Elgar, the early 20th century English music composer whose compositions include the Enigma Variations, the Dream of Gerontius and Land of Hope and Glory, has appeared on the £20 note for the past 11 years. But the notes have been gradually withdrawn from circulation since March 2007, and now are no longer legal tender.
The Bank of England's changes in design are intended to combat counterfeiters. Elgar's moustache played an important role this. Now, presumably, Smith's wig will perform the same role.
There are approximately 1.5 billion £20 notes in circulation, making it the most common note in distribution. Although most of the Elgar notes have now been withdrawn, anybody still holding any should be able to ask a UK bank, building society or post office branch to exchange it for the Smith version.
Ex-Pats should check their stash of British notes now. We all have a bit tucked away for those trips back to the UK, and get it exchanged as soon as possible.
Andrew Bailey, the Bank of England's chief cashier and executive director, banking services says: "For several months from the end of June most banks, building societies and Post Offices should accept Elgar £20 notes for deposit to customer accounts and for other customer transactions, although the choice to exchange the notes rests with each institution."
Holders who are struggling to exchange notes can present them to the Bank of England for payment either in person or by post (at the sender's risk) to: Dept NEX, Bank of England, Threadneedle Street, London EC2R 8AH.
The Bank of England has published a list of individuals suggested by the public for use on banknotes, including luminaries such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Jane Austen. However, the list also includes the Beatles, Robbie Williams, Mick Jagger, Terry Wogan, John Cleese and David Beckham. Replacing Elgar with Smith on the £20 note may be a blow to the arts, but it's a lot better than having Robbie Williams tucked away in your wallet or purse, isn't it?