Sounds like a real money spin­ner

Loughborough Echo - - MIKE LOCKLEY -

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.

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