A valuable extra £5 note engraved with a portrait of Jane Austen is out in circulation, according to the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. Only four of the new notes, which are worth an estimated £50,000 each, were initially known to exist.

The portrait, which appears in place of Big Ben on normal notes, was engraved on the notes by micro-artist Graham Short and is accompanied by a line from the novel Pride and Prejudice, which says: "I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good." Speculation of a fifth note was apparently sparked after Short visited the Jane Austen Centre in Bath.

A spokesman for the Centre is quoted by the Mirror Online as saying: "We have been in contact with Mr Short's representative and he has confirmed another £5 note was engraved at the same time as the others.

"We are also now aware of the reason behind his visit and although we cannot disclose if the fifth £5 note was spent that day, now we know the truth, it is very exciting news."

The new polymer notes replace paper notes, with the £5 the first to be launched. The notes are said to be cleaner and more durable than their paper predecessors, with the Bank of England having replaced over 21,000 bank notes in 2015, it said. Of those, apparently over 5,000 had been chewed or eaten.

A campaign was launched in 2013 by writer and activist Caroline Criado-Perez after it was announced that as of 2016 Elizabeth Fry would be replaced by Winston Churchill on £5 notes, leaving no women featured on the backs of any British bank notes. It was eventually announced by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney that Jane Austen had been selected as the face of the new £10 note – alongside the Queen, of course – as of 2017.

The new notes are expected in September 2017.

Caroline Criado-Perez
Caroline Criado-Perez (right) successfully campaigned for Jane Austen to appear on the £10 bank noteReuters