New polymer fiver enters circulation

Max Goldbart
Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The UK's new polymer £5 note has entered circulation today.

The new £5 note features an image of Sir Winston Churchill and has been eagerly anticipated since mass printing first began in the factory of security printer De La Rue last September. It is printed on an substrate from Innovia Films. 

According to the Bank of England (BoE), the added strength of the polymer material means it is resistant to dirt and moisture and will have a lifespan of around five years – two and a half times longer than the current £5 note.

This is a first for England and Wales, although some polymer banknotes have been in use in Scotland on a limited basis since March 2015. In Northern Ireland, where some commercial banks have the right to issue their own notes, polymer notes have been in circulation since 1999. 

The design for the note was first unveiled at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, on 2 June and a video emerged in late June on YouTube giving viewers a glimpse into its production methods.

Since June, it has been toured around the country by BoE staff and showcased to the public.

Governor of the BoE Mark Carney said: “The new fiver, made of polymer, will be cleaner, safer and stronger. Resistant to dirt and moisture, it will stay in good condition for longer. 

“The new security features make it harder to counterfeit, while the use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched-up inside pockets.”

440m new fivers have been printed and are readily available for issue from cash machines and bank counters across the UK. The paper notes will be gradually withdrawn from circulation and will cease to be legal tender in May 2017.

There are some 3.2 billion BoE banknotes currently in circulation, with a total value of more than £60bn. The £20 is by far the most widely-used, with more than 1.9 billion in circulation, followed by the £10 (737 million notes), £5 (320 million) and £50 (236 million).

The new polymer £10 and £20 notes, featuring the images of author Jane Austen (£10) and artist JMW Turner (£20), will first be issued in the summer of 2017 and 2020 respectively.

The new fiver is slightly smaller than the former version and features bold numerals to ensure it remains distinguishable for blind and visually impaired people. The polymer £10 and £20 notes are due to have a tactile feature created by a series of raised dots.

The first £5 note was issued in 1793. It was printed black and white on one side.

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