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Over the years I've read articles from tens of copywriters all claiming to be the first to include a banknote or a coin on their sales letters to boost response.
The earliest claim I’ve read is from Robert Collier, way back in the 1930’s. Although I'm sure some reader will now tell me that Paul stuck a shekel on to one of his letters to the Corinthians back in 79 A.D!
In the early 80s I used an old Bulgarian banknote on a newsletter promotion. The old British ten bob (50p) note had just been discontinued and the Bulgarian note was a similar size and colour to it. The promotion worked really well and we cleaned out our suppliers of over 200,000 notes in just three months. The other notes that he had available at the time looked poor or they were very expensive, 4p as opposed to the 0.5p I paid, so we moved on to other mailings.
At a meeting with our printer I was asked why we stopped the banknote mailing and I explained that we had run out of our cheap supply of the notes. The printer said “no problem, I’ll print you some more”. Nothing illegal here, as they ceased to be legal tender in Bulgaria in 1952.
However, the notes did not have that real banknote feel and the 10,000 test bombed. A month or so later my supplier called me in a blind panic. He had his knuckles rapped as the Bulgarian government had seen a copy of our forged note. It wasn't his fault so I wrote a quick letter of apology and promised never to do it again.
A friend took great delight in warning me that the Bulgarians will not be crossed and reminded me of the incident of the Bulgarian dissident that was stabbed with a poisoned umbrella on Waterloo Bridge and subsequently died. For the next few years I was very nervous of people carrying umbrellas, especially when it wasn’t even raining.
In the early 90s the supply of out of circulation banknotes increased and the prices dropped. So I wrote a sales letter using a Peruvian banknote that worked really well. It was perfect, as it warned about the perils of inflation and the out of circulation banknote told the story perfectly.
In the past, I've also stuck a live Scottish £1 note and live £1 lottery ticket to smaller audience mailshots and got great results.