The banknotes we produce will always be worth their face value. Even for banknotes that no longer have legal tender status.
If you look closely at any Bank of England banknote, you will notice it contains the ‘promise to pay’ inscription – our promise to honour the stated face value of our banknotes for all time.
The term dates back to the time when our notes represented deposits of gold. At that time, a member of the public could exchange one of our banknotes for gold to the same value. For example, a £5 note could be exchanged for five gold coins, called sovereigns. We stand by the ‘promise to pay’, but exchange into gold is no longer possible: today, our notes can instead be exchanged for other Bank of England notes of the same face value.