The New £50 & £20 Notes And How They Affect Nigerians

The new polymer £50 note was introduced into the monetary system in the United Kingdom for the first time on the 23rd of June 2021 and its circulation to branches of banks and ATMs have been smooth and seamless.

The fifty pounds note, which features the scientist Alan Turing, a pioneer of the early computers, who also made some ground-breaking discoveries in the field of developmental biology, joins the £20 as a polymer note and they will both be in use along with the paper £20 and £50 notes until 30th September 2022.

Alan Turing was chosen following the Bank of England’s character selection process including advice from scientific experts. In 2018, the Banknote Character Advisory Committee chose to celebrate the field of science on the £50 note and this was followed by a six week public nomination period. The Bank received a total of 227,299 nominations, covering 989 eligible characters. The Committee considered all the nominations before deciding on a shortlist of 12 options, which were put to the then Governor Mark Carney for him to make the final decision.

The three issuers of Scottish banknotes – Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank and the Royal Bank of Scotland, will also withdraw their paper £20 and £50 banknotes on the same date as the Bank of England.

Unlike the new polymer £50 note, the Bank of England first issued the polymer £20 note on 20th February 2020 and the note features the face of artist JMW Turner. The picture is Turner’s self-portrait, painted around 1799 and the note also features Turner’s signature from his will, in which he left many of his paintings to his country, and the quote ‘light is therefore colour’ taken from a lecture he gave in 1818.

However, like the £20, the new polymer £50 note contains advanced security features and it joins the £5 and £10 banknotes to make all Bank of England banknotes polymer.

After 30th September 2022, the paper £50 and £20 notes will no longer be legal tender in the UK, and people are being encouraged to spend them or deposit them at their banks before that date.

In Nigeria, some banks are already writing to their customers on the need to deposit whichever of the old paper Sterling notes they have in their possession to avoid being caught pants down.

Although the Pound Sterling is not the legal tender in Nigeria, some Nigerians have been known to keep foreign currencies hidden away and such hidden stashes have in the past been affected by sudden changes in currencies by governments of those countries. There was a case in Benue some years ago when a politician stocked US dollars in big bags in the ceiling of his country home in Benue State and probably forgot all about it. The dollars became useless when he could not convert them at the time he remembered.

There are those, though, who have access to foreign currencies legally or do Forex business through the banks. Many of these customers have domiciliary accounts where they deposit foreign currency, including the Pound Sterling, for use in payment of bills like school fees, medical expenses and others.

Nigerian banks are playing safe and asking those with paper Sterling notes to deposit them on earlier dates than the 30th September 2022 prescribed by the Bank of England.

For instance, Ecobank Nigeria says in an email to its customers with the subject, ‘Important Update on £50 and £20 Banknotes’, that it will be accepting the old Pound Sterling notes in all its branches until December 31st this year. Effective 1st January 2022, the paper notes of £50 and £20 will not be accepted in the bank’s branches. This is a clear nine months to the Bank of England’s specified deadline. Other banks are also towing this line.

The polymer £50 note is considered the most secure Bank of England banknote and its features make it very difficult to counterfeit. Like the polymer £10 and £20 notes, the £50 also contains a tactile feature to help vision impaired people identify the denomination.

The features on the new £50 note include:

  • A photo of Alan Turing taken in 1951
  • A table and mathematical formulae from Turing’s seminal 1936 paper, “On Computable Numbers, with an application to the Entscheidungs problem” Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society. This paper is widely recognised as being foundational for computer science. It sought to establish whether there could be a definitive method by which any theorem could be assessed as provable or not using a universal machine. It introduced the concept of a Turing machine as a thought experiment of how computers could operate.
  • The Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) Pilot Machine which was developed at the National Physical Laboratory as the trial model of Turing’s pioneering ACE design. The ACE was one of the first electronic stored-program digital computers.
  • Technical drawings for the British Bombe, the machine specified by Turing and one of the primary tools used to break Enigma-enciphered messages during WWII.
  • A quote from Alan Turing, given in an interview to The Times newspaper on 11th June 1949:
    “This is only a foretaste of what is to come and only the shadow of what is going to be.”
  • Turing’s signature from the visitor’s book at Max Newman’s House in 1947 which is on display at Bletchley Park, where he worked during WWII.
  • Ticker tape depicting Alan Turing’s birth date (23rd June 1912) in binary code. The concept of a machine fed by binary tape featured in the Turing’s 1936 paper.
  • Two key security features can be checked to help confirm that notes are genuine:
    • A metallic hologram which changes between the words ‘Fifty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.
    • A large see-through window with a gold and green foil on the front depicting a finely detailed metallic microchip image.
  • There are two green 21 spiral features based on a sunflower head (linked to Turing’s morphogenetic work in later life). The foil is silver on the back.
  • A metallic hologram which changes between the words ‘Fifty’ and ‘Pounds’ when the note is tilted.
  • A silver foil patch with a 3D image of the Coronation Crown.
  • The Queen’s portrait in the see-through window with ‘£50 Bank of England’ printed twice around the edge. (The small clover shapes on the outside of the window are based on architectural features at Bletchley Park.)
  • A smaller see-through window in the bottom corner of the note, the shape of which is based on architectural features at Bletchley Park.
  • A red foil patch containing the letters ‘AT’ is based on the image of a sunflower head linked to Turing’s morphogenetic work in later life.



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