Northern Ireland     £5 - Click to enlarge
Issue: Five Pounds Background:

Northern Ireland is one of the few countries where private banks are still empowered to issue banknotes. The others are Scotland and Hong Kong SAR. There are presently four banks licensed to issue notes in Northern Ireland. They are: Bank of Ireland, First Trust Bank, Northern Bank and Ulster Bank.

On 21st December 1999, Northern Bank which employs about 2,200 people throughout its 95 branches issued a £5.00 polymer commemorative note to celebrate the new Millennium. It is apparent that Northern Bank opted for the populist view rather than the scientific one as to when the new Millennium arrived.

The circulating version of the note has a MM serial number prefix and is dated 8th October 1999. However this is most likely the date that the notes were ordered from the printer.

There is a collector version of the note that is sold at a premium in a folder. This note is dated 1st January 2000 reflecting the event being commemorated and has a Y2K prefix to the serial number. This variety became available in mid-February 2000.

Given that Northern Ireland has a population of around only 1,500,000 and there are the four issuing banks, it should be no surprise that this was a relatively small issue. The total issue including the folder version (50,000 pieces) is 2,000,000.

During 1999, facilities at Note Printing Australia (NPA) were severely stretched as there were several new issues occurring, many of which were time critical as the world geared up to cope with the Millennium Bug. Whilst this note was designed by the Securency Pty Ltd (a joint venture between the Reserve Bank of Australia and UCB SA, a Belgian multi-national) design staff, the note itself was printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) on polymer substrate supplied by Securency. Given Securency's input to the design, this note is quite technically advanced with numerous security features and several clear and coloured windows.

An issue of a new note during the Christmas period is a little unusual given this is a time of heavy retail trade. Thus issuers tend not to make dramatic changes during these times to minimise confusion amongst the public and to limit the opportunity for the uttering of counterfeits. Perhaps, because of the enhanced security of polymer technology, Northern Bank did not see counterfeiting as a threat.

Northern Ireland - P202 - Five Pound
Northern Ireland - P202 - Five Pound

The following description is taken from the folder " The New Five Pound Note from Northern Bank - Celebrating the Millennium. A limited edition."

"As we enter a new Millennium, Northern is building upon its established reputation in the financial services industry in Northern Ireland and preparing for the challenges of the new century.

This exciting commemorative Five Pound banknote is being issued to mark the advent of Year 2000, with its design concept visibly reflecting both Northern's innovative and dynamic approach to the coming Millennium and its desire to adopt advanced, proven technologies. To emphasise this, we chose a brand of new design and a vertical format to make a very clear distinction between the Millennium Banknote and our current "Inventor" series.

The design itself represents an outward-reaching attitude to the new Millennium and seeks to illustrate the world in a wider, more spiritual and celestial context.

The front of the note displays, at the foot, the beginning of the Universe, incorporating an Alpha (α) motif. Moving up, we see the birth of our solar system with the Earth as a transparent coloured disc and the advent of Christianity depicted by the Star of Bethlehem in the top right corner.

On the reverse (sic), the large star at the foot now represents our sun and, as we travel upwards through waves of time, we reach our world, where man has conquered both land and sea. With the watch again representing time - its hand set at midnight - we are marking a new beginning, reaching through technology back towards space and the stars where it all began.

Innovation also extends to the use of polymer "Guardian" substrate rather than the traditional banknote paper. This proven alternative to paper has been adopted by Central Banks in twelve (sic) countries around the world and now, for the first time (sic), it is being used for a circulatory banknote in Western Europe. Yet more evidence of Northern's progressive and imaginative attitude towards the new Millennium." (The Bank jumped the gun here as the Romanian 2000L polymer preceded this issue.)

Worthy of mention though not referred to by the Bank in its description is the space shuttle on the back of the note "reaching for the stars". CBN, the printers imprint, is at bottom right on the back.

Security Features:

Those discrete to this note include:
(a) Latent image of the Northern logo incorporated in the intaglio print of the hexagon in the top left - hand corner, front. This image appears when the note is raised to eye level and tilted at an acute angle to catch the light.
(b) Interference patterns in which the numerous curved lines particularly on the front of the note will show an obvious disturbance if counterfeiting is attempted.
(c) A star at the centre of the note and an undulating line incorporating the words "Northern Bank" along its length in the under-print of the front of the note. These features become visible when the note is held up to the light. They are similar to a watermark in paper notes.
(d) Clear and coloured translucent windows. The lower window (clear) is embossed with four alpha characters; the uppermost represents the Star of Bethlehem and the two at each side edge represent the world when combined.
(e) Black traditional style vertical serial number in the top left and a red horizontal serial number at the bottom right of the front of the note with characters in ascending size.
(f)Micro - printing (also intaglio) of "NORTHERN BANK FIVE POUNDS" in hexagon in the bottom right hand corner just above the CBN imprint.
(g) On the front of the note the serial numbers will fluoresce when exposed to ultra-violet light. The stop watch, the waves in the lower part of the globe and the star shape encompassing the denomination in the bottom left-hand corner - all on the back of the note - also fluoresce. Large vertical and horizontal bar codes of different sizes in the center of the note also fluoresce. (These bar codes assist the currency counting and verification machines. Fluorescing bar codes are common to the current Northern Bank paper issues.)

Catalogue No:SCWPM P202 for issued note.
Folder version of note does not have a SCWPM number.
Precise Date of Issue:21st December 1999. Note is dated 8 October 1999.
(Folder issued in mid-February 2000 with note dated 1st January 2000.)
Numbers Issued:1,950,000 issued variety; 50,000 in folder.
Prefix Range:MM ( issued) and Y2K (folder).
Signature:Chief Executive - Don Price.
Colour:Blue and multi - coloured.
Dimensions:135 x 70 mm.
Printer:Canadian Bank Note Company (CBN) using Guardian substrate supplied on a press ready basis by Securency.
Specimens:Not observed but thought to exist.
Replacements:Replacements thought not to be used in current paper issues.
Presumed not to exist.
Country Ranking:Northern Ireland is the 14th country to issue an NPA based polymer note.
Printing Method:Intaglio.
Sheet size:Not available (production process only). individual notes.
Product:50,000 notes issued in folder with Y2K prefix and dated. 1 January 2000.