THINK twice before letting go of coins and notes that bear the Queen's portrait. Some of them have appreciated sharply in recent months. Collectors believe all existing issues will jump in value as they are replaced by currency with new designs featuring Hongkong's official plant, the Bauhania. Versions which have a colonial connection will be phased out by 1997. ''Any coin or note with the Queen's head will become a collector's item,'' said Mr Anthony Lee Hon-man, of coin dealer New Century Collections. ''The overhauling of designs has provided a golden chance for collectors.'' For example, five-cent coins issued in 1964 are now worth $2,000 each, while those minted five years ago have appreciated to $100 a piece. According to some dealers, 10-cent coins issued 12 years ago now command $7,000 a unit. Mr Ma Tak-wo, chairman of the Hongkong Numismatic Society, said coins and notes issued in the early part of the century had appreciated across the board more than five times in only a few years. Uncirculated copies of the 1935 $1 Government note have increased eightfold to $8,000 in two years. Hongkong Bank also issued $1 notes that year. ''The rate of appreciation is amazing,'' he said. Uncertainties over stock and property prices are seen as partly responsible for the new interest in coins and notes. New Century's Mr Lee said international collectors who specialised in Commonwealth items were also interested in local coins and notes. ''Many speculators have also come in [to the coin market] as other investment markets looked doubtful,'' Mr Ma said. Relatively recent issues may not appreciate as sharply, but dealers have little doubt they will become hot items in time. Among the most-sought after items is a coin set issued in 1866 which, according to Mr Lee, was the first such set issued in the territory. Due to very limited supply, the maiden series could be worth as much as what a collector is willing to pay, he said. The coin set issued in 1988 is less valuable but offers good appreciation potential, according to coin dealers. This was the only coin series since 1866. The uncirculated edition, for example, initially sold at $100 but recently traded at $180 a set. The specially polished proof edition, first sold at $300, is now worth $550. Their prices went up sharply although there were 50,000 uncirculated sets and 25,000 proof sets in circulation. The five-cent coin is the most valuable item in the set. Five-cent coins have not been issued since 1979 and the 1988 coin - now worth $100 each - was a special issue to complete the set. The 1964 five-cent coin was even more valuable because of limited supply. Coin dealers believed the issue was unusually small because of a minting mistake. Used copies of the five-cent coin are worth about $300 each, while uncirculated copies are five times more valuable. Mr Ma said the 1980 edition of the 10-cent coin was special because it was the last before the switch to smaller coins. The $1 Government note issued in 1935 has become a rare commodity because it was the first note ever issued by the Government. Other bank notes were issued by commercial banks, and Hongkong Bank was the only other issuer to print a $1 note. Such notes were withdrawn from circulation three decades ago. But coin dealers stressed a distinction between legal tender and privately issued coins. Due to government backing, the face value of legal tender are guaranteed. Their issue size, and therefore supply, is also limited. But private entities are at liberty to increase circulation of their coins and this could erode their value.