The new £5 note

Sep 20, 2016


 By Lyndsey Hall 


The new polymer £5 note has been launched, depicting the late Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. The new notes are said to be cleaner, safer and stronger than the previous cotton paper versions. Made from a type of plastic, they will withstand a cycle in a washing machine, but will melt under the heat of an iron. So you’ll still have to check your pockets, but now you can do it after they’ve come out of the wash.

The old fiver, which featured prison reformer Elizabeth Fry will remain legal tender until May 5th 2017. The first print-run of the new fiver released 440 million of the notes into circulation on Tuesday 13th September, but only some cash machines will have them immediately. The new notes are slightly smaller than the old version, meaning cash machines need to be altered, and the Bank of England has been working with the cash industry to help get machines ready for the change. Only around 7% of cash machines handle £5 notes, and ATMs in London, Manchester, Birmingham, Hull and Cardiff will be among the first to stock them.

The new polymer notes include several updated security features to help prevent counterfeiting, such as a transparent window featuring the Queen’s portrait, and Big Ben in gold foil on the front of the note and silver on the back. They are expected to last up to five years, 2.5 times longer than the current notes.

Next to receive the plastic treatment will be the £10 note, which, after a viral campaign by Caroline Criado-Perez, will depict author Jane Austen when it goes into production in 2017.

The new £20 note, it was announced on April 22nd 2016 will depict artist J.M.W. Turner. The new selection process, introduced by Bank of England governor Mark Carney in December 2013, involved a two month nomination period between May and July 2015, when the public were invited to nominate characters from the visual arts. 29,701 nominations were received for 590 eligible characters, the rules decreeing that nominees must not be either living or fictional. The only living person to appear on our currency is the current monarch.

The full list of nominated characters can be seen here, and the shortlist of sixty seven names can be found here.

The new twenty pound note will go into circulation in 2020. In addition to Turner’s self-portrait, painted circa 1799 and currently on display in the Tate Britain, the reverse of the note will include one of Turner’s most prominent works The Fighting Temeraire, as well as a quote from Turner’s 1818 lecture, “Light is therefore colour”, referring to his innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone. Turner’s signature from his Will, in which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation, will also feature.

What are your thoughts on the new plastic banknotes? Is it time British currency was brought up to date with our more advanced neighbours (20 countries already use the polymer notes, including Australia, New Zealand and Canada)? Is the cost of the new banknotes and hexagonal £1 coins worth it to reduce counterfeiting? Let us know your opinion in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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