Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

British banknotes

This article concerns British Banknotes, the banknotes of the United Kingdom, denominated in Pounds (GBP).

For related topics see:

Table of contents
1 Introduction
2 Issuing Banks
3 Bank of England Notes
4 Bank of Scotland Notes
5 Royal Bank of Scotland Notes
6 Clydesdale Bank Notes
7 Bank of Ireland Notes
8 First Trust Bank Notes
9 Northern Bank Notes
10 Ulster Bank Notes
11 States of Jersey Notes
12 The Monarch on Bank Notes
13 External links
14 See Also


Banknotes were issued because carrying around a lot of precious metal was cumbersome. Banknotes were originally a claim to an amount of precious metal stored in a vault somewhere. In this way the stored value (usually in gold or silver coins) backing the banknote could transfer ownership in exchange for goods or services. So long as each circulating banknote was backed by the appropriate amount of metal the storage and representation of the stored metal constituted the 100% reserve banking system, and the currency system is one based on specie money, which takes the forms of commodity money or representative money because it is backed by something of intrinsic value.

Today banknotes are not backed by any intrinsic value. Circulating banknotes are not backed by any reserve of value, but only on the faith that the paper will be honored when it is offered to pay for goods or services. A £100 note is no harder to produce than a £1 note, so the £100 note does not represent any greater intrinsic value than the £1 note. This system of currency with no intrinsic value is known as fiat money.

Issuing Banks

Pound sterling banknotes are issued by

Sterling banknotes are also issued by

Bank of England Notes

The Bank of England has a legal
monopoly on the issue of Sterling banknotes in England and Wales.

As of November, 2003 the Bank of England banknotes in circulation are:

As of 2003, they are signed by the Chief Cashier, Merlyn Lowther.

As with coin the head side is obverse, the tails side (but of course also contains several heads) is the reverse.

All the notes issued since Series C in 1960 also depict Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom in full view facing left and as a watermark, hidden, facing right.

The Bank of England Series D 1 pound note was discontinued in 1984, being replaced by a pound coin - see British coinage.

Bank of Scotland Notes

in circulation:
All the notes also depict
Sir Walter Scott who was instrumental in retaining the right of Scottish banks to issue their own notes in the 1840s.

Royal Bank of Scotland Notes

in circulation are:
All the notes also depict Lord Ilay (1682-1761), first governor of the bank.

Clydesdale Bank Notes

Bank of Ireland Notes

First Trust Bank Notes

First Trust Bank's current notes depict generic people of Northern Ireland on the front, alternately male and female, but with a pair of older people on the 100. The obverse generally features designs associated with the
Spanish Armada, or coastal features.

Northern Bank Notes

Ulster Bank Notes

Ulster Bank's current notes all share a rather plain design of a view of Belfast harbour, flanked by landscape views; the design of the reverse is dominated by the banks' coat of arms. The principle difference between the denominations is their colour and size.

States of Jersey Notes

The Treasurer of the States of Jersey, Channel Islands, holds 1.10 in Bank of England notes for each 1 issued, making the Jersey Pound a very strong currency. The current notes depict Queen Elizabeth II on the front and various landmarks of Jersey or incidents in Jersey history on the reverse.

The Monarch on Bank Notes

In the UK, particularly in England, in recent years there have been comments relating to the option of adopting the
Euro along the lines of: we don't want to lose the Queen on our banknotes. This overlooks the fact that Queen Elizabeth II was the first UK monarch to have their face on UK banknotes. Prior to the issue of its Series C banknotes in 1960, Bank of England banknotes did not depict the UK monarch. Even today, notes issued by the other note issuing banks do not depict the monarch.

External links

See Also