The Bank of England (BoE) is moving closer to ditching paper pounds and switching to plastic notes instead.
It would follow in the footsteps of Australia, Canada and several other countries.
The central bank said yesterday that it would ask the public its opinion before taking a decision in December on whether to adopt polymer pounds, which also would be smaller than current notes.
BoE governor Mark Carney introduced polymer banknotes while head of the Bank of Canada in 2011 and credited the new material for a sharp drop in the rate of counterfeiting.
The BoE has issued paper banknotes ever since the central bank was created in 1694 as a way of raising money for King William III’s war against France. The first fully printed notes appeared in 1853. Before that notes were handwritten and signed by one of the bank’s cashiers.
Polymer banknotes, as well as being hard to fake, were durable and stayed cleaner for longer because the material was more resistant to dirt and moisture, the BoE said, adding that feedback so far on the new-look notes had been positive.
Any British polymer notes would carry the same designs and be tiered in size like the current notes. But they would be smaller to allow larger denominations to fit more easily into purses and wallets, it said.
Polymer banknotes would be introduced one denomination at a time, beginning with the new £5 (R78) note featuring Winston Churchill in 2016.
“The BoE would print notes on polymer only if we were persuaded that the public would continue to have confidence in, and be comfortable with, our notes,” BoE deputy governor Charles Bean said.
More than 20 countries currently issue polymer banknotes, including Australia, which introduced them in 1988, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and New Zealand.