Later this year, a brand new banknote will enter circulation, but this banknote will be unlike any other seen before… 

It wasn’t until 1793 that the first five pound note came into existence. The £5 denomination, known as the ‘white fiver’ lasted with relatively few changes until 1956 when it was last issued and replaced a year later with a new blue five pound note.

operation bernhard banknote c2a35 - Precious paper - the first and last £5 paper banknote...

A ‘white fiver’ recovered from the depths of the sea following Operation Bernard

The banknote was changed primarily to combat forgery following ‘Operation Bernhard‘ – a huge German war effort which took place during the Second World War and saw around 9 million fake notes printed.

Of course, there have been numerous changes to the £5 banknote since then, from different designs, sizes, colourings and security features.

In 1970 a new series of notes were designed, each featuring an historical figure on the back. Portraits and highly detailed machine engraving blended into historical scenes making the new notes more difficult to copy.

eccleston c2a35 banknote e1468938416549 - Precious paper - the first and last £5 paper banknote...

The 1971 £5 Banknote. Designed by Harry Eccelston OBE, the Bank of England’s first full time Artist-Designer.

But perhaps the biggest change of all is yet to come…

On 13th September 2016 a brand new banknote will enter circulation featuring the portrait of much-loved Prime Minster, Sir Winston Churchill . However, this new fiver is unlike any we have ever seen before – it’s printed on polymer.

banknote - Precious paper - the first and last £5 paper banknote...

The New Sir Winston Churchill Polymer £5 Note © Bank of England [2015]

Polymer notes are made from a flexible plastic, which is resistant to dirt and moisture, which means they will last longer and are better for the environment.

The new note has a number of security features including a see-through window and foil Elizabeth Tower – which is gold on the front and silver on the back.  It also features multiple holograms and micro-lettering under the Queen’s portrait – which can only be viewed under a microscope.

You have until May 2017 to spend your current £5 notes, after that they will cease to be legal tender – but will still be exchangeable at the Bank of England.

What do you think about the new era of plastic banknotes? Let us know in the comments below.

white fiver - Precious paper - the first and last £5 paper banknote...You can own Britain’s most famous banknote… in silver!

In a remarkable feat of craftmanship the White Fiver banknote has been re-isued in fine silver – and you can add one to your collection today.

Click here for more details


  1. Chris on July 28, 2016 at 7:57 am

    First of all why does your blog say it’s something never seen before when the first UK polymer note which was the Scotland clydesdale £5 note.which I know isn’t used in England and this is the first polymer English note but I think saying we’ve never seem it before isn’t true .
    Also something I’d like to know you say all £5 paper notes cease to be legal tender in may 2017. But is this just for UK as in Scotland we still use bank of Scotland and royal Bank of Scotland paper £5 notes and haven’t heard anything about them been stopped in 2017 and not been legal tender. So could u confirm this for me please?

    • Charlotte St Pierre on August 4, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Hi there,
      I am afraid I can’t comment on the Scottish note as I’m not entirely sure what they are planning to do, the Bank of Scotland may be able to help you.

    • Phil B on September 20, 2016 at 2:05 pm

      I didn’t think Scottish notes were legal tender anyway.

      • John Lee on October 3, 2016 at 4:51 pm

        Hi yes we had them in Northern Ireland for many years they were legal tender.But for some reason England do not take Northern Ireland notes also perhaps you should ask why we got rid of them?

  2. Mihai on July 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm

    In Romania the polymer banknote with see-through element for many years now.
    The problem with them is at the bank when they count them. 1 in 3 counting machines give an error ( 1 or 2 notes is miscounted ) so the same stack of notes goes to 5 different counting machines.

  3. Robert Dickerson on July 25, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Of course we should have a plastic fiver.I can’t understand why anybody should want to continue with paper.They don’t seem to last very long anyway.

  4. Kamai01 on July 25, 2016 at 10:23 am

    The Clydesdale Bank has also been issuing polymer £5 for years with a see-through section. I understand that the Reserve Bank of Australia first introduced this kind of note back in 1988! So only new to England then.

  5. KEVIN BARKER on July 25, 2016 at 1:42 am

    I can’t wait to get a new £1 coin its going to be a real star.are you making some commemorative £5 notes out of the last of the paper you have.can you let me know please k
    r barker regards

    • Chris on July 28, 2016 at 7:58 am

      They don’t make commemorative notes. Westminster have nothing to do with it.

  6. Simon Baldwick on July 25, 2016 at 12:58 am

    I rather think that plastic notes are not new at all, the Isle of Man issued them many years ago

  7. Simon Measday on July 24, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Great idea. Better for the environment and a step forward in crime busting with any luck.

  8. Tina Sherman on July 24, 2016 at 7:37 pm

    Thought plastic notes were absolutely brill when I used in Australia & Singapore few year back. Wonder why it’s taken so long for an excellent idea to get here

  9. Maria on July 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    I can’t what 2 c them & I know this has been coming a long time. Now it’s here nearly, the end off the old £5 as we know. They look very good what I’ve seen in pic & I will keep on in my collection.

  10. Mohamed Migou on July 24, 2016 at 3:41 pm

    Am pleased to see Winston Churchill in with the Queen looking happy again.Long live the rule.

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