Old currencies: can you still use them and how to handle your leftovers?

To give you a quick answer to the first question we asked in the title of this article: no, you cannot use old money. They are no longer legal tenders in the countries that issued them, having been replaced by the new money. That, however, doesn’t mean you should start using them as fuel for your chimney or, in case of coins, coasters for really tiny mugs (we apologize, that was quite random!). Quite the contrary – while some withdrawn currencies are, indeed, worthless, others might actually make you some good cash!

Here are four things you can do with your old money!

old money1. Exchange it in a country that issued it

When you think about ‘old currencies’, you probably visualize wrinkled and torn banknotes and scratched coins. Not all withdrawn money is old, though. Some had been retired quite recently. The best example of that is the eurozone, which, since 1999, has rendered 19 currencies obsolete.

A majority of the eurozone countries allow owners of their past currencies to exchange their old money. Usually, you can either send it via mail or exchange the cash in person, at any bank within the borders of the issuing state. This is, for example, the case with Dutch Guilders.

Before sending your money, or booking a trip overseas to exchange the cash, do make sure it’s actually possible! Many countries have separate changeover periods for withdrawn coins and banknotes, and there’s also the risky business of mailing your money. In any case, we would like to advise you to do some research before making the final decision – it always helps to know what you’re standing on!

2. Use third-party services

Unfortunately, most obsolete money is not like the euro. In most cases, it has been out of circulation for years and the central banks of countries that issued these currencies are not exchanging them anymore. We’re talking about the sort of money you’ve brought back from your travels years ago and forgot about. You’re not likely to be able to do anything with it via the official channels.

Luckily, there’s a whole branch of businesses devoted to buying and reselling old money, such as an old foreign currency exchange called Forgotten Bucks. Look around the Internet and find the best one for you!

Using third-party services to sell your old money is also a great option if you’re too anxious about sending your cash via mail. In such case, try to find a dealership or a service close to your address, so that you can go there in person.

3. Find out what your coins are made out of

Up until the second half of the 20th century, many coins were made using precious metals – gold and silver, or their alloys wit other, less expensive materials, such as copper or nickel. It was only around the 1950s – 1960s that the prices of gold and silver started growing to the point that the coins made out of them would be worth more as bullion than their denomination.

Contemporary coins are made out of cheap materials and only have a minuscule value as scrap metal. Older pieces, however, may contain precious metals. How to check it? Do some research! Alternatively, you can check that yourself using DIY methods, such as performing an acid test. You can also consult a specialist – beware of scams, though!

old currencies4. Learn about your money

Why exactly should you learn about the old money you’re not going to spend anywhere? Seems pointless, doesn’t it? Well, that’s unless you’re unwittingly owning a rare piece. If that’s the case, your seemingly worthless money might be worth hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. This is more applicable to coins than banknotes. Being made of metal, they’re far more durable than paper notes – you stand a better chance of finding an old coin than an old banknote. What is more, they have been in use for much longer than paper money, so it’s easier to get your hands on a really rare, or old piece.

To find out how much your old money is worth, you need to identify it. Pay attention to the type of the coin (for example, a quarter of 50 cents), the production year, condition and, if available, the mint that issued the coin. This will give you enough initial information to find out whether your coin is a rarity.

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