Everything you need to know about the new plastic £20 note

The Turner note will be issued by 2020

The new plastic £20 note

The polymer £5 note has launched, the new £10 is on its way, and now the Bank of England has announced a shiny new plastic £20 will follow - but what do we know about the launch so far?

The new note will follow in the trail of the polymer £5 and £10 notes, featuring Jane Austen and Winston Churchill - but this time, it'll be graced with the face of iconic artist J.M.W. Turner.

See also: The 10 most valuable coins in the world revealed

See also: When will old £5 notes become worthless? What should you do?

The shift to plastic is to help keep cash "fit for purpose", the Bank of England announced last year - and if the new fiver is anything to go by, it'll feature a string of security features to continue the crack down on counterfeit copies.

The history of the cotton £20 note

Twenty pound notes were introduced by the Bank of England for the first time in 1725. The earliest notes were in fact handwritten.

Today, it's known as the most common banknote in Britain, with an estimated 1.9 billion in circulation, according to official figures.

The current cotton note, first issued in 2007, bears the image of Queen Elizabeth II on the obverse and the image of Scottish economist Adam Smith on the reverse.

Starting in 2020, this edition will be phased out, to be replaced by a polymer note featuring a portrait of J. M. W. Turner in place of Smith.

When does the new £20 launch?

The new note will be made from polymer, which is said to be more durable, cleaner and secure than paper notes. It will enter circulation in two years' time, a spokesman for the Bank of England said.

This means by 2020 all notes except £50 will be made of plastic.

Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney said: "I am delighted to announce that J.M.W. Turner has been chosen to appear on the next £20 note.

"Turner is perhaps the single most influential British artist of all time. His work was transformative for the art world. His influence spanned his lifetime and well beyond."

The selection of Turner is the first time the Bank of England has used the new character selection process.

This involved a two month nomination period between May and July 2015 when the public put forward characters from within the field of the visual arts.

In total 29,701 nominations were received covering 590 eligible characters.

"I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who got involved in the process and sent us their suggestions for visual artists to celebrate," Carney added.

"The range and breadth of these nominations is testament to the UK's achievements in the arts. The Banknote Character Advisory Committee did an outstanding job of working through these nominations.

"Their help in reaching this decision was invaluable."

What will it look like?

The Turner note will be printed on polymer and will be issued by 2020. The reverse of the note will include:

  • J.M.W. Turner's self-portrait, painted c. 1799 and currently on display in the Tate Britain.

  • One of Turner's most eminent paintings The Fighting Temeraire ; a tribute to the ship HMS Temeraire which played a distinguished role in Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.

  • The quote - "Light is therefore colour" from an 1818 lecture by Turner referring to his innovative use of light, shade, colour and tone in his pictures.

  • Turner's signature from his Will, the document with which he bequeathed many of his paintings to the nation.

Will the new notes be vegetarian?

Credits: AFP/Getty Images

AFP/Getty Images

The Bank of England came under fire shortly after the launch of the new £5 notes launched last year, after it emerged they contained traces of animal fat.

But despite facing a legal battle, the central Bank said it had no plans to withdraw the current notes from circulation - as it would cost the tax payer too much to replace.

In discussing whether the new £10 notes will be meat-free, the bank said it had carefully considered alternative options - like delaying the £10 note release - but concluded it would cost as much as £10 million and compromise new anti-counterfeit measures.

The new £20 polymer note is due to be issued by 2020 and production has not yet begun.

The Bank has now held off signing supply contracts for the £20 polymer note, in order to weigh out plant-based substitutes like coconut oil or palm oil.

Suppliers have indicated that a plant-based alternative should have no impact on the quality of banknote production, though this would still need to be validated by production trials over the next few months.

It is launching a public consultation at the end of March 2017 and will make a final decision on how £20 notes - and future runs of the £5 and £10 notes - will be manufactured by summer 2017.

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