr Weldon said.
“Lady Lavery notes from the early 1970s are highly sought and a complete collection of these notes, including from the 10 shilling note to the 100 pound note sold here recently for €950,” he said.
According to the auctioneer, the most sought after Irish note of modern times date from 1943, the first year the Irish currency was issued by theCentral Bank – prior to that Free State notes had the stamp of the Currency Commision. A 1943 half-crown can fetch anywhere between €300 and €1,500 depending on the condition of the note and the level of interest among collectors.
When asked if consumers in possession of Ballagh-punts might consider taking a punt on their future worth by hanging on to them in case they would eventually grow to be worth this kind of money, Mr Weldon said it would be a long time before collectors would be prepared to pay above face value for the old new money.