Do you remember how strange it felt to hold your first polymer £5 note when they were released back in 2016?

Billed as the most durable banknotes yet, the new polymer notes replaced the old paper versions with a thin and flexible plastic material which was said to be cleaner, safer and stronger.

And whilst it’s claimed they should last 2.5 times the lifespan of paper notes, it seems they might not be as durable as once thought…

It’s now been four years since the £5 notes were released, three years since the £10 notes were released and we’re just over a month away from the release of the new polymer £20 note.

Whilst we’re all really excited for the upcoming release of the new £20 note featuring JMW Turner, the question remains as to how durable this note will really be.

50 million damaged polymer banknotes replaced

Recent figures suggest that almost 50 million polymer £5 and £10 notes have been forced to be replaced due to the wear and tear sustained since they were released into circulation.

The Bank of England have said that the damage was mainly caused by “folds, tears, holes and foil wear”.

Figures from the Press Association news agency, say that roughly 20 million polymer £5 notes and around 26 million £10 notes have been swapped so far due to damage.

However, the Bank has never said the new notes are indestructible, instead claiming that they should last 2.5 times longer than paper notes, which were lasting an average of just two years in circulation.

The number of polymer banknotes being replaced only represents a small percentage of the total number which are circulating and the Bank suggests that this is in line with their expectations.

“While we expect the polymer notes to have a longer life, it is too early in the note’s lifecycle to yet understand the rate of replacement of polymer notes,” they said.

“The use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets, and can also survive a spin in the washing machine.”

In 2015, 21,835 paper banknotes were replaced due to damage from being torn, washed, contaminated, damaged and even chewed and eaten!

The new polymer material is resistant to dirt and moisture which means they will stay in a better condition for longer.

Plus, when a polymer note reaches the end of its life, it will be recycled, meaning the new notes are more environmentally friendly.

New polymer notes to be released

The new £20 note is due to enter circulation on 20 February 2020 and initially the note will be in circulation alongside the existing paper £20 notes.

2020 polymer £20 note. Credit: Bank of England

These will eventually be phased out as we have seen with the paper £5 and £10 notes in the past years.

We are also expecting the new £50 polymer banknote featuring mathematician and second world war codebreaker Alan Turing in 2021.

Are you looking forward to seeing the new polymer notes, and have you experienced any damage to your £5 and £10 polymer notes? Let us know in the comments below!


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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– Swap their spare coins with other Change Checkers

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The new design for the polymer £20 note has been officially revealed by the Bank of England and we can’t wait to start seeing it in our change next year!

The design features JMW Turner, who was selected from the 29,701 nominations submitted by the public, making him the first British artist to feature on a UK banknote.

But what makes the new £20 note even more special is that is has been described by the Bank of England as the most secure note yet, with two windows and a two-colour foil which makes it difficult to counterfeit.

There are over 2 billion £20 notes in circulation, which makes the £20 note Britain’s most used (and also most forged) banknote.

Britain’s most secure banknote

Special features make the new polymer £20 note more secure, harder to forge and help it to stand out from other notes in circulation:

  • Hologram – the word changes between ‘Twenty’ and ‘Pounds’ when tilted
  • See-through windows – the foil on the front is blue and gold and the foil on the back is silver. There is also a second, smaller window in the bottom corner
  • Raised dots – there are clusters of raised dots in the top left corner to help visually impaired people identify the note
  • Ultra-violet number – under ultra-violet light the number ’20’ appears in red and green
  • Purple foil patch – a round purple foil patch contains the letter ‘T’
  • Historical character – JMW Turner’s self-portrait circa 1799 can also be seen on display in the Tate Britain
  • Quote – “Light therefore is colour”
  • The Queen’s portrait – printed on the back with “£20 Bank of England” printed twice around the edge

The Design

The bank note will feature Turner’s 1799 self-portrait – an image that currently hangs in the Tate Modern.

In addition, the note also features one of his most recognisable works, The Fighting Temeraire – a tribute to the ship which played a big part in Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

A final touch of Turner, the note also includes a quote from the artist, ‘light is therefore colour’ and the signature taken from his will.

2020 polymer £20 note. Credit: Bank of England

Excitingly for collectors though, the new £20 note will be the first to feature the signature of Sarah John – the Bank’s new cashier. So keep an eye out for this when you get your first polymer £20 note!

When can we expect to start seeing the polymer £20 note?

The new £20 note is due to enter circulation on 20 February 2020.

Initially the note will be in circulation alongside the existing paper £20 notes, which will eventually be phased out as we have seen with the paper £5 and £10 notes in the past years.

We are also expecting the new £50 polymer bank note featuring mathematician and second world war codebreaker Alan Turing in 2021.

So, how excited are you about the new £20 polymer note? Let us know in the comments below!


f 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

Change Checker Web App Banner 2 Amends 1024x233 1 1024x233 - Your January 2019 Scarcity Index update!

Sign up today at: www.changechecker.org/app

Exciting news emerged over the weekend on who would replace economist Adam Smith on the £20 note.

Adam Smith’s image has featured on the £20 banknote since 2007, but early last year the Bank of England announced plans to replace him.

The bank of England asked the British public to nominate “people of historical significance” from the world of visual arts, from a list of 590 eligible candidates. Some of the nominations included Alfred Hitchcock, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Richard Attenborough, Beatrix Potter and William Blake.

Of the 590 candidates, just 5 were shortlisted by a Bank committee and included – artist JMW Turner, designer Josiah Wedgwood, filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, sculptor Barbara Hepworth and painter William Hogarth.

The final decision was made by the Bank’s governor, Mark Carney and it has now been revealed that artist JMW Turner and his painting ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ will feature on the new £20 banknote.

The design

The design features Turner’s self-portrait from 1788 along with one of his most famous paintings ‘The Fighting Temeraire’ which is a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played an important role during the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

The quote ‘Light is therefore colour’ comes from a lecture by Turner at the Royal Academy in 1818 and his signature is taken from will when he donated all of his works to the nation.

Due to enter into circulation in 2020, the £20 note will be the third banknote made from Polymer, following on from the £5 note featuring Winston Churchill and the £10 note featuring Jane Austen. The £50 note will remain in circulation with the same design and there are currently no plans for them to be issued in polymer.