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Sinister reason this money isn't 'legal tender' as Aussie's 'rare' $5 rejected

Australians trying to make a quick buck may fish money out of a bin, but is it worth it?

A $50 note was found in a bin on an Australian street, but the passerby who pulled it out and hoped for a quick payday was in for a disappointment.

Part of the note is missing, but the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) does allow people to claim back the remaining value if they have more than 20 per cent of the damaged note (You can read our explainer on the ins and outs of cashing in on damaged money here).

However, there's another more sinister reason this $50 note is worth nothing and the man who found it quickly worked it out after putting it under a UV light.

Money story illustrated with a ripped $50 note
Money can be claimed back from a damaged banknote, but this $50 found in a bin was found to be worth nothing. (Source: Reddit)

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There were no unique markings hiding on the bill, and the material was different to the polymer used to create Australian banknotes. The man realised it was a counterfeit note.

It’s an offence to knowingly possess counterfeit notes, which are not legal tender in Australia, and there’s no reimbursement for victims who end up with them in their wallet or till.


Business owners have the right to reject any form of currency they are suspicious of, but that can create another issue.

A woman recently ran into trouble when she tried to pay for an item with change she got from an IGA supermarket.

$5 note
Mao Thao tried to use this $5 note at an Aussie store but was rejected because it didn't look real. (Source: Facebook)

"I went to buy something today with it at a different shop and they said they don't accept that not, that it doesn't look real, or that they had never seen one before like it," she said.

But it appears to be a rare 'Federation $5' note featuring Sir Henry Parkes and Catherine Helen Spence, which was issued in 2001. They are nowhere near as common as other $5 notes.

A young Aussie recently found one in her till at work and asked if it was worth anything.

"I googled it and it says it's worth $4,000, $2,500 or $22 so I don't know," she said sharing a Google search showing eBay results.

$5 note next to a computer screen showing how much money can be worth.
This $5 note was found in a money till and a quick search on eBay showed how much it's actually worth. (Source: TikTok)

Aussie money expert Joel Kandiah, of The History of Money, said it was worth more than face value.

"Only worth about $8 in that condition. In mint condition, it could fetch $35-$40," he said.

It can be difficult to work out if you've got a bargain on your hands or a complete fake. Expert Matt Thompson gave Yahoo Finance a rundown on how to tell if you're looking at an advertisement posted by someone trying to take advantage of your lack of knowledge. You can read about it here.

If you're worried about a counterfeit, there are a few steps you can take first to try and identify it.

How to identify counterfeit cash

Anyone concerned about the authenticity of a note is within their rights to refuse it. The RBA recommends comparing a suspect note to one you know to be genuine and checking for differences.

Other things the RBA says to look out for include:

  • Note texture: Is it plastic? Australian banknotes are printed on plastic and have a distinct feel. A suspect banknote may feel excessively thick or thin compared to a genuine banknote. It is difficult to start a tear along the edge of a genuine banknote. You can also try scrunching the banknote in your hand – a genuine banknote should spring back.

  • The Coat of Arms: If you hold the banknote to the light, you should see the Australian Coat of Arms.

  • The star: Diamond-shaped patterns are printed inside a circle on both sides of the banknote. If you hold the banknote up to the light, the patterns should line up perfectly to form a seven-pointed star.

  • The clear window: The clear window should be an integral part of the banknote and not an addition. Check that the white image printed on the window cannot be easily rubbed off. Also, look for the embossing – there is a wave pattern in the window of the $10 banknote, and the value of the banknote in the windows of the $20, $50 and $100 banknotes.

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