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Legal Tender Notes, Series B
Irish Writers, Philosophers and Artists

Central Bank of Ireland, 1976 - 1993

Ireland 50 pounds CarolanView Irish banknote images

Page under active revision, last update 02.10.23

Celtic Design Irish Banknotes

Five Types, by Signature. Five Denominations: £1 – £50

The first of the new Series B notes to enter circulation was the £5 note in 1976 after a design and development process which had begun three years previously. The series was completed with the introduction of the £50 note on November 5th 1991, which is the actual date of issue on the note.

A design was done for a £100 denomination, but it was not required by the Central Bank of Ireland, and cancelled at a late stage of development. The A Series £100 notes remained in circulation.

Series B Notes – A Modern Design

In December 1971 the Central Bank of Ireland announced its intention to introduce a new series of Legal Tender Notes. The new series, termed the Series B, or B Series, was to replace the A Series notes circulating since 1928, and was to be of a more modern design and format.

On 25 Aug 1972, The Central Bank of Ireland announced that the new design of notes would enter circulation by late 1974 or early 1975.

The design of the new series notes were to be based on a single theme through the series, with each denomination representing a specific era.

Historical themes ranging from pre-Christian times to the twentieth century, with a unified design pattern running through all the denominations. The notes were to be, in the words of the Central Bank of Ireland design brief ‘Both outstanding examples of graphic design and have a specifically Irish motif’.

The banknotes were also to be a more accurate reflection of modern Ireland.

Servicon Planning and Design

Applications for the contract to design the Series B notes were invited from professional artists and design teams.

Early in 1973 the The Central Bank of Ireland announced that after a ‘satisfactory response’ to the competition a design team, Servicon Planning and Design, had been granted the contract to design the new banknotes.

The Servicon team consisted of five people: sculptor Michael Biggs (1928–1993), artist Patrick Hickey (1927–1998), architects Brian Hogan and Richard Hurley (1922–2011), and Sean Mulcahy.

Theme – Series B Banknotes: Irish Writers, Philosophers and Artists

The Series B banknotes have a specifically Irish historical flavour. The series is based on historic and cultural themes ranging from the pre-Christian era to the twentieth century, centering on writers, philosophers and artists.

The design pattern which was developed centered around the portrait on the right of a historical figure, with a symbol in the centre relating to the portrait, a signature beneath the symbol. The reverse of each note featured a visual element relating to the era of the figure on the face of each note.

Each denomination would bear the portrait of a famous historical person, which would probably include Jonathan Swift and Granuaile. In the end, while Swift appeared on the £5 note, the first denomination to be issued, Granuaile did not, having been assigned to the £100 note which was not proceeded with.

Celtic Design Banknotes

The sense and flavour of the face of the new notes was that of a celtic look, with all denominations being printed in Irish only on the face in support of this feel, strongly supported by the Central Bank of Ireland Governor, T. K. Whitaker, from the outset [CBIAR].

The cornerstone of the celtic feel was the typeface, designed by Michael Biggs back in 1953 as a modern type based on Unical [1.]. This typeface is also used on other works by Biggs located in Dublin, notably the memorials at Arbour Hill and the Garden of Rememberance.

Delays in Production

In 1975 The Central Bank of Ireland announced that there would be delays in the introduction of the new series.

There were some delays in the design and development process of the Series B banknotes, especially with the £1 note and later with the the £50 and £100 notes [CBIAR].

The delay in £1 note likely resulted in the extraordinary issue, in May 1974, of the 01X and 02X prefix notes dated 11.3.63 which had been issued as a result of a shortage of £1 notes [2.]

There were problems with the printing of the portrait of the £1 note in the density of the ink needed. [CBIAR] This lead to a delay of the development process and resulted in the £5 note being the first denomination to be introduced.

The designs of the £50 and £100 denominations were worked on simultaneously. Both notes had changes in the design of the portraits, with the person depicted on the £50 note being changed part way through the design process. The £100 note portrait was also altered altered radically.

Series B Banknotes Enter Circulation, 1976 - 1982

The dates when each of the denominations of the Series B banknotes first entered circulation are listed below [CBI].
£5, 1 November 1976 — Average lifetime of a £5 note in circulation was just over one year.
£1, 24 October 1977 — Average lifetime of a £1 note in circulation was 6 months.
£10, 14 August 1978 — Average lifetime of a £10 note in circulation was 18 months.
£20, 4 February 1980 — Average lifetime of a £10 note in circulation was 2 and a half years.
£50, 1 November 1982.
£100, Development cancelled in 1987.

£1, withdrawn from circulation in June 1990, and replaced by a £1 coin.

Prefix and Numbering on Series B banknotes

Series B notes continued the established practice of each note bearing a date of issue which was paired with a specific prefix.

The notes use a complex numbering system, based on a prefix of three letters, composed from the first 12 letters of the alphabet.

Replacement notes are identified by a prefix of three letters the same, as follows: One Pound notes - BBB, DDD, GGG; Five Pound notes - AAA, FFF; Ten Pound notes - CCC, HHH; Twenty Pound notes - EEE, LLL; Fifty Pound notes - KKK.

Specimen banknotes also carry a prefix of three letters the same with zeros in the date field. Prefixes used on specimens are generally that of the replacement notes then in use at the time of the generation of the specimen. However, Series B specimens have also been recorded of some denominations which use a three letter prefix used on a different denomination.

Central Bank of Ireland 5 Pounds 1976. AAA replacement note

Security Features on Series B Banknotes


All denominations bear a similar watermark in the unprinted area of the note, of a female head which was adapted from the portrait of Lady Lavery, by Sir John Lavery, which was used on the Series A Currency Commission and Central Bank Legal Tender Notes.

Lady Lavery watermark on Series B banknotes

UV Security Features

From their first introduction, the £50 and £20 notes incorporated an area in the centre of the face of each note which fluoresces under ultra violet light.

A similar fluorescent area was introduced on £5 and £10 notes around 1991.

Linked Picture Pages

Central Bank of Ireland Series B Specimen notes
View by Type - Five Types of Legal Tender Notes by signature and design variation.
View by Denomination - An example of each denomination for every Type.
View by Date - An image of every date for which an example has been seen of each denomination.

Central Bank of Ireland Series B banknotes: Dimensions in millimetres

Dimensions are from measurements of actual notes. Note: the dimensions tended to vary by a millimetre or so, depending on the cut.

£1 Note, 148 x 78 mm; £5 Note, 156 x 82 mm;

£10 Note, 164 x 86 mm; £20 Note, 172 x 90 mm;

£50 Note, 180 x 94 mm.

£100 Note, 188 x 98 mm. The £100 denomination was never issued. The design reached an advanced stage before being cancelled. Images can be viewed on the page covering the design of the Series B 100 note featuring Grainuaile.

Yeats 20Swift 10Scotus 5Medb Pound
Ireland 20 Pounds Series BIreland 10 Pounds Series BIreland 5 Pounds Series BIreland One Pound Series B
Ireland 50 Pounds Series B


1. Murphy, E., 'S.A.D.D. Protest Postcard', The Secret Lives of Objects, pp54-55.
2. Young, D. (1974). Irish Numismatics Magazine, No. 40, July-August 1974, p138.

The content of this page is based partly on research carried out at the Central Bank of Ireland Archives, Dublin on 24 May 2018.
A. Central Bank of Ireland Publication 'The Design of Irish Banknotes'. Referred to as CBI in the text.
B. Central Bank of Ireland Archives, Dublin. Referred to as CBIAR in the text. [Accessed 24 May 2018].
Specimen images reproduced by curtsey of the Central Bank of Ireland.


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