The first special £5 note deemed a work of art has been spent in Scotland and is now in public hands.
The rare note was spent at a cafe, while another will be spent at a pub in Northern Ireland. A third will be spent in Warwickshire or Gloucestershire, with the fourth heading for South Wales.
Estimated to be worth over £20,000 the new Bank of England notes, created by the ‘world’s smallest engraver’ Graham Short, feature a 5mm portrait of Jane Austen.
Mr Short made four, each with a unique Austen quote, and rather than auction them as he has done with other artwork in the past he decided to launch a modern-day twist on Willy Wonka by passing them into public hands around the UK and Ireland to give four people a Christmas windfall.
Fellow artist and business partner Tony Huggins-Haig said: “Graham and I feel passionately that art should be for everyone, and wanted to do something that benefited the ordinary man or woman in the street.”
Graham previously hit headlines when he engraved the words of the Lord’s Prayer on to the head of a pin.
And his last work - a portrait of the Queen, engraved on a speck of gold inside the eye of a needle - sold for £100,000.
Graham, from Northfield, Birmingham, said: “I’m always looking to do something different. When I saw the new £5 note, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be good if I could engrave something on it.
“I didn’t know what at first, but then I found out that next year is going to be the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death and her image is also going to be on the new £10 note, which is coming out next year, so it ties in quite nicely with that.
“I’ve no idea how much they will be worth if people try to sell them. But previous pieces I have worked on have been insured for more than £50,000.
“If somebody finds one I hope they will maybe put it on eBay. If they can get some extra money for Christmas I’ll be thrilled.”
A fifth engraved note will be donated to the Jane Austen Society to mark the 200th anniversary of the classic novelists death next year.
Quotes and their notes
“If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” (Emma)
Serial number: AM32 885551
“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” (Pride and Prejudice)
Serial number: AM32 885552
“A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of.” (Mansfield Park)
Serial number: AM32 885553
“I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good.” (Pride and Prejudice)
Serial number: AM32 885554