65 facts about Premium Bonds

Everything you ever wanted to know about Premium Bonds and their history since the first draw 65 years ago.

31 May 2022

NS&I has released 65 facts about Premium Bonds to mark 65 years since the first prize draw:

1. The first Premium Bond was purchased by the then lord mayor of London, Alderman Sir Cuthbert Ackroyd, on November 1 1956.

2. The second Premium Bond was bought by the mayor of Lytham St Annes.

3. By the end of the first day on sale, more than £5 million worth of bonds had been purchased.

Ernest Marples, the postmaster-general, pressing a button to start up Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicating Equipment) for the first Premium Savings Bonds draw, at Lytham St Annes, Lancashire
Ernest Marples, the postmaster-general, pressing a button to start up Ernie for the first Premium Savings Bonds draw at Lytham St Annes, Lancashire (PA)

4. The public had to wait seven months for the first draw on June 1 1957.

5. The odds for the first draw were 9,600 to one.

6. The jackpot prize for the first draw was £1,000 (versus £1 million now).

7. The smallest prize for the first draw was £25.

8. The maximum investment in 1956 was £500 (versus £50,000 now).

9. There were 49 million bonds eligible for the first draw.

10. These 49 million bonds belonged to around six million Premium Bonds holders.

11. There were 23,142 prizes paid out in the first draw.

12. The odds of a £1 holding winning the £1,000 jackpot at the time were estimated to be around one in 505,079.

13. If you held the maximum £500 in Premium Bonds at the time, your odds of winning the jackpot increased to around one in 1,010.

14. 394,007 bonds bought prior to the first draw are still eligible to this day.

15. These 394,007 bonds won more than 100 prizes in 2021.

16. Harold Wilson, the shadow chancellor at the time of the launch of Premium Bonds, referred to them as a “squalid raffle”.

17. IFK341150 was the first ever Premium Bonds number drawn and was held by a Premium Bond holder in Cumbria.

18. The Premium Bonds draw was often a glitzy affair, with the likes of Bob Hope and Sir Bruce Forsyth starting the draw at some point.

19. The £1 million Premium Bonds prize was launched in April 1994.

20. June 1 2022 (the 65th anniversary of the first Premium Bonds prize draw) will see the 483rd and 484th millionaires created by Ernie (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment).

Premium Bonds
NS&I’s prize checker app (NS&I/PA)

21. The longest amount of time a winner has waited to win the £1 million jackpot is 16,587 days (or 45 years and five months). This was a winner based in Newham, London, who held £17 in Premium Bonds. The winning bond was purchased in February 1959 and won the jackpot prize in July 2004.

22. At the other end of the spectrum, 12 winners have waited just two months to win the £1 million jackpot, winning in the first draws in which their bonds were eligible.

23. The above winner from Newham in London also had the smallest holding (£17) ever to win the £1 million Premium Bonds jackpot.

24. Twelve people holding £1,000 or less have scooped the £1 million jackpot prize.

25. In the May 2022 prize draw, there were 117,819,813,615 bonds eligible to win tax-free prizes.

26. Since Ernie turned 60 in June 2017, this number has almost doubled from 64,057,711,819.

27. The figure has almost quadrupled from Ernie’s 50th birthday – in November 2006, there were 32,329,928,097 eligible bonds.

28. The biggest increase in the number of eligible bonds month-on-month was March 2021, when the figure rose by 2,160,113,561 from the previous draw.

29. June 1 2022 marks the 780th Premium Bonds prize draw.

30. Bond number 200VB673507 is one of the luckiest on record – purchased in January 2013 and belonging to a Premium Bonds holder from the West Midlands, the bond won four £25 prizes between July 2017 and March 2019.

31. More than £22.9 billion in prize money has been paid out by Ernie since the first draw in 1957.

32. In December 2006, NS&I made five people millionaires to celebrate 50 years since Premium Bonds went on sale.

33. In June 2007, NS&I again made five millionaires – this time to celebrate 50 years since the first Premium Bonds prize draw.

34. In the run-up to the December 2006 draw, during one day in October, NS&I sold more than £220 million of Premium Bonds as people rushed to make sure they were eligible for the chance to win one of the five £1 million prizes. This remains a record for the most Premium Bonds sold in one day.

35. There are 21.1 million Premium Bonds customers.

36. Ten children under the age of 16 have won the £1 million jackpot.

37. The oldest ever £1 million winner was aged over 90 at the time of their win.

38. There has been a millionaire from every English county apart from Rutland.

39. Almost nine in 10 of the more than 3.2 million prizes paid each month are automatically reinvested into more Premium Bonds or paid directly into customers’ bank accounts.

40. The average holding size of the £1 million jackpot winners is just over £17,000.

41. The average time that jackpot winners hold their winning bonds for prior to winning £1 million is 1,870 days or just over five years.

42. Over time, the way that people check to see if they have won has changed. People can now use NS&I’s prize checker app, the prize checker at nsandi.com or even Alexa.

43. The first incarnation of Ernie was developed by the team behind the Second World War codebreaking machine Colossus at Bletchley Park.

44. Ernie is now in his fifth incarnation to keep up with the volume of numbers needing to be generated each month.

45. Ernie 1 could generate 2,000 numbers per hour.

46. It was thought the first draw should take 30 hours to complete, but it went on for over two days because the engineers and staff needed to rest.

47. If Ernie 1 were still in use today, it is estimated that it would take around 175 days to generate the numbers needed for the monthly prize draws.

48. Ernie 1 used the signal noise created by neon tubes to generate numbers.

49. Ernie 3 is the longest serving Ernie so far, in use from 1973 until 1988.

50. Ernie 5 is the first incarnation of Ernie to use quantum technology to generate numbers.

Premium Bonds
Premium Bonds from the 1960s and 1970s (Johnny Green/PA)

51. On average, it now takes Ernie 5 around 17 minutes to generate the random numbers required for the monthly draw.

52. Ernie has drawn more than 567 million winning bond numbers since the first draw.

53. The first draw took place in Lytham St Annes near Blackpool in Lancashire.

54. Having moved out of Lytham for a while, Ernie is now back in the seaside town where the first ever draw took place.

55. Ernie 5 is more than 40 times faster at generating the numbers needed than its predecessor, Ernie 4.

56. Ernie is so loved by people across the UK that he has received a swathe of Valentine’s, Christmas and birthday cards over the years.

57. There are currently more than 2.2 million unclaimed Premium Bonds prizes.

58. The value of unclaimed prizes is more than £77 million.

59. The largest unclaimed prize is worth £100,000.

60. London has the most unclaimed Premium Bonds prizes in the UK with more than 389,000.

61. This is closely followed by the south east of England with more than 329,000 unclaimed prizes.

62. The oldest unclaimed prize is worth £25 and is from November 1957 and is due to a holder in South Yorkshire.

63. Agent Million, whose job it is to deliver the Premium Bonds jackpot prize to the winners, has always been able to deliver the £1 million jackpot.

64. As there is more than one jackpot prize each month, there are four such agents.

65. Agent Million has sometimes had to leave the UK to deliver the jackpot prize. There have been five £1 million winners based overseas.

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