Sounds like a real money spinner
AS someone who remembers the 10 bob note – red, it was – I lament the introduction of plastic money.
It’s a further erosion of our once proud and unique currency: a currency that boasted the farthing, threepenny bit, half-crown and one pound note.
Before that we had the groat – it was worth fourpence – the florin, worth two shillings, the 21 shilling guinea and the leopard, which was three shillings.
There was a certain style about paying your debts in half laurels (10 shillings).
We’re poorer for their demise. I long to pay for a McDonald’s Happy Meal in leopards. I want to fork out for a pint of real ale in florins.
In losing the old money, we’ve also lost the unique language. A score was £20, a pony £25, a bullseye £50.
When was the last time you received a monkey, and knew it? In the last decade it’s happened to me just once.
On reflection, that Papua New Guinea-themed restaurant was too authentic for its own good.
Decimalisation was bad enough. Now we’ve gone plastic.
Fivers and slippery tenners are already out there. The new £20 note, lilac and featuring a portrait of landscape artist JMW Turner, will be in circulation by 2020.
The Sun reports: “Britain is joining the list of more than 30 countries that already use plastic banknotes, including Australia which adopted the notes in 1988, and Singapore and New Zealand.
“The polymer notes are believed to last more than twice as long as paper money.” Not in my wife’s hands.
The tabloid adds: “As well as being less likely to tear, the notes only begin to melt at 120°C and have been designed to repel dirt and moisture.
“The polymer-coated cash is,” the Bank of England pledges, “more hygienic and unlikely to tear.”
The hygiene pledge baffles Yours Truly, although I knew a friend who fished out a note during a moment of desperation in a toilet cubicle. That was in the days of the £1 note.
He later paid for a bag of chips with the soiled paper.
In finance, hygiene is seldom a factor.
I’ve never heard a customer rail after being handed change: “Have you got anything cleaner?”
Notes are for spending, not for creating makeshift tortillas.
The Bank of England has missed the point by a sea mile. We enjoy handing grubby notes, fished from washing machines and stuck together by Sellotape, to shocked shopping assistants.
It comes a close second to meticulously counting loose change at the supermarket checkout, then watching the woman recount it and hand back the foreign coins.
Only handing over a Scottish banknote is greeted with greater disdain.
We’re again following the herd by buying into a banking trend first introduced in Australia, a vast, dangerous country where the risk of paper money being devoured by dingoes, crocodiles and savage insects is ever present.
I recently returned from Canada, a country that has also taken the drastic, plastic step. My note had a beaver on it. Even he couldn’t gnaw his way through the plastic.
And that’s what it is. A trend. The decades have seen a myriad of materials turned into money.
During the Russian administration of Alaska, banknotes were printed on sealskin. Wooden notes were used in Canada in the 1760s, which must’ve been a conundrum: customers were paying for a cabin or canoe with the material needed to make a cabin or canoe.
During the Boer War, emergency cash was made from khaki shirts.
Scotland took the polymer plunge before we did. As a nation with a reputed fondness for junk food, they may have been tired of paper money soiled by grease stains. I also understand the new notes are Tizer-resistant.
What’s more, the plastic cash is not as hardy as first believed, the Daily Mail has discovered. The newspaper’s online arm found a new fiver failed the microwave test.
Following an in-depth investigation, it reported: “We upped the stakes by testing the new note in a microwave.
“The plastic-coated cash survived for only three seconds before the metal strip appears to have heated up and melted, essentially rendering the note unusable.
“Large holes also appeared along the line of the metal strip.”
I’m not entirely surprise and also believe the notes would fail to survive bonfire, oven, flamethrower and napalm tests.
Nevertheless, the Mail’s findings are a hammer blow for those who regularly leave their cash in microwaves.
On the plus side, I’ve been assured the fivers won’t melt on the beach or wither next to a radiator. Neither will they make the mints in your pocket taste of plastic.
And my own local newspaper produced startling images of a young reporter dunking a note in her cup of coffee. It survived.
Consumer magazine Which? has assured us: “These bank notes will be able to survive a 90°C trip through the washing machine or the bite of a bulldog.”
But it warned: “The Bank of England also concedes that the new notes can stick together, so shoppers need to be more wary of handing over two notes instead of one.”
A bank note that can withstand the dreaded washing machine challenge? That sounds like a real money-spinner.