by | Jun 1, 2022

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Sixty-five years ago today, the first Premium Bonds prize draw was held on 1 June 1957, with a top prize of £1,000. June 2022 will be the 781st Premium Bonds prize draw and ERNIE (Electronic Random Number Indicator Equipment), the machine that generates the winning numbers, has now paid out more than 562 million prizes worth £22.9 billion. Today, the top prize is £1 million.

Premium Bonds have continued to evolve over the years. Today, the minimum purchase is £25 and all adults can purchase Bonds for children up to 16. The way that people receive their prizes has also changed, with more than 90% of prizes being paid directly into customers’ bank accounts or reinvested into more Premium Bonds.

To mark the 65th anniversary of the first draw, NS&I is releasing archive imagery. The imagery celebrates the history and heritage of Premium Bonds throughout the decades, illustrating how they have been part of everyday British life. Imagery from the first draw, ERNIE through the years, celebrity cameos and early Premium Bonds advertising are all included below.

Jill Waters, NS&I Retail Director, said: “June is a double celebration with the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and 65 years of Premium Bonds draws. For 65 years, Premium Bonds draws and ERNIE have been a part of peoples’ lives. The sense of anticipation and expectation that rippled across the nation in 1957 is still present among our customers today as they wait with bated breath for the results each month.“What better way to wish ERNIE Happy Birthday than to delve into our archives and celebrate the heritage and history of the nation’s favourite savings product.”Last week IFA Magazine covered the news that NS&I announced that the Premium Bonds prize fund rate will increase from 1.00% to 1.40%, effective from the June 2022 prize draw. Read the full story here. 


This means that Premium Bonds customers will get the chance to win a further 1.4 million tax-free prizes each month, with the continued peace of mind that 100% of their NS&I savings are backed by HM Treasury.Imagery from and before first drawImage 1Premium Bonds took the nation by storm, with people flocking to buy them. By the end of the first day on sale, more than £5 million worth of Premium Bonds had been purchased by the British public.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 2 

Ernest Marples, Paymaster General, starts the first ever Premium Bonds Draw on 1 June 1957.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 3

Lord Mackintosh of Halifax holds up the first winning Bond number at the first ever Premium Bonds prize draw in Lytham St Annes on 1 June 1957.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 4


The Chancellor at the time, Harold Macmillan, points at a £1 Premium Bond certificate at the launch of Premium Bonds in November 1956.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 5Harold Macmillan marks the launch of Premium Bonds by making a speech on 1 November 1956.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 6Bruce Forsyth starts the Premium Bonds draw on ERNIE’s 6th birthday in 1963.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 7Even celebrities of the day showed their love for ERNIE, with Judi Dench signing a photograph for the random number generator after a speech in Stratford on Avon, 1 May 1962.Photo credit: NS&I archiveAdvertising for Premium Bonds:Image 8

Norman Wisdom encourages people to start saving with Premium Bonds in an early advertising poster from 1957.Photo credit: NS&I archiveERNIE:Image 9ERNIE 1By the end of its life, ERNIE 1 took almost three days to complete the Premium Bonds prize draw. The first ERNIE was in service from June 1957 until January 1973.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 10ERNIE 2ERNIE’s second incarnation was more than 30 times faster than ERNIE 1. ERNIE 2 was in service from February 1973 until August 1988.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 11ERNIE 3In-service from September 1988 until March 2004, ERNIE 3 took less than six hours to complete the monthly Premium Bonds prize draw.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 12ERNIE 4Futuristic-looking ERNIE 4 could generate 1 million numbers per hour. The machine was in service from April 2004 until February 2019.Photo credit: NS&I archiveImage 13ERNIE 5By the end of its lifespan, ERNIE 4 was taking eight hours to complete the monthly prize draw. ERNIE 5 now does this in around 17 minutes. ERNIE 5 has been in service since March 2019. ERNIE 5 uses quantum technology instead of thermal noise, which was used by previous iterations of ERNIE.Photo credit: NS&I archive




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