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Company details

Banknote Watch Trust

Company No. 4149042 (A Company limited by guarantee)

Registered Office: Banknote Watch Trust, Spinnaker House, Saltash Parkway, Saltash. PL12 6YH.

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Counterfeit Banknotes

In this page you will find advice on what to do should you come across counterfeit banknotes – based on an extract form the Bank of England Fact Sheet entitled ‘Bank Notes’. For more information, visit the Bank of England website (link to http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/ )

How to check if a banknote is genuine

Additional security features on £50 and £20 notes

New £50 notes

Legal obligations

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How to check a bank note is genuine

Security against counterfeiting heavily depends on the public easily being able to spot whether a note is genuine. The following four items can be checked on all current Bank of England banknotes. If in doubt, comparing a suspect note to one that is known to be genuine can often help to show the authenticity or otherwise of a note.

  • The feel of the paper
    If the note is in reasonable condition it should be crisp and slightly rough in the heavily printed areas. It should not be limp, waxy or shiny.
  • The watermark
    It should hardly be apparent until the note is held up to the light. Then a clearly defined portrait of HM The Queen, with subtle gradations of light and shade is visible.
  • The thread
    All genuine notes have a thread embedded in the paper. When held up in the light, the “windowed” thread appears as a bold continuous line, whilst under normal lighting as a series of silver dashes. On the £20 note, the thread appears on the back of the note, and on all other notes, the thread appears on the front of the note.
  • The quality of printing
    A bank of England note is made up of fine lines that are sharp and well defined, not soft or fuzzy. The colours are pure and clear.

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Additional security features on £50 and £20 notes

  • The £50 note has a silver foil medallion and rose to the right of the Queen’s portrait
  • The £20 carries a foil hologram on the front of the note: this switches from an image of Britannia to the figure 20. There is also a red and green fluorescent number 20 clearly visible under ultraviolet light below the hologram. In addition, some micro lettering is included under the portrait of HM The Queen. It appears as a single line to the naked eye but under a magnifying glass the word and numeral twenty can be seen.

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The new £50 note

The Bank of England recently issued a new-style £50 note in to circulation featuring Matthew Boulton and James Watt.

The new note sports a number of new and enhanced security features, the most striking is a green motion thread, which is woven into the paper. It contains images of the £ symbol and the number 50. When the note is tilted from side to side the images move up and down, and when the note is tilted up and down the images move from side to side,  and the number 50 and £ symbol switch. The note also contains UV features and more raised print areas.

The Bank of England website (link to http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/newfifty/index.htm  )has further information.

The current £50 note featuring Sir John Houblon remains in circulation and can be used normally until further notice.

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Legal obligations

It is a criminal offence to try to pass or keep a banknote that you either know or suspect to be counterfeit. If you inadvertently receive a note that you believe to be counterfeit, you should take it to the nearest police station as quickly as possible.

For further information about banknotes visit the Bank of England website at www.bankofengland.co.uk

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