Examining the new fiver, a polymer banknote that introduces state-of-the-art security features


Printed on durable, water resistant polymer, the new Bank of England five pound banknote is set to become the cleanest, strongest and most secure banknote ever when it is launched nationwide on the 13th September 2016.

Printed by De La Rue at the Bank of England’s Printing Works in Debden, Essex, a stock of 440 million new polymer £5 notes will be transported in armoured vehicles to high-security vaults before being distributed to high street banks and loaded into cash machines throughout the UK.

Whilst it may take a few days for the new money to work its way into the nations wallets and purses, the transition from cotton to polymer currency will be suprisingly swift. The Bank of England intends to withdraw half of all ‘traditional’ paper £5 notes from circulation by the end of year with paper £5 notes ceasing to be legal tender as of May 2017.

Advanced Security Features

With the Queen on one side, and Winston Churchill on the other, the new polymer notes are 15% smaller than the current design and include some of the most advanced security features ever seen on a banknote.

Alongside ‘commonplace’ security measures such as holograms and microprint, are a number of new number secure technologies that were not available to banknote designers before the switch to polymer.

New high-tech security features including see-through windows, vignettes, shadow-images and self-authenticating features such as metameric inks or microprint that can be checked using the transparent window as a filter or magnifier, are all unique to polymer banknotes and ensure that polymer notes are much harder to counterfeit than their paper counterparts.

Polymer Revolution

Following the launch of the new fiver in September, the Bank of England intends to continue the polymer revolution releasing a new polymer £10 note in the summer of 2017 and a polymer £20 note by 2020.

The Bank are yet to announce details of a new £50 note fuelling speculation that plans are afoot to scrap the high denomination note, which has previously been a target for counterfeiters.

Examination and Authentication

Foster + Freeman document examination technology is already used worldwide to examine all forms of paper and polymer currency and includes industry leading systems capable of performing the advanced examination techniques required to authenticate modern banknotes:

VSC 8000 – The essential video spectral comparator for the examination of all questioned documents combines multi-spectral illumination sources with a powerful software package that is regularly updated to aid in the examination of new security features. The world’s most advanced QDE system, VSC systems are currently used by the Bank of England, the European Central Bank and numerous national banks throughout the world.

DVM, Digital Video Microscope – A digital video microscope with integral white and UV LED illumination sources designed for the examination of taggants, a powerful covert anti-counterfeit technology incorporated into inks and polymers on the latest generation of banknotes.


Related Articles
fpNatural IR Fluorescent fingerprint powders
DCS 5 UV-Vis-IR Fingerprint imaging workstation
Crime-lite Imager Semi-automated fingerprint system
External Link: Forensic Science International