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The Bank of England has launched a new polymer based Five pound note.


The new note was issued on 13th September 2016. We asked printing and security reproduction expert Malcolm McReath his opinion on the new note and its enhanced security features.

The primary reason for introducing the new £5 note is to get much more wear out of each note than is the case with the notes currently in circulation. It is expected that they will last in regular use about 2.5 times longer than the current cotton paper substrate that notes are currently printed on.

These new notes are printed onto a polymer material, which is basically a plastic substrate. They are therefore much stronger than the cotton paper variety, and will withstand much better the rough treatment that notes get when in circulation.

Some new anti counterfeiting features have been added. One is the addition of very small lettering which can only be seen visually by using a microscope. However, of greatest importance is that these letters are beyond the resolution that can be achieved with readily available analogue or digital equipment normally in use for image reproduction in the printing industry. Forgery of the notes could not be attempted without some form of image reproduction being undertaken.

A further feature is the use of a transparent window. Again, this is very difficult to replicate in the middle of a note using equipment that would normally be available to a substrate supplier or a printing business. It becomes especially difficult when the feature would need to be replicated a number of times on each printed sheet as notes could not feasibly be printed singly. They would need to be ganged up probably at least six times to view on each sheet to make a counterfeiting operation viable.

The hologram feature is already in use on other Bank of England notes currently in use. This already gives would be counterfeiters massive problems. It is another feature that is very difficult to forge. The hologram is printed on to silver foil using a special lenticular process which allows two images to be printed on the identical section of foil. If slightly tilted in one direction, one image can be seen, and tilted the other way that image disappears and a second image becomes evident.

In my opinion, the new £5 note and all its features set aside, checking that you can see two images on the silver foil is a very good quick check for a member of the public to make to ensure they have not been passed a counterfeit note. If you do not see the two images on the silver foil, reject the note!

The £10 note will be issued in summer 2017 and the £20 note by 2020. You can continue to spend paper £5 notes as usual until 5 May 2017. After this they will cease to be legal tender. A charity auction of Bank of England banknotes with low serial numbers will be held on Monday 3 October. The money raised will be donated to the Myotubular Trust, The Lily Foundation, and Bliss. The auction will be conducted by Spink & Son and more details can be found on their website.

Malcolm McReath

FIOP MAE QDR

Printing and Publishing Consultant

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Website: www.printexpert.net