The Bank of England has been forced to admit its so-called indestructible £5 notes are not quite as hardy as it had first boasted.
The U-turn comes after police in Cornwall issued a warning about “fake” £5 notes in circulation, so identified because they were missing the golden Big Ben clock tower and had oddly-coloured holograms.
The warning, posted on social media and reported locally, said: “Wadebridge Police have been made aware of some fake £5 notes in circulation. These are copies of the polymer type not but there are obvious differences. If you find yourself in possession of one contact your bank. Or if you have been given a number of these as payment, contact police on 101.”
But the warning was apparently deleted from the Wadebridge Police Facebook account after it emerged that the missing clock towers - and some strangely-hued holograms - were the result of damage and did not denote counterfeit notes.
A spokesman for the Bank of England said the notes were not fake but were genuine currency that had become damaged through “extreme use”.
She said the Bank had never claimed the new £5 notes were “indestructible” but insisted they were both “stronger” and “longer lasting” than the previous ones. She added: “These notes are damaged genuine banknotes not counterfeits, and a lot of other security features remain intact such as the Queen’s portrait in the window and the microlettering.”
The polymer fiver is said to be cleaner, safer and stronger than paper notes, lasting around five years longer. It repels dirt and moisture, meaning even spilled red wine can simply by wiped off.
Upon its issue, the Bank of England boasted the new note paved the way for a new generation of security features, making it harder to counterfeit.
Governor Mark Carney said of the new note: “The use of polymer means it can better withstand being repeatedly folded into wallets or scrunched up inside pockets and can also survive a spin in the washing machine.
“We expect polymer notes to last at least two and-a-half times longer than the current generation of fivers and therefore reduce future costs of production.”