Britain will soon become the latest country to release polymer banknotes into circulation, joining nations such as Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Vietnam in the shift to plastic currency.
The UK unveiled the £5 polymer note earlier this month, although it won’t be issued until September 13th this year. The note will feature Sir Winston Churchill, who first served as the country’s prime minister during the Second World War and again from 1951 to 1955.
Polymer currency is manufactured using a transparent plastic film, and it was first introduced in Australia nearly 30 years ago. According to the Bank of England (BoE), there are three key advantages to plastic notes:
- They are more difficult to counterfeit
- They are resistant to dirt and moisture exposure
- They are durable
These qualities mean polymer notes are more secure, cleaner and longer lasting than paper alternatives. In fact, the BoE predicts they will typically last approximately five years, which is 2.5 times more than existing notes.
Polymer also received the thumbs-up from the general public, with 87 per cent of people who responded to a consultation on the issue supporting a switch to plastic currency.
BoE Governor Mark Carney said the notes, like Sir Winston, will “stand the test of time”.
The new fivers will have several security measures to prevent counterfeiting, including micro-lettering below the Queen’s image that is only visible using a microscope.
There are also several hard-to-replicate holograms throughout the note. For example, one image contains the word ‘Five’ but tilting the note slightly changes this to ‘Pound’.
Big Ben will also appear in silver foil on the back of the note and gold foil on the front, while a see-through window containing the Queen’s portrait has a border that changes from purple to green.
People can continue to use the current £5 note, although they will be gradually withdrawn from circulation once the new currency is introduced. Old fivers will cease to be legal tender from May 2017.
Following the release of the Sir Winston fiver, the BoE intends to issue a £10 polymer note featuring Jane Austen in summer 2017 and a £20 note with J M W Turner shortly after.