LONDON (Sept 14): The Bank of England’s new 10-pound note enters circulation Thursday, and with it the most advanced features seen yet on UK bills.
The new tenners (as they are known) are the second denomination printed on polymer by the BOE and are expected to last at least 2.5 times longer than paper notes. The bills—which have no fewer than eight visible security features to deter counterfeiters—depict the early 19th-century author Jane Austen on the reverse, along with other images from her life. They also have features that accommodate the blind and partially sighted.
Among the new 10-pound note’s security features are an image of Winchester Cathedral, in gold foil on the front and silver on the back. That’s where Austen is buried—and where BOE Governor Mark Carney unveiled the new note.
The image of a quill, a clear nod to Austen’s renown as an author, changes from purple to orange depending on the angle of the bill.
A book-shaped copper foil patch contains Austen’s initials, and the words “Bank of England” are printed in raised ink, known as intaglio.
The note also has two holograms, one containing the word “Ten,” which changes to “Pounds” when it’s tilted, and the other of a crown.
The arrival of Austen’s face on British legal tender, at the expense of Charles Darwin, was prompted by another switch: In 2013, the Bank of England’s then-Governor Mervyn King announced that Winston Churchill would replace Elizabeth Fry, a 19th-century social reformer, on the five-pound note. But that meant no female historical figure would appear on UK notes.
After a campaign led by Labour Party lawmaker Stella Creasy and journalist Caroline Criado-Perez, Carney said the Austen note would appear within a year of the Churchill fiver, which went into circulation in 2016.
While Austen may be the only woman gracing the reverse side of a circulating British banknote, Queen Elizabeth II, of course, appears on the front of all of them. Adding to the note’s security, tiny letters and numbers that are only visible with a microscope appear underneath the Queen’s portrait.
Queen Elizabeth is also featured in a see-through window on the new note. There is a third woman represented, albeit only by handwriting, in the form of BOE Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland’s signature.
The choice of Austen drew controversy when first made public. Creasy and Criado-Perez were harassed online, and several people were sent to jail for up to 18 weeks because they made threats. Even the 1870 portrait of the author itself has drawn protest, characterized by critics as an “airbrushed makeover.”
Beyond any aesthetic controversy, the new banknotes have physical characteristics to assist the disabled. A series of raised dots in the top left-hand corner, as well as raised print and differing colors, are meant to help blind and partially sighted users.
While the new tenners start flowing into wallets today, Britons still have time to spend the old Darwin version. Those bills will gradually be withdrawn as they are deposited in banks. They remain an acceptable form of cash until early next year.