In 1725, printed banknotes were first introduced in the UK, with the purpose of fixed denominations. The £20 banknote came first and following a shortage of metallic currency during the Seven Years’ War in 1759, £10 and £15 notes were issued.
The £5 note was the last to be introduced in 1793. But since their introduction, banknotes have been subject to fraudulent behaviour, so much so, additional banknotes have been executed partly to make forgery of such more difficult.
Fraudulent notes are also called ‘counterfeit banknotes’ and although less and less are going into circulation — with less than 1 in 40,000 banknotes being counterfeit in 2021 — it’s still an important topic to discuss!
Although polymer banknotes are a lot harder to replicate than the traditional paper ones, you should still check your notes when you receive them. But the questions is, how do you spot a counterfeit banknote?
For every polymer banknote, a good starting point is to look at its size.
The higher the value, the larger it is. Here we can see the approximate sizes of the £5, £10 and £20 polymer banknotes:
Crucially, you should always check your polymer banknotes for the following key security features:
- All polymer notes when tilted from side to side and up and down, should feature word changes within their holograms.
- For the £5 banknote, the words should change between ‘Five’ and ‘Pounds’, the £10 banknote between ‘Ten’ and ‘Pounds’ and so on.
- Each banknote of denomination has a metallic image over the see-through window on it.
- Both the £5 and £10 polymer notes have gold foil on the front of the note within this part and silver on the back.
- The £20 note has a blue and gold foil on the front of the note for the metallic image and silver on the back.
- Lastly, the £50 note has gold and green foil on the front and silver on the back.
Feel of polymer and raised print:
- Polymer is a thin and flexible material so check that the material of your banknote feels this way.
- On each denomination banknote as well, the words ‘Bank of England’ should feel raised.
- Each banknote denomination will have a different foil patch on it.
- For the £5 note, this is a green foil patch — it is circular and spells ‘BLENHEIM’ to commemorate where Churchill was born.
- The £10 note has a copper foil patch, and this is shaped as a book.
- Check it contains the letters ‘JA’, in tribute to Jane Austen.
- A purple foil patch shaped in a circle with a ‘T’ at its centre, to represent JMW Turner, is imprinted on the £20 note and lastly, a metallic red foil patch can be found on the £50 note and contains the letters ‘AT’ for Alan Turing.
- The patches can all be located behind the silver crown on the front of the notes.
The queen’s portrait in the see-through window:
- The Queen’s portrait which is printed within the see-through window can be found on all the banknotes with the respective denomination and the words ‘Bank of England’ printed twice.
- For example, on the £5 note the inscription ‘£5 Bank of England’ will be printed twice around the windows edge.
This is a just a small selection of the security features that you can find on your polymer banknote. Can you name some of the other features? Let us know in the comments below!
Counterfeit banknotes have no monetary value and cannot be reimbursed. The best thing to do if you encounter a counterfeit banknote is take it to your nearest police station.
They will ask you to fill out a form and once taken from you, will send the suspect note(s) to the National Crime Agency and if found to be counterfeit, to the Bank of England for further examination.
If you’re interested in coin collecting, our Change Checker web app is completely free to use and allows users to:
– Find and identify the coins in their pocket
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Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app