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£50 note to join the polymer family

A hand is holding out a fan of £50 notes.

The Bank of England has given the £50 note a stay of execution as it too will undergo a facelift and join the new and approved modernised British currency family.

A somewhat surprising turn of events as the UK’s highest domination was at risk of being withdrawn completely following a government review about the future of cash and digital payments in the new economy. 

The report suggested the demand for £50 notes (along with 1p and 2p coins) has been lacking with many popular high street banks admitting that their ATMs rarely (if ever) dispense the note, even though the average cash withdrawal is reportedly £69

Not only this, the £50 note is no stranger to controversy and often associated with fraudulent activity, tax evasion and crime. Peter Sands, the former chief executive of Standard Chartered bank recently claimed the main use of the note was for “illicit” means and called for it to be abolished.

Fast forward six months later; it seems we’re not so squeamish about the note after all.  

Who will be the famous face?

Needless to say, questions concerning who will feature on the note will be raised.

Steam engine pioneers James Watt and Matthew Boulton currently appear on the paper £50, which was last issued in 2011. An announcement concerning who their replacement may be is yet to be made; however, the Bank of England now has a committee which asks for public nominations in a chosen field – a smart following a highly publicised campaign spearheaded by activist and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez during the £10 note makeover in 2013. 

Criado-Perez took Twitter by storm as she protested against the Bank of England’s male heavy presence on the currency as Winston Churchill replaced prison reformer, Elizabeth Fry. By doing so, this meant other than the Queen, no other women would be featured at all. Criado-Perez openly prepared to take the Bank of England to court in a fight to ensure a female figure wasn’t excluded from the new, upcoming polymer notes. She set-up an online petition and raised over £13,000 through a crowdfunding platform and plenty of supporters from around the UK donated towards her legal fees if needed. 

Luckily, the battle was settled outside of the courtroom and Jane Austen took pride of place on the £10 polymer note joining Sir Winston Churchill who features on the fiver. JMW Turner took the top spot for the £20 note which will be released in 2020. 

Nevertheless, the rumour mill has already started churning, with Labour MP, Wes Streeting, suggesting that revolutionary British-Jamaican nurse, Mary Seacole who tended to wounded British soldiers during the Crimean War, should feature on the new £50 note. Stephen Hawking, Emmeline Pankhurst, Alan Turing and Agatha Christie are a few of many names being discussed on Twitter.

Is plastic fantastic?

Polymer notes are reportedly cleaner, safer and stronger than its paper sibling. They are harder to counterfeit and last an average of 2.5 times longer. Environmentally friendly, polymer increases the quality of notes in circulation. They may be machine washable, but avoid the tumble dryer at all costs and never iron!

There are 330 million £50 notes in circulation, worth £16.5 billion currently in circulation. The Treasury hasn’t yet announced a timeline for the final polymer note once the £20 has been released in 2020.

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Sian Dennis Senior Marketing and Communications Assistant

Sian is responsible for the running of the Society's Press Office and PR strategy as well as the creation of external marketing collateral, digital copywriting, brand awareness and internal communications.

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