Paper Money

Bank of England releases polymer £20 note featuring Turner

The Bank of England’s polymer £20 note featuring the artist J.M.W. Turner and a portion of one of his paintings was issued on Feb. 20.

The new note measures 139 by 73 millimeters. The bank said half the ATMs in the country would be dispensing them within two weeks.

It is the third English polymer note, joining the Winston Churchill £5 note and the Jane Austen £10 note. The fourth, a £50 note featuring Alan Turing to be issued next year, honors the mathematician, computer scientist, logician, cryptanalyst, and philosopher, whose code-breaking skills helped turn the tide of World War II, but who was persecuted and driven to suicide because he was gay.

The new £20 note is the first with the signature of Sarah John, the bank’s current chief cashier.

The self-portrait of Turner featured on the reverse is currently on display at Tate Britain alongside the bank note. The museum will present a major new exhibition dedicated to Turner later this year, in which a featured work will be one of his most famous paintings,The Fighting Temeraire. The ship had a significant role in Adm. Nelson’s victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, and is shown behind Turner’s portrait on the bill’s reverse. The standard portrait of Queen Elizabeth II found on all English currency is on the other side.

The bank calls the £20 note “the most secure Bank of England banknote yet.” It has an image-changing hologram; a pair of see-through windows (one of them blue and gold on the face and silver on the back); two foil patches, one silver and one purple; raised text and microprinting; and a numeral 20 visible under good quality ultra-violet light.

The serial number is printed horizontally and vertically on the back. The horizontal one, in the bottom right corner, is made up of multi-colored letters and numbers, which increase in height from left to right. The vertical number runs down the left-hand side with numbers and letters of the same height and color.

Despite the complaints from animal rights activists, certain religious sects, and some vegans that its inclusion has caused, the polymer substrate still contains the animal by-product known as tallow. The purpose is to keep the note lubricated, imparting anti-static and anti-slip properties. Without tallow, polymer notes can create static electricity as they go through a counting machine, making the notes stick together and leading to counting errors. No suitable substitute was found.

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