30 October 2006
Adam Smith was announced as the face of the £20 note
13 March 2007
Paper £20 note issued
20 February 2020
A new polymer £20 note. You will still be able to use the paper £20 note
Key security features
Focus on these two key security features to help confirm that your notes are genuine:
Hologram image change
Tilt the note from side to side. Check the images change between a '£' symbol and the number '20'.
Bright '£20' in the watermark
Hold the note up to the light. Check there is a bright '£20' at the top of the Queen's portrait.
Other security features
There are alternating images of Adam Smith along the foil strip. The position of foil patches can vary on notes. To the right of the Chief Cashier’s signature, the number '20' is embossed over the foil strip.
Feel of paper and raised print
The note is printed on special paper that gives it a unique feel. On the front of the note, you can feel raised print. For example, on the words ‘Bank of England’ and in the bottom right corner, around the number '20'.
Under a good quality ultra-violet light, the number '20' appears in bright red and green on the front of the note, against a duller background. You can see bright red and green flecks on both the front and back of the note.
A metallic thread is embedded in the note and appears as silver dashes on the back. When the note is held up to the light, the thread appears as a continuous dark line.
The printed lines and colours on the note are sharp, clear and free from smudges or blurred edges. If you use a magnifying glass, you will see the value of the note written in small letters and numbers below the Queen's portrait.
Coloured shapes are printed on the front and back of the note, below the signature of the Chief Cashier. These shapes combine to form a '£' symbol when the note is held up to the light.
The higher the value of a note, the larger it is. This note is approximately 149mm x 80mm.
A unique serial number is printed horizontally and vertically on the back of the note. The horizontal number is in the bottom right corner. It is made up of multi-coloured letters and numbers, which increase in height from left to right. The vertical number runs down the left-hand side and the numbers and letters are the same height and colour.
The international copyright symbol is included on the front of the note, to the left of the foil strip and on the back, below the ‘Bank of England’ text.
Adam Smith was an economist, philosopher and writer.
There are images of factory workers on the back of the note. In one of Smith's most famous books: ‘An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations’, he used the example of workers in a pin factory to describe the benefits of division of labour.
‘The division of labour in pin manufacturing: (and the great increase in the quantity of work that results)' is a quote from one of Smith's most famous books: 'An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations’. In this book, Smith used the example of workers in a pin factory to describe the benefits of division of labour.
Download our free education materials to help check your banknotes.
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Exchanging old notes
On 20 February 2020 a new polymer £20 note will replace the current paper £20 note.
You will still be able to use the paper £20 note until we withdraw it from circulation. We will announce the withdrawal date after we have issued our new polymer £20 note. We will give six months’ notice of this withdrawal date.
Many banks will accept withdrawn notes as deposits from customers. The Post Office may also accept withdrawn notes as a deposit into any bank account you can access at the Post Office. And, you can always exchange withdrawn notes with us.