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
– Collect and track the coins they have
– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers
Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app
The Royal Mint has denied claims that there are already counterfeit 12-Sided £1 coins in circulation after a charity worker pointed out discrepancies between two coins.
Roy Wright, a charity worker from Surrey, was shocked when he noticed a few subtle differences between the two £1 coins, leading him to believe he had found the ‘first fake £1 coin’.
Impossible to counterfeit
Despite the new £1 coins being designed to be ‘impossible to counterfeit’, Mr Wright suggested that coin he had was heavier, had no hologram and the Queen’s head was positioned more to the left. Not only that, the edges were more rounded and there was no detail on the head of the thistle.
A genuine coin with a production fault…
Whilst the story has caused some excitement in the press and The Royal Mint has not yet been able to examine the offending coin, they are confident it is not a fake, but instead a genuine coin with a production fault.
Despite tight quality controls being in place, The Royal Mint has said that variances are likely to occur during the striking process in a small numbers of coins. Whilst such mis-strikes are relatively unusual and can be numismatically interesting, they are not the same as genuine errors.
Rumours of a genuine error in circulation
Unconfirmed rumours have also been circulating about some new £1 coins featuring two dates. There are reports of some coins having 2016 on the obverse and 2017 engraved in the micro lettering of the reverse.
Although, we are yet to see an example, if this is true, it would have to be the result of mis-matched 2016 and 2017 dies being used during production – a genuine error or “mule”.
Of course, it was the use of an incorrect die that resulted in the most famous modern “error” – the “undated 20p coin“, now regarded by many as the Holy Grail of change collecting. You can read more about the story of the undated 20p here.
If you’ve #foundapound in your change, have you spotted anything strange about it?