Euro Banknotes
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Euro banknotes from the Europa series (since 2013)
Euro banknotes from the first series (The Ages and Styles of Europe) (2002-2013)

Banknotes of the euro, the currency of the euro area and institutions, have been in circulation since the first series (also called ES1) was issued in 2002. They are issued by the national central banks of the Eurosystem or the European Central Bank.[1] In 1999 the euro was introduced virtually,[2] and in 2002 notes and coins began to circulate. The euro rapidly took over from the former national currencies and slowly expanded around the European Union.

Denominations of the notes range from EUR5 to EUR500 and, unlike euro coins, the design is identical across the whole of the Eurozone, although they are issued and printed in various member states. The euro banknotes are pure cotton fibre, which improves their durability as well as giving the banknotes a distinctive feel. They measure from 120 by 62 millimetres (4.7 in × 2.4 in) to 160 by 82 millimetres (6.3 in × 3.2 in) and have a variety of color schemes. The euro notes contain many complex security features such as watermarks, invisible ink characteristics, holograms, optically variable inks and microprinting that document their authenticity. While euro coins have a national side indicating the country of issue (although not necessarily of minting), euro notes lack this. Instead, this information is shown by the first character of each note's serial number.

According to European Central Bank estimates, in May 2019, there were about 22.563 billion banknotes in circulation around the Eurozone, with a total value of about EUR1.231 trillion.[3] On 8 November 2012, the European Central Bank announced that the first series of notes would be replaced by the Europa series (also called ES2), starting with the 5 euro note on 2 May 2013.[4]

Estimates suggest that the average life of a euro banknote is about three years before it is replaced due to wear, but individual lifespans vary depending on denomination, from less than a year for EUR5 banknote to over 30 years for EUR500 banknote. High denomination banknotes (EUR100, EUR200, EUR500) last longer as they are used more for hoarding purposes.[] The Europa series of the lower denominations EUR5 and EUR10 is designed to last longer than the previous one due to additional coating.[5][6][7]

History

The euro is used in the 19 Eurozone countries (dark blue).
It is also used de facto in two other countries (Kosovo and Montenegro) (light blue)

The euro came into existence on 1 January 1999.[2] The euro's creation had been a goal of the European Union (EU) and its predecessors since the 1960s.[2] The Maastricht Treaty entered into force in 1993 with the goal of creating economic and monetary union by 1999 for all EU states except the UK and Denmark (though Denmark has a policy of a fixed exchange rate with the euro).[8]

In 1999, the currency was born virtually,[2] and in 2002 notes and coins began to circulate.[2] It rapidly took over from the former national currencies and slowly expanded around the rest of the EU.[2] In 2009, the Lisbon Treaty formalised the Euro's political authority, the Euro Group, alongside the European Central Bank.[9]

Slovenia joined the Eurozone in 2007,[10]Cyprus and Malta in 2008,[11]Slovakia in 2009,[12]Estonia in 2011,[13]Latvia in 2014[14] and Lithuania in 2015.[15]

Specification

There are seven different denominations of the euro banknotes: EUR5, EUR10, EUR20, EUR50, EUR100, EUR200 and EUR500. Each has a distinctive colour and size.[16] The designs for each of them have a common theme of European architecture in various artistic eras.[16][17] The obverse of the banknote features windows or gateways while the reverse bears different types of bridges.[16][17] The architectural examples are stylised illustrations, not representations of existing monuments.[16][17]

1st series ES1 (issued 2002)

The following table depicts the design characteristics of the 1st series (ES1) of euro notes.

Image Value Year Dimensions
(millimetres)
Main colour Design Printer code position
Obverse Reverse Architecture Century
EUR 5 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 5 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR5 2002 120 × 62 mm Grey[18] Classical < 5th Left image edge[19]
EUR 10 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 10 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR10 2002 127 × 67 mm Red[20] Romanesque 11-12th 8 o'clock star[21]
EUR 20 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 20 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR20 2002 133 × 72 mm Blue[22] Gothic 12-14th 9 o'clock star[23]
EUR 50 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 50 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR50 2002 140 × 77 mm Orange[24] Renaissance 15-16th Right image edge[25]
EUR 100 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 100 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR100 2002 147 × 82 mm Green[26] Baroque & Rococo 17-18th Right of 9 o'clock star[27]
EUR 200 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 200 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR200 2002 153 × 82 mm Yellow-brown[28] The age of iron and glass 19-20th Above 7 o'clock star[29]
EUR 500 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 500 reverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR500 2002 160 × 82 mm Purple[30] Modern 20th century 20-21st 9 o'clock star[31]
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixel per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

All the notes of the initial series of euro notes bear the European flag, a map of the continent on the reverse, the name "euro" in both Latin and Greek script (EURO / ?) and the signature of a president of the ECB, depending on when the banknote was printed.[16][17] The 12 stars from the flag are also incorporated into every note.[16][17]

The notes also carry the acronyms of the name of the European Central Bank in five linguistic variants, covering all official languages of the EU in 2002 (the time of the banknote introduction), and now 19 out of 24 official languages of the EU28, in the following order:[16]

The order is determined by the EU country listing order,[43] with BCE ahead of ECB because of the national precedence of Belgium's two main languages, followed by the remaining languages of Germany (Deutschland), Greece (/Elláda[44]) and Finland (Suomi), in that order.

The euro banknote initial designs were chosen from 44 proposals in a design competition, launched by the Council of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) on 12 February 1996.[45] The winning entry, created by Robert Kalina from the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, was selected on 3 December 1996.[45]

The euro banknotes are pure cotton fibre, which improves their durability as well as giving the banknotes a distinctive feel.[46]

In the first and Europa series, the Azores, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Madeira, Martinique, Réunion, and the Canary Islands, overseas territories of the eurozone member states, which also use the euro, are shown under the map in separate boxes. Cyprus and Malta were not shown on the first series because they were not in the EU in 2002, when the banknotes were issued, even though they joined the Eurozone in 2008. The map did not stretch as far east as Cyprus, while Malta was too small to be depicted.2.[17] However, both Cyprus and Malta are depicted on the Europa series note.[4]

2nd series ES2 (Europa series, issued from 2013)

The following table depicts the design characteristics of the 2nd series (ES2) of euro notes.[47]

Image Value Year Dimensions
(millimetres)
Main colour Design Printer code position
Obverse Reverse Architecture Century
EUR 5 obverse (2013 issue).png EUR 5 reverse (2013 issue).png EUR5 2013 120 × 62 mm Grey[48] Classical < 5th Top right
EUR 10 obverse (2014 issue).png EUR 10 reverse (2014 issue).png EUR10 2014 127 × 67 mm Red[49] Romanesque 11-12th Top right
The Europa series 20 EUR obverse side.jpg The Europa series 20 EUR reverse side.jpg EUR20 2015 133 × 72 mm Blue[50] Gothic 12-14th Top right
The Europa series 50 EUR obverse side.png The Europa series 50 EUR reverse side.png EUR50 2017 140 × 77 mm Orange[51] Renaissance 15-16th Top right
The Europa series 100 EUR obverse side.jpg The Europa series 100 EUR reverse side.jpg EUR100 2019 147 × 77 mm Green[52] Baroque & Rococo 17-18th Top right
The Europa series 200 EUR obverse side.jpg The Europa series 200 EUR reverse side.jpg EUR200 2019 153 × 77 mm Yellow-brown[53] The age of iron and glass 19-20th Top right
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixel per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.
100 euro note
147 x 77 mm (ES2)
147 x 82 mm (ES1)
200 euro note
153 x 77 mm (ES2)
153 x 82 mm (ES1)

The Europa series banknotes, similarly to the first series, bear the European flag, a map of the continent on the reverse and the signature of Mario Draghi, since 1 November 2011 president of the ECB. The 12 stars from the flag are also incorporated into the notes.[16][17] On 4 May 2016 the European Central Bank decided not to issue a 500 euro banknote for the Europa series.[54]

The banknote also has the name "euro", but in three scripts: Latin, Greek and Cyrillic (EURO / ? / ?).[4]

The 2nd series EUR100 and EUR200 notes are a different size to the EUR100 and EUR200 notes from the 1st series. Both denominations are now the same height (77 mm) as the EUR50 banknote, which makes them more comfortable to use. Their length remains unchanged.

The design for the 50, 100 and 200 euro notes features the acronyms of the name of the European Central Bank in ten linguistic variants, covering all official languages of the EU28, in the following order:[4]

The 5 euro, 10 euro and 20 euro notes do not feature ESB, as Croatian became an official language only in July 2013 with the accession of Croatia, after the introduction of the banknote design earlier that year. The order in which the acronyms are shown is determined by the same principles as for Series 1:[43] the language of Bulgaria (/Bulgaria[44]) precedes that of Germany (Deutschland); EKP now precedes due to the accession of Estonia (Eesti); and the languages of Croatia (Hrvatska), Hungary (Magyarország), Malta and Poland (Polska) trail the list.

The notes of the Europa series do not show the same year. The year shown is the year the note is issued.

The Europa series euro banknotes are supposedly more durable than the first series banknotes.[4]

Reinhold Gerstetter, an independent banknote designer, was chosen by the European Central Bank to redesign the euro notes.[4]

Design

Bridges

Banknotes printed from 2004 to 2012 show the signature of the second president of the ECB, Jean-Claude Trichet.
20 and 50 Euro banknotes (ES1).
Face of Europa on the new 20 euro banknote (ES2).
The 50 euro banknote (ES1) has an orange colour scheme, and its gateway and bridge are from the Renaissance.
5 euro banknote under infrared light (Europa series)
5 euro note under infrared light (Obverse)
Obverse
5 euro note under UV light (Reverse)
Reverse

Due to the great number of historic bridges, arches, and gateways throughout the European continent, all the structures represented on the notes are entirely stylised illustrations of the relevant architectural styles, designed to evoke the landmarks within the European Union,[16] representing various European ages and styles.[16] For example, the 5 euro note has a generic rendition of Classical architecture,[16] the 10 euro note of Romanesque architecture,[16] the 20 euro note of Gothic architecture,[16] the 50 euro note of the Renaissance,[16] the 100 euro note of Baroque and Rococo,[16] the 200 euro note of Art Nouveau[16] and the 500 euro note of modern architecture.[16] The initial designs by Robert Kalina were of actual bridges, including the Rialto Bridge in Venice and the Pont de Neuilly in Paris, and were subsequently rendered more generic.[68] In 2011, Dutch artist Robin Stam and the town of Spijkenisse in the Netherlands built seven bridges of colored concrete after the designs on the seven euro banknotes.[69][70][71][72]

Signature

Mario Draghi's signature on a 10 euro banknote

The euro banknotes bear the signature of the President of the European Central Bank.[17]

In the first series, banknotes printed after March 2012 bear the signature of the third, and incumbent ECB President, Mario Draghi.[17] Notes printed between November 2003 and March 2012 show the signature of Jean Claude Trichet, the second President of the ECB,[17][73] replacing that of the first president, Wim Duisenberg,[17] who was the ECB president when the first euro banknotes and coins were issued, until 2003.[17]

As at 2017, only the signature of the third, incumbent ECB President, Mario Draghi, features on the Europa series notes.[17]

Security features

Microprinting on a 100 euro note (ES1)

The European Central Bank has described some of the basic security features of the euro notes that allow the general public to recognise the authenticity of their currency at a glance:

  • For the first series: the firm and crisp paper, the raised print, the watermark, the security thread, the see-through number, the hologram, the micro-perforations, the glossy stripe for EUR20 and below, the color-changing number for EUR50 and above, UV light, infrared and the microprint.[74]
  • For the Europa series: the firm and crisp paper, the raised print, the portrait watermark, the security thread, the emerald number, the portrait hologram, UV and UV-C, infrared and the microprint.[75]

However, in the interest of advanced security of the euro notes, the full list of these features is a closely guarded secret of the European Central Bank and the National Central Banks of the Eurosystem.

EUR5 (ES1) holographic band

Still, between the official descriptions and independent discoveries made by observant users, it is thought that the euro notes have at least eleven different security features, which are:

  • Holograms[74] - The lower value notes carry a holographic band to the right of the obverse. This band contains the denomination, the euro sign, the stars of the EU flag and perforations in the shape of the euro sign. In the Europa series EUR5 banknote, there is Europa, a gate, 'EURO' and the euro sign, the number 5 and perforations in the shape of a euro sign.[76] The higher-value notes include a holographic decal containing the denomination, the obverse illustration, microprinting, and perforations in the shape of the euro sign.
  • Variable colour ink[74] - This appears on the lower right-hand side corner of the reverse of the higher-value notes. When observed from different angles, the colour will change from purple to olive green or brown. This special ink is also on the left bottom on the Europa series notes.[76]
  • Checksum - Each note has a unique serial number. The remainder from dividing the serial number by 9 gives checksum corresponding to the initial letter indicated on the note.[77] Using a variation of the divisibility rule shortcut, the remainder from division by 9 can easily be found by adding the constituent digits and, if the sum still does not make the remainder obvious, adding the digits of the sum.[77] Alternatively, substituting the letter with its ASCII value makes the resulting number exactly divisible by 9. Taking the same example, Z10708476264, the ASCII code for Z is 90, so the resulting number is 9010708476264. Dividing by 9 yields a remainder of 0. Using the divisibility rule again, the result can be checked speedily since the addition of all digits gives 54; 5 + 4 = 9--so the number is divisible by 9, or 9010708476264 modulo 9 is 0.[77]
A 50 euro note (ES1) under ultraviolet light
  • EURion constellation[78] - Euro banknotes contain a pattern known as the EURion constellation that can be used to detect their identity as banknotes to prevent copying and counterfeiting. Some photocopiers are programmed to reject images containing this pattern.
  • Watermarks - There are possibly two watermarks on the euro notes.[76][74][79] They are:
    • Standard watermark - Each denomination is printed on uniquely watermarked paper. This may be observed by holding the note up to the light. The thinner parts will show up brighter with backlight illumination and darker with a dark background. In the first series, the standard watermark is a gate/window that is depicted on the note and the denomination,[74] for the EUR5 of the Europa series, it is the face of Europa and the denomination as well.[76]
    • Digital watermark - Like the EURion constellation, a Digimarc digital watermark is embedded in the banknotes' designs. Recent versions of image editors, such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro refuse to process banknotes.[79] This system is called Counterfeit Deterrence System (CDS) and was developed by the Central Bank Counterfeit Deterrence Group.
  • Infrared and fluorescent printing patterns[74] - When seen in the near infrared, the banknotes will show darker areas in different zones depending on the denomination. Ultraviolet light will make the EURion constellation show in sharper contrast, and also some fluorescent fibres stand out.
A 5 euro note (ES1) under infrared light
  • Security thread[74] - A black magnetic thread in the centre of the note is only seen when held up to the light. It features the denomination of the note, along with the word "euro" in the Latin alphabet and the Greek alphabet.
  • Magnetic ink[74] - Some areas of the euro notes feature magnetic ink. For example, the rightmost church window on the EUR20 note is magnetic, as well as the large zero above it.
Magnetic serial number on Euro banknote (recorded using CMOS-MagView)
  • Microprinting[74] - The texture lines to the bottom, like those aligned to the right of ? mark on the EUR5 note, consist of the sequence "EURO ?" in microprinting.
  • Matted surface[74] - The euro sign and the denomination are printed on a vertical band that is only visible when illuminated at an angle of 45°. This only exists for the lower-value notes.
  • Raised print - On every banknote, the initials of the ECB are in raised print. In the first series, every banknote has a bar with raised print lines. On the EUR200 note of the first series, there are lines at the bottom which are raised to allow blind people to identify the note. On the EUR500 note of the first series, these lines are on the right-hand side.[74] On the Europa series, there are lines on both sides of the banknote.[76]
  • Bar code[clarification needed][74] - When held up to the light, dark bars can be seen to the right of the watermark. The number and width of these bars indicates the denomination of the note. When scanned, these bars are converted to Manchester code.[80]
Manchester code[80]
Note Barcode Manchester
EUR5 0110 10 100
EUR10 0101 10 110
EUR20 1010 1010 0000
EUR50 0110 1010 1000
EUR100 0101 1010 1100
EUR200 0101 0110 1110
EUR500 0101 0101 1111

(looked at from the reverse, a dark bar is 1, a bright bar 0)

Europa series

The portrait of Europa is also contemplated amongst the security features, but the theme of the banknotes is still the same.
5 euro note from the new Europa series written in Latin (EURO) and Greek (?) alphabets, but also in the Cyrillic (?) alphabet, as a result of Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007

The European Central Bank intends to redesign the notes every seven or eight years. A new series, called the "Europa series", has been released from 2013; the first notes entered circulation on 2 May 2013.[81] The new series includes slight changes, notably the inclusion of the face of the mythological princess Europa in the watermark and in the hologram stripe.[82]

New production and anti-counterfeiting techniques are employed on the new notes, but the design shares the colours of the first series and the theme of bridges and arches.[81] The new notes are nonetheless recognisable as a new series.[83]

The new notes also reflect the expansion of the European Union: every member of the EU is depicted on it. The initial series did not include the recent members Cyprus and Malta (Cyprus was off the map to the east and Malta was too small to be depicted.)[17]

The Bulgarian Cyrillic alphabet features on the Europa series banknotes, as a result of Bulgaria joining the European Union in 2007. Thus this series includes "?", which is the Bulgarian spelling for EURO, as well as the abbreviation "" (short for ? in Bulgarian).[84] The new banknotes also feature the Maltese abbreviation B?E (Bank ?entrali Ewropew)[inconsistent with the above], the Hungarian abbreviation EKB (Európai Központi Bank) and the Polish abbreviation EBC (Europejski Bank Centralny). The modified 5 euro note features the initials of the European Central Bank in each of the contemporary EU member languages in a column on the left-hand side of the obverse.[84] The word "euro" in Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic lettering has also been moved to a more central position.[84]

The full design of the Europa series 5 euro banknote was revealed on 10 January 2013.[85] The new note entered circulation on 2 May 2013.[86] The full design of the Europa series 10 euro note was revealed on 13 January 2014 and it entered circulation on 23 September 2014.[87] The full design of the Europa series 20 euro banknote was revealed on 24 February 2015, [88][89] and it was launched on 25 November 2015.[88] The full design of the Europa series 50 euro note was revealed on 5 July 2016[90] and the new 50 note was released on 4 April 2017.[91][92] The full design of the Europa series 100 euro banknote and 200 euro banknote was revealed on 17 September 2018 and the new notes entered circulation on 28 May 2019[93] therefore "will complete the issuance of the Europa series."[94]

On 4 May 2016, the European Central Bank announced that the Europa series 500 euro banknote would not be released, due to fears of "facilitating the criminal activity".[54][95][96] "The ECB has decided to stop producing the EUR500 banknote, although the first series EUR500 remains legal tender."[94]

The old series will gradually be withdrawn.[94] The ECB will announce "well in advance" when the old notes will lose their legal tender status.[94] However, they will not lose their value and it will be possible to exchange them for new notes at Eurosystem central banks indefinitely.[81][94]

Security features

Microprinting on the Europa series 5 euro note
  • Watermark: When the note is held under a normal light source, a portrait of Europa and an electrotype denomination appear on either side.[81][97]
  • Portrait hologram: When the note is tilted, the silver-coloured holographic stripe reveals the portrait of Europa - the same one as in the watermark. The stripe also reveals a window and the value of the banknote.[81][97]
  • Colour changing ink: When the note is tilted, the number on the note displays an effect of light that moves up and down. The number also changes colour from emerald green to deep blue.[81][97]
  • Raised printing: On the front of the note, there is a series of short raised lines on the left and right edges. The main edge, the lettering and the large value numeral also feel thicker.[81][97]
  • Security thread: When the note is held against the light, the security thread appears as a dark line. The Euro symbol (EUR) and the value of the banknote can be seen in tiny white lettering in the thread.[81][97]
  • Microprinting: Tiny letters which can be read with a magnifying glass. The letters should be sharp, not blurred.[97]
  • Ultraviolet ink: Some parts of the banknote shine when under UV or UV-C light. These are the stars in the flag, the small circles, the large stars and several other areas on the front. On the back, a quarter of a circle in the centre as well as several other areas glow green. The horizontal serial number and a stripe appear in red.[97]
  • Infrared light: Under infrared light, the emerald number, the right side of the main image and the silvery stripe are visible on the obverse of the banknote, while on the reverse, only the denomination and the horizontal serial number are visible.[97]

Features for people with impaired sight

"A good design for the blind and partially sighted is a good design for everybody" was the principle behind the cooperation of the European Central Bank and the European Blind Union during the design phase of the first series banknotes in the 1990s.[98] As a result, the design of the first euro banknotes include several characteristics which aid both the blind and partially sighted to confidently use the notes.[98]

Features for the blind and visually impaired include:

  • Different sizes of the banknotes - the bigger the value, the larger the note.[98]
  • The banknotes have clearly contrasting, striking colours. The EUR5 note is grey, the EUR10 note red, the EUR20 note blue, the EUR50 note orange, the EUR100 note green, the EUR200 note yellow-brown and the EUR500 note is purple.[98]
  • Large numerals for the denomination.[98]
  • Raised print.[98]
  • Tactile marks on the EUR200 and EUR500 of the first series and on all the notes of the Europa series.[76][98]

As in the design process of the first series of euro notes, visually impaired users were consulted during the design phase of the Europa series, and their requirements were included in the final designs.[76]

Circulation

The European Central Bank closely monitors the circulation and stock of the euro coins and banknotes. It is a task of the Eurosystem to ensure an efficient and smooth supply of euro notes and to maintain their integrity throughout the Eurozone.[3]

Statistics

Every month, the European Central Bank publishes the number of banknotes in circulation around the Eurozone.

As of October 2019, there were about 23,181 million banknotes in circulation around the Eurozone.[3] That is about EUR1.258 trillion worth of banknotes.[3] As of October 2019, there were:

Note Approx. no. of notes in circulation
(billions)[3]
Value
(EUR billions)[3]
Share of total quantity
(%)[99]
Share of total value (%)[100]
EUR5 1.929 9.6 8.3 0.8
EUR10 2.607 26.1 11.2 2.1
EUR20 3.987 79.7 17.2 6.3
EUR50 10.850 542.5 46.8 43.1
EUR100 2.983 298.3 12.9 23.7
EUR200 0.366 73.2 1.6 5.8
EUR500 0.458 229.1 2.0 18.2

Figures since 2012

Date Banknotes
(millions)
Value
(EUR billions)
December 2012 15,687 912.6
December 2013 16,512 956.2
December 2014 17,528 1,016.5
December 2015 18,895 1,083.4
December 2016 20,220 1,126.2
December 2017 21,407 1,170.7
December 2018 22,615 1,231.1

Counterfeiting

The European Central Bank publishes information on the amount of counterfeit banknotes removed from circulation every 6 months.[101] It reported that 531,000 banknotes were removed from circulation in all of 2012,[102] compared to 606,000 in the previous year.[102] The ECB also said that, when compared to the amount of genuine banknotes, the proportion of fake euro notes remains low.[102] The amount of counterfeits taken out of circulation in 2012 is 3.18 times that of 2002 (167,118).[103][104]

In July 2013, the European Central Bank said that it removed 317,000 counterfeit euro banknotes from circulation in the first half of 2013, which is an increase of 26.3% from the first half of 2012.[105] However, the Bundesbank, in July 2013, stated that the amount of counterfeit euro notes fell by 13.6% in Germany in the first half of the year.[106] On the other hand, De Nederlandsche Bank said it withdrew around 19,400 counterfeit banknotes in the same period, which is an increase of 49% in comparison to the first half of 2012.[107] The Central Banks also stated that most were fake EUR20 and EUR50 notes.[105][106][107]

According to the central banks, the ratio of counterfeited bank notes is about 10 in one million of real bank notes for the Swiss franc, of 50 in one million for the Euro, of 100 in one million for United States dollar and of 300 in one million for Pound sterling.[108]

Legal information

Legally, both the European Central Bank and the national central banks (NCBs) of the Eurozone countries have the right to issue the 7 different euro banknotes.[2] In practice, only the NCBs of the zone physically issue and withdraw euro notes.[2] The European Central Bank does not have a cash office and is not involved in any cash operations.[2] However, the European Central Bank is responsible for overseeing the activities of national central banks in order to harmonise cash services in the Eurozone.[2]

Issuance and printing

The ECB has the exclusive right to authorise the issue of notes within the Eurozone, but most notes are actually issued by the National Central Banks (NCBs) of the Eurozone.[1] As of 2004, 8% of banknotes issues were allocated to the European Central Bank and 92% were allocated to Eurozone NCBs (in practice, the ECB issues no notes and the NCBs' issues may deviate from the statutory allocation).[1] The issuing central bank can be seen from the serial number. Each NCB is now responsible for the production of certain denominations, as assigned by the ECB.[1]

1st series

Since 2002, euro notes have been printed by the National Central Banks of the Eurozone, with each Central Bank being responsible for and bearing the cost of producing a proportion of the notes.[109] The production of notes needs to be sufficient to meet expected and unexpected surges in demand and to replace unfit notes.[109] Production volumes are forecast jointly by the National Central Banks and the European Central Bank, and it needs to be approved by the Governing Council of the ECB.[109]

Printing works

The printing code on a 10 euro note

There is a six-character printing code on every banknote which states the printer of the banknote. These printing codes have an initial letter, followed by three digits, then by a single letter, and ending in a digit, for example, "R001A1".[110]

The initial letter identifies the printing facility.[110] (the facilities are described below) "R" for example would be Bundesdruckerei, a printer in Berlin, Germany.[110] The three digits state sequential printing plates. "001", for example, would be the first printing plate created by the printer.[110] The fifth character, a letter and sixth character, a number, represent the row and column, respectively, of the particular banknote on the particular plate. So "A" would be the first row and "1" would indicate the first column.[110][111]

Banknotes are printed in sheets. Different printers use different sheet sizes and sheets of higher denominations, which are larger in size, would have fewer notes printed per sheet. For example, two German printers print EUR5 banknotes in sheets of 60 (10 rows, designated "A" to "J" and six columns), the sheets of EUR10 notes have 54 banknotes (nine rows, six columns), and EUR20 banknotes are printed in sheets of 45 banknotes (nine rows, five columns).[110]

The printer code does not need to be the same as the country code, i.e. notes issued by a particular country may have been printed in another country.[110] The printers used to print euro banknotes include commercial printers as well as national printers, some of which have been privatised, some previously produced national notes before the adoption of the euro.[110] There is one former or current national printer in each of the countries which issue euro notes, with the exception of Germany, where the former East German and West German printers now produce euro notes.[110] France also has two printers,[110]F. C. Oberthur (a private printer) and the printing works of the Bank of France, and two more in the United Kingdom: Thomas De La Rue (another private printer) and the Bank of England printing house, although the latter does not produce euro banknotes.[110]

Printer identification codes[110]
Code Printer Location Country NCB(s) produced for
(A)
(Bank of England Printing Works) (Loughton) ( United Kingdom) --
(B)
Unassigned
(C)
(Tumba Bruk) (Tumba) ( Sweden) --
D
Setec Oy Vantaa  Finland L (Finland Finland)
E
F. C. Oberthur Chantepie  France E (Slovakia Slovakia), F (Malta Malta), G (Cyprus Cyprus), H (Slovenia Slovenia), L (Finland Finland), P (Netherlands Netherlands), U (France France), X (Germany Germany)
F
Österreichische Banknoten- und Sicherheitsdruck GmbH Vienna  Austria N (Austria Austria), P (Netherlands Netherlands), S (Italy Italy), T (Republic of Ireland Ireland), Y (Greece Greece)
G
Koninklijke Joh. Enschedé Haarlem  Netherlands E (Slovakia Slovakia), F (Malta Malta), G (Cyprus Cyprus), H (Slovenia Slovenia), L (Finland Finland), N (Austria Austria), P (Netherlands Netherlands), V (Spain Spain), X (Germany Germany), Y (Greece Greece)
H
De La Rue Gateshead  United Kingdom L (Finland Finland), M (Portugal Portugal), P (Netherlands Netherlands), T (Republic of Ireland Ireland)
(I)
Unassigned
J
Banca d'Italia Rome  Italy S (Italy Italy)
K
Banc Ceannais na hÉireann / Central Bank of Ireland Dublin  Ireland T (Republic of Ireland Ireland)
L
Banque de France Chamalières  France U (France France)
M
Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre Madrid  Spain V (Spain Spain)
N
Bank of Greece Athens  Greece Y (Greece Greece)
(O)
Unassigned
P
Giesecke & Devrient Munich & Leipzig  Germany L (Finland Finland), M (Portugal Portugal), P (Netherlands Netherlands), U (France France), V (Spain Spain), X (Germany Germany), Y (Greece Greece)
(Q)
Unassigned
R
Bundesdruckerei Berlin  Germany D (Estonia Estonia), E (Slovakia Slovakia), F (Malta Malta), G (Cyprus Cyprus), H (Slovenia Slovenia), L (Finland Finland), P (Netherlands Netherlands), X (Germany Germany), Y (Greece Greece)
(S)
(Danmarks Nationalbank) (Copenhagen) ( Denmark) --
T
National Bank of Belgium Brussels  Belgium U (France France), V (Spain Spain), Z (Belgium Belgium)
U
Valora--Banco de Portugal Carregado  Portugal M (Portugal Portugal)
(V)
Unassigned
(W)
Unassigned
(X)
Unassigned
(Y)
Unassigned
(Z)
Unassigned
  • The A, C and S codes have been reserved for the British, Swedish and Danish printers not printing euro banknotes.[110]
  • Where a printer is listed as producing banknotes for a particular country, this may apply to a single denomination, or as many as all seven denominations.[110] Some NCBs source different denominations from different printers,[110] and some source even a single denomination from multiple printers.[110] NCBs that issue banknotes are free to source from any authorized printers, and do so in varying quantities.[110]

Serial number

The serial number on a 50 euro note. This banknote was issued for Banca d'Italia, the Italian central bank.

Unlike euro coins, euro notes do not have a national side indicating which country issued them. The country that issued them is not necessarily where they were printed. The information about the issuing country is encoded within the first character of each note's serial number instead.[16]

The first character of the serial number is a letter which uniquely identifies the country that issues the note.[16] The remaining 11 characters are numbers which, when their digital root is calculated, give a checksum also particular to that country.[112]

The W, K and J codes have been reserved for the three EU member states that did not adopt the euro in 1999, while the R prefix is reserved for Luxembourg, which, at present, does not issue euro banknotes.[16] The first series of uncirculated notes from Luxembourg use the prefix belonging to the country where they were printed.[16]

National identification codes[77]
Code Country Checksum(1)
in English in official language(s)
Z  Belgium België/Belgique/Belgien 9
Y  Greece [Ellada] 1
X  Germany Deutschland 2
(W)(2) ( Denmark) Danmark (3)
V  Spain España 4
U  France France 5
T  Ireland Éire/Ireland 6
S  Italy Italia 7
(R) ( Luxembourg) Luxembourg/Luxemburg/Lëtzebuerg (8)
(Q) Unassigned
P  Netherlands Nederland 1
(O) Unassigned
N  Austria Österreich 3
M  Portugal Portugal 4
L  Finland Suomi/Finland 5
(K)(2) ( Sweden) Sverige (6)
(J)(2) ( United Kingdom) United Kingdom (7)
(I) Unassigned
H  Slovenia Slovenija 9
G  Cyprus [Kypros]/K?br?s 1
F  Malta Malta 2
E  Slovakia Slovensko 3
D  Estonia Eesti 4
(C)  Latvia Latvija[113]
(B)  Lithuania Lietuva[113]
(A) Unassigned


(1) checksum of the 11 digits without the letter
(2) Denmark, the United Kingdom and Sweden presently do not use the Euro, but had these serial number prefixes reserved for the first series of notes.[16]

Although the Slovenian letter had been reserved since the eurozone enlargement in January 2007, the country initially used previously issued banknotes issued from other member states. The first banknotes bearing the "H" letter, produced in France specifically on behalf of Slovenia, were witnessed no sooner than April 2008.[114] The 'Cypriot banknotes' (G) appeared in circulation in November 2009, whereas, those from Malta (F) appeared 3 months later (February 2010).[115] Slovak notes (E) first appeared in October 2010.

2nd series

The serial number on a 5 euro note. This banknote was printed in Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre in Spain.

In the new series, there are two codes, like in the first series. They are the printer code in the top right hand corner and the serial number.[116] Part of the serial number is horizontal and part of it is vertical.[117] The serial number begins with a letter indicating the printer, which is broadly similar to the first series (Z for Belgium, Y for Greece, etc.).[118] The second letter of the new serial numbers is part of the serial number itself, and has no further significance.[118]

However, as the code indicates the printer, rather than the issuing NCB, certain letters have been reassigned from NCBs which do not maintain their own printing facilities. In the first series, H denoted Slovenia. As there is no Slovene printer of euro banknotes, H represents De La Rue (Loughton) in the second series.[118] Several of the printers which replaced what were NCB codes maintain their printing code from the first series (De La Rue, mentioned, and Bundesdruckerei, which replaced Luxembourg as R, its previous printing code).[118]

Identification codes[118]
Code Printer Country
Z Nationale Bank van België/Banque Nationale de Belgique  Belgium
Y Bank of Greece  Greece
X Giesecke+Devrient (Munich)  Germany
W Giesecke+Devrient (Leipzig)  Germany
V IMBISA (owned by Banco de España)  Spain
U Banque de France  France
T Central Bank of Ireland  Ireland
S Banca d'Italia  Italy
R Bundesdruckerei  Germany
(Q) Omitted[118]
P Joh. Enschedé  Netherlands
(O) Omitted[118]
N Oesterreichische Banknoten- und Sicherheitsdruck GmbH  Austria
M Valora  Portugal
(L) Unassigned
(K) Unassigned
J De La Rue (Gateshead)  UK
(I) Omitted[118]
H De La Rue (Loughton)  UK
(G) Unassigned
F Oberthur Fiduciaire AD Bulgaria  Bulgaria
E Oberthur  France
D Polska Wytwórnia Papierów Warto?ciowych  Poland
(C) Unassigned
(B) Unassigned
(A) Unassigned

Production statistics

The European Central Bank publishes details about euro notes produced every year.[109]

Banknotes to be produced in 2019[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 613.3 3,066  Belgium,  Spain,  Austria,  Portugal.
EUR10 424.6 4,245  Germany.
EUR20 970.9 19,417  Estonia,  Ireland,  France,  Cyprus,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR50 1729.2 86,457  Germany,  Greece,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Latvia,  Lithuania.
EUR100 -- -- --
EUR200 -- -- --
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 3,738 113,187.50  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes to be produced in 2018[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 448.4 2,241  Estonia,  Greece,  Cyprus,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR10 -- -- --
EUR20 526.5 10,530  Belgium,  Ireland,  Spain,  Portugal.
EUR50 -- -- --
EUR100 2,300 230,000  Germany,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Austria.
EUR200 715 143,000  France,  Italy,  Austria.
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 3,989.90 385,771.90  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes to be produced in 2017[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 390 1,948  Ireland,  Greece.
EUR10 -- -- --
EUR20 900 18,000  France,  Italy,  Portugal.
EUR50 3,300 164,998  Belgium,  Germany,  Estonia,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Cyprus,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  the Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR100 850 85,002  Germany,  Spain,  Austria.
EUR200 284 56,752  Belgium,  Germany.
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 5,723 326,700  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes to be produced in 2016[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 -- -- --
EUR10 1,000 10,000  Ireland,  Greece,  Spain,  France.
EUR20 500 10,000  France.
EUR50 4,541 227,050  Belgium,  Germany,  Estonia,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Cyprus,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  the Netherlands,  Portugal,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR100 176 17,640  Austria.
EUR200 -- -- --
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 6,217 264,690  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Latvia,  Lithuania,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes to be produced in 2015[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 600 3,000  Belgium,  Spain,  Portugal.
EUR10 1,200 12,000  Estonia,  Ireland,  Greece,  France,  Cyprus,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  the Netherlands,  Austria,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR20 1,700 34,000  Germany,  France,  Italy.
EUR50 2,500 125,000  Belgium,  Germany,  Estonia,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Cyprus,  Luxembourg,  Malta,  the Netherlands,  Latvia,  Portugal,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR100 -- -- --
EUR200 -- -- --
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 6,000 171,300  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Latvia,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes produced in 2014[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 825 4,125  Belgium,  Greece,  Spain,  Ireland.
EUR10 94 940  Greece.
EUR20 3,994 79,880  Germany,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Portugal.
EUR50 2,800 140,000  Belgium,  Germany,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Spain,  Italy,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  the Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR100 500 50,000  Germany.
EUR200 47 9,400  Germany.
EUR500 85 42,500  Austria.
TOTAL 8,345 326,845  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes produced in 2013[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 -- -- --
EUR10 4,500 45,000  Germany,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Greece,  Spain,  France,  Ireland,  Italy,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Austria,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR20 2,500 50,000  Germany,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Greece,  France,  Italy,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Portugal,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR50 1,000 50,000  Belgium,  Germany,  Spain.
EUR100 -- -- --
EUR200 -- -- --
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 8,000 145,000  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes produced in 2012[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 2,915.30 14,576.52  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria.
EUR10 1,959.04 19,590.45  Germany,  Greece,  France,  Ireland,  Portugal.
EUR20 1,703.95 34,079.03  Cyprus,  Estonia,  France,  Italy,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR50 1,530.43 76,521.70  Belgium,  Germany,  Spain,  Italy.
EUR100 298.13 29,813.20  Germany.
EUR200 50.00 10,000.04  Germany.
EUR500 -- -- --
TOTAL 8,456.87 184,580.95  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
Banknotes produced in 2011[109]
Denomination Quantity (millions) Value (EUR millions) NCBs commissioning production
EUR5 1,714.80 8,574.00  Germany,  Cyprus,  Spain,  France,  Ireland,  Malta  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR10 1,541.20 15,412.00  Germany,  Greece,  France,  Austria,  Portugal.
EUR20 536.60 10,732.00  Cyprus,  France,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.
EUR50 2,169.10 108,455.00  Belgium,  Germany,  Spain,  Italy.
EUR100 -- -- --
EUR200 -- -- --
EUR500 56.20 28,100.00  Austria.
TOTAL 6,017.90 171,273.00  Belgium,  Spain,  France,  Italy,  Austria,  Germany,  Greece,  Ireland,  Portugal,  Cyprus,  Estonia,  Malta,  Luxembourg,  Netherlands,  Slovenia,  Slovakia,  Finland.

Tracking

There are several communities of people at European level, an example of which is EuroBillTracker,[119] that as a hobby keep track of the euro notes that pass through their hands to keep track and know where they travel or have travelled.[119] The aim is to record as many notes as possible in order to know details about their spread, from where and to where they travel in general and follow it up, like where a specific note has been seen in particular and generate statistics and rankings, for example, in which countries there are more notes.[119] EuroBillTracker has registered over 174.96 million notes as of 3 March 2018, worth more than EUR3.23 billion.[120]

EUR1 and EUR2 notes

The ECB has stated that "printing a EUR1 note is more expensive (and less durable) than minting a EUR1 coin". On 18 November 2004 the ECB decided definitively that there was insufficient demand across the Eurozone for very-low-denomination banknotes. On 25 October 2005, however, more than half of MEPs supported a motion calling on the European Commission and the European Central Bank to recognise the definite need for the introduction of EUR1 and EUR2 banknotes.[121] However, the European Central Bank is not directly answerable to the Parliament or the Commission, and has ignored the motion.

See also

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