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Meet our new plastic fiver


This thing is our new plastic five pound note. They’ve started appearing over the last month or so. For a little while, there was a gold rush of currency collectors buying up notes with AA serial numbers for stupid money on eBay, but that seems to have passed. Then there were all the people stress-testing them to see if they’d go through the dryer or catch fire.

Now the thrill is gone, and shopkeepers are finding that plastic notes, once folded, never again lie flat in the cash register. Two of them together in the pocket slip around in the most unpleasant way. I start every month drawing £50 in cash in £5 notes for mad money, so I’m getting a big, irritating dose of it.

We have been assured that plastic banknotes have been used in Australia and Hong Kong for ages without any problems so quit your bitching already.

So everybody did. Until today. Today it leaks out that animal fat is used in their manufacture, and the vegans and vegetarians are having a hissy. I can understand a conscientious bunny-hugger of a vegan being upset, but honestly, vegetarians — just don’t put them in your stupid mouth.

Phun phacts: y’all probably know that every color copier and image manipulation program has a built in currency detector to prevent counterfeiting. We were warned about this when our office got our very first color copier in the Eighties (back when they cost a quarter million dollars and were the size of chest freezers). If you try to make a copy of a bill, you get a blank page or a scary warning message. If you persist, you eventually get a visit from the Feds.

We had a routine copier service at work the other day and I got to chatting with the technician. Apparently this is still true. He said you get three tries to copy a banknote and then your copier seizes and has to have a service in person.

I mention this because I right-click-and-copied the image from this article, tried to paste it into Photoshop, and got a scary warning and no image. I’d do it again to show you the scary warning, but I’m skeert. In the end, I did a screen grab and then cropped it down to the note, and we’re just waiting for the knock at the door.

Don’t try this at home.

You’re going to try this, aren’t you?


Comment from Gromulin
Time: November 29, 2016, 8:30 pm

I like Winston’s scowl. Do you really need that 5th pint, lad?

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: November 29, 2016, 8:36 pm

Y’all do realize that the complaints of the millions of retail people in the fabled “nation of shopkeepers” will merely trigger attempts to suppress by the bureaucracy. Cannot let the lower classes get above their station, don’t you know?

However, I am given to understand that the animal fat in the new Fiver is beef tallow. Y’all do seem to have a metric Butt-load [1 Butt = 1/2 tun = 477.33] of Hindus over there.

Simultaneously, y’all seem to have a similar or greater number of litigious, and violent, Islamic extremists.

To Hindus, beef and its products are verboten. To Muslims, pork and its products are the same. I reference British history.

Britain ruled India, which was a mix of Hindu and Muslim. In the various military units of the East India Company [segregated Muslim and Hindu] the .75 caliber Brown Bess musket [I have a Windus Pattern Indian Army Brown Bess hanging below my mantle now] was replaced by the more modern .577 caliber Enfield P-53 rifled musket. Being rifled, the paper cartridge had to be bitten, the powder poured down the barrel, and the lubricated paper wad and minie “ball” [it is actually a cylinder with a conical tip and a hollow base, I’ve fired them.] pushed down the barrel. Without lubrication, it is not possible.

In the original specs. the paper was to be impregnated with paraffin or beeswax, which would have offended no one. In local manufacture [which was the norm in those days] animal fats were used. Muslims believed it was pork fat. Hindus believed it was beef tallow. Muslims believed using the new cartridge sent them to Hell. Hindus believed using the cartridge destroyed their caste.

That was not the only cause of discontent, the terms of enlistment being changed and a number of the native rulers were being set up to be deposed by John Company; but it was the proximate cause of the Indian Army Mutiny of 1857.

Literally thousands of Brits and a couple of million Native Indians were killed, many by torture, government and civilian.

Y’all can bet your glucose infused specimen of Equus africanus asinus that the Hindus are going to scream like ruptured Bann Sidh at having to handle them, because the government has admitted it is beef tallow. Your [and our] Muslims are always looking for a reason to go Jihadi ghazi against the infidel, and even if it is not true you can bet that Imams are going to start preaching that the 5 Pound notes use pork.

Your military is small and shrinking. And not only do you not have a Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde [q.v.]; Britain is no longer capable of producing such. Might I suggest that you, Uncle Badger, and those you care for stay in your rural area on the coast and away from metropolitan areas for the foreseeable future. As a historian, and a retired Peace Officer, I have that funny feeling in the back of my neck that indicates organic waste impacting a rotating airfoil. Listening to that feeling has saved my personal glucose infused specimen of Equus africanus asinus a number of times. Stay safe.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: November 29, 2016, 9:41 pm

My plastic money says MasterCard. I actually prefer using real money, but invariably it smells like cigarette smoke and perfume. Hooker money. You just know it was tucked inside a bra. I had to throw away a wallet because I couldn’t get the stench out of it—after letting it “air” for months.

I wonder if the new plastic bills absorb odors? I am stunned by the news that the money has animal fat in the composition. That’s a lotta fat. Who signed off on that decision—that really is a poke in the eye. And I’m worried that Subotai Bahadur is absolutely right.

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: November 29, 2016, 10:02 pm

I have two Canadian bills on my desk a twenty and a five, that I’ve kept for several years as souvenirs. At one point during some wild currency fluctuations, I could have taken them to the bank and made a few dollar or two profit. (Probably still a net loss from inflation.)

But plastic money seems like a wonderful idea. I, myself, for one, would like to have coins $1-$2-$5, large, hefty coins that make you feel rich to have a pocket full of them. But people don’t like carrying all that weight around. So make them out of plastic. Like poker chips, or casino gaming tokens.

Oh, there has been news items about India trying to do away with cash and the effect that is having on the underground economy where purchases are cash only.

Comment from QuasiModo
Time: November 29, 2016, 11:27 pm

We’ve had plastic money here in Canada for some years now, with no problems…dunno about animal fats in it, maybe baby seals :+) (supposed to taste like beef, haven’t tried it myself…the Frenchmen here seem to like it though).

It *does* smell like perfume, but I swear it’s the ink or something they use because even nice flat, brand new bills smell perfumy.

I think it’s harder to counterfeit than paper bills.

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: November 29, 2016, 11:29 pm

Sweden is on a five-year plan to phase out cash, but I don’t know how far along they are.

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: November 29, 2016, 11:37 pm

How about we let the market decide what thing/things to use for value exchange? Historically, gold and silver end up most accepted, but at various places/times with specific priorities, cowrie shells, peppercorns, and large rock discs have been satisfactory to those doing the value exchanges.

How did govt get put in charge of something that they can use to do so much mischief with?…asks Uncle Al mischievously?

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: November 29, 2016, 11:56 pm

Sweden’s 5-year plan to phase out cash may be moot. In 5 years the Caliphate will be making those decisions.

India is trying to do away with cash, because so much of their economy is billions of small cash transactions that never get taxed. Their problem is that it takes a certain infrastructure to control an economy to make every transaction taxed, and in the absence of that infrastructure, it takes brute force raids by whatever the local equivalent of the IRS crossed with the BATFE is. The later part is because they are going to need superiority of force, and even then being able to successfully survive and return from a raid is not guaranteed. Which has an effect on the willingness of the Rev-nooers to go out, and the cost of getting them to do so.

Additionally, if you get rid of the cash necessary to do small transactions, what was a 10 Quatloo transaction becomes a 100 Quatloo transaction if that is the smallest denomination available, or barter becomes part of the transaction. Neither of which enhances the concept of “full faith and credit”.

You either end up with a restive population that views you as an illegitimate ruler, and/or the development of an underground economy based on other than the official currency. All modern currencies are based on the “full faith and credit” of the ruling regime. When I was a kid, it was possible to take a circulating note to a bank and redeem it in silver. Today, attempting to redeem a note for something of intrinsic value is grounds for being laughed at at best, and charged with sedition at worst.

If it comes down to “full faith and credit” being based on threats, legitimacy becomes based on the more effective threats. That can work for a while, but when it fails it is spectacular.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: November 30, 2016, 12:03 am

That’s why you copy them on a black and white printer and add the color afterwards.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: November 30, 2016, 12:06 am

I first went to the UK in 1990 and had a couple of five lb notes left over. When I went back in 92, I was surprised to learn that they were no good bc they had change the note to reflect and older Queen. I was told I had to go to some bank somewhere to exchange them, got lost, and wrote it off. Sure I still have them somewhere.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: November 30, 2016, 12:30 am

Iceland is almost completely cashless now. They started to phase out cash when their economy collapsed. They needed every penny the gruberment could lay hands on to survive. When you have cash in the mix, it’s too easy to siphon some of those pennies for your own use. So they laid on the squeeze until there is not only little cash available, it’s tough to find a merchant who will accept it because he pays a heafty transaction fee to deposit it. Plastic is sooooooo much easier for the gruberment to monitor and tax off the top. Hubby and I took the last of our Icelandic cash with us the last time we went back and ended up paying a small fortune at the airport money exchange to take it off our hands.

Comment from MikeW
Time: November 30, 2016, 12:46 am


I’m fairly certain you’d have had success if you’d brought that balky image into ‘Paint’ or another primitive image editor first and just blocked out the EURion dots. You can see at least three patches of them in the white area of your banknote.

Easy to recognize once you know about them, they are one of several anti-counterfeit techniques used. P’shop also looks for a certain kind of digital watermark on currency, but I wonder whether that would have survived reproduction on your linked article’s currency image.


Comment from Steve Skubinna
Time: November 30, 2016, 1:18 am

Funny, the Democrats here in the US had a plan to phase out cash. It sort of hit a snag with this recent election.

I mean, I think that was the plan, Whatever, they seemed determined to make sure that nobody had any cash anyway. Because fairness or something.

Comment from John Morris
Time: November 30, 2016, 1:26 am

Photoshop might have to obey those regs, but GIMP doesn’t. Always good to have an option or two, especially considering the price tag.

Comment from The Neon Madman
Time: November 30, 2016, 4:37 am


I have an old $20 that states “redeemable in gold or lawful money at any Federal Reserve Bank”. None of this “full faith and credit” stuff. I keep it around because someday I am going to frame it with a little plaque “Always read the fine print”

Comment from dissent
Time: November 30, 2016, 6:16 pm

Yeah, credit card as folding money is great until somebody hacks your card and it gets locked down by the card issuer until you get the new one in the mail and get it registered. In the meantime you got nuthin’. Except to repeat the process with your other credit cards.

Comment from Ric Fan
Time: November 30, 2016, 6:57 pm

Cashless society is just the first step in the government bleeding you dry. They can squeeze ever last dime from you.

Comment from tomfrompv
Time: December 1, 2016, 12:29 am

Honda uses some kind of animal fat in making the insulation for the wires in their cars. It was supposedly a nod to the crazy (clazy?) green (gleen?) movement in Japan.

It seems rodents love this insulation and ruin the cars. Honda is facing a class action lawsuit.

Soooo, is this the future of plastic 5 pound notes? Rat food?

Comment from drew458
Time: December 1, 2016, 9:59 pm

I’m not familiar with UK money. Is the brand new plastic fiver a redesign, or the same old design just printed on plastic? If it’s a new look, then how is it that your older photocopier and softwares can recognize it as a forbidden image? You didn’t run out and get instant “don’t copy this” updates for all your devices did you?

Comment from McThag
Time: December 4, 2016, 8:25 pm

Yes, I tried it. I believe you’re having us on about the auto-detection!

The HP scan tool did a $10 bill without balking. Both Apple’s Preview and Photoshop opened it.

The same HP scanner/printer/copier made a color copy no problem.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: December 4, 2016, 9:34 pm

Swear I’m not, McThag. Maybe it’s just the big commercial machines that balk.

Though I was really surprised my Photoshop fussed at me.

Comment from McThag
Time: December 4, 2016, 11:01 pm

It could be because my scanner and computer are a bit, shall we say, dated?

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