A specially-engraved five pound note believed to be worth up to £50,000 remains unclaimed a year after it was spent in a Melton shop.
Artist Graham Short returned this week to the Dickinson and Morris Ye Olde Pork Pie Shoppe where he had handed over the fiver engraved with a tiny portrait of author Jane Austen in exchange for one of his favourite Melton Mowbray pork pies.
The specialist micro-engraver only revealed a few days later that he had etched the 5mm portrait on the note, by which time it is believed it had passed into circulation.
Mr Short spent three other similarly engraved fivers in establishments in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in December 2016 and all have since been claimed.
After the skilled artist revisited the Melton shop, it’s MD Stephen Hallam said: “I am pretty sure the five pound note would have gone out of the shop in minutes.
“Around 30 per cent of our customers are visitors to the town and at this particular time of the year it is closer to 45 per cent
“In the weeks after it became known where the note had been spent people were coming in and paying for stuff with £20 notes and asking for £5 notes in their change.”
Mr Short’s portrait of the Queen on a pinhead had previously sold for £100,000 so there was high excitement at the value of his limited edition fivers, which were created in a collaboration with the Tony Huggins-Haig Gallery in Kelso, Scotland.
One of the four fivers was auctioned for Children in Need after being spent in Northern Ireland but then returned to the gallery with a note saying ‘I don’t need it at my time of life. Please use it to help young people, kindest regards J’.
The Scottish five pound note was found in a card sent in Scotland last Christmas.
The Welsh note was claimed by an anonymous individual in south Wales a few days after initially being spent in a Caerphilly cafe in the town where the artist’s mother was born. It was gifted to the finder’s grand-daughter.
Mr Hallam said: “We did have a discussion in the shop about what we would do if we found the note and it was decided we would have given it to charity.
“We support local charities through donating proceeds from the sales of our carrier bags - this made just under £1,000 this year for Pablo’s Horse Sanctuary.”
A spokesperson for Mr Short said: “We still don’t know where the Melton one has gone.
“The Welsh one was found first, then the Scottish one - a lady sent it to her grandson, I think, who is a university student.
“She didn’t know the value of the note but he did.
“And the Northern Ireland one was found by a lady who sent it back to Tony Huggins-Haig at the gallery and asked that it be used to benefit children.”
The remaining five pound note has the serial number AM32 885554 and the quote from Pride and Prejudice, ‘I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good’, if anyone plans to check their wallet or purse.