Exchange of Kč 50 notes ends soon

More than 11 million of the invalid banknotes are still out there

If you have been holding onto the pink-and-black Kč 50 banknote, you just have until the end of March to exchange them at seven branches of the Czech National Bank (ČNB). The notes have been invalid since April 1, 2011 and can no longer be exchanged at regular banks.

The ČNB say that 11.5 million of the Kč 50 banknotes are still in the hands of the public, or roughly 1.1 for every person in the country. The total value of the outstanding notes is Kč 580 million, but after March 31 the notes will be worthless as there will be no more possibility to exchange them anywhere.

The Kč 50 banknotes co-existed with more durable coins of the same denomination since 1993. Even before the notes became invalid in 2011, they were hard to find. They were last printed in 2007. The number of Kč 50 banknotes fell from 40 million at the end of 2005 to 14.2 million on March 29, 2011. The number of Kč 50 coins increased from 5 million to 64.3 million during the same time.

The reason for canceling the banknotes was financial, as it costs more to print paper money and replace it constantly than to make coins, which don't wear out nearly as quickly.

For the first year after the notes became invalid they could be exchanged at both regular banks and the ČNB. After that they could just be exchanged at ČNB branches. At the ČNB, the notes are checked for authenticity and shredded. The shreds are compressed into bricks under high pressure and incinerated, a press release issued in 2011 said.

The Kč 50 note and other current designs were made by artist Oldřich Kulhánek, who in the 1970s was accused of making subversive images of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. Eleven of his illustrations were ordered destroyed by the court but are alleged to have been stolen by court personnel instead. He was unable to work as an artist during the communist era after that.

The front of the Kč 50 note features a portrait of St. Agnes of Bohemia, and the back has a medieval manuscript-style letter A with a crown on top.

The design has seen a few changes over the years to improve security. The 1993 version, already invalid as of 2007, was printed by Thomas De La Rue and Company in London. The security-enhanced 1994 and 1997 versions were printed in Prague by Státní Tiskárna Cenin, or the state securities printer.

The Kč 50 coin was designed by sculptor and medallion maker Ladislav Kozák, who also designed the Kč 10 coin. The bimetallic Kč 50 coin depicting Prague Castle and Charles Bridge on the face and a Czech lion on back was named the best trade coin in 1994 by World Coin News.

The Kč 50 will be joining the Kč 20 note, which ceased to be be valid Aug. 31, 2008, and could not be exchanged anywhere since Aug. 31, 2014. In practice, they have not been seen in circulation since the early 2000s since they were no longer printed and only lasted 1.5 years on average. The note featured Přemysl Otakar I on the front and his seal on the back.

Some coins have also been taken out of circulation. Heller coins, worth a fraction of a crown, all left circulation as of 2008 because they represent too small of an amount of money, although prices are often still marked to include hellers.

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