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Euro Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Historically Low Level of Counterfeiting

Categories : Cash generates security
February 7, 2022
Tags : Counterfeiting, Euro
The number of euro banknotes in circulation has increased fourfold since the launch of the physical currency in 2002 to reach 28 billion pieces at the end of 2021. Meanwhile, the number of counterfeits in relation to the total volume of banknotes in circulation has decreased more than fourfold.
Guillaume Lepecq

Chair, CashEssentials

This post is also available in: Spanish

Twenty years ago, the first series of euro notes became a reality for 300 million Europeans. At the 2002 launch of the currency, 7.8 billion notes were issued in 12 countries with a total population of 308 million. By the end of 2021, the number of banknotes in circulation stood at 28.2 billion and the euro area now brings together 19 countries and 340 million people.

Euro: Number of Banknotes in Circulation, 2002-2021Source: ECB

Some 347,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2021 (180,000 in the second half of the year), a decrease of 24.6% when compared with 2020. €20 and €50 notes continued to be the most counterfeited banknotes, jointly accounting for about two-thirds of the total. 95.4% of counterfeits were found in euro area countries, while 4.2% were found in non-euro area EU Member States and 0.4% in other parts of the world.

There is little likelihood of receiving a counterfeit, as the number of counterfeits remains very low in proportion to the number of genuine euro banknotes in circulation. In 2021, 12 counterfeits were detected per 1 million genuine banknotes in circulation, which is a historically low level (see the chart below).

Source: ECB

According to the ECB “Low-quality reproductions are continuously withdrawn from circulation. Counterfeits are easy to detect as they have no security features, or only very poor imitations of them. The public does not need to be concerned about counterfeiting, but should nevertheless remain vigilant. You can check your notes by using the simple “feel, look and tilt” method described in the dedicated section of the ECB’s website and on the websites of the national central banks of the euro area. The Eurosystem also helps professional cash handlers by ensuring that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify counterfeits and withdraw them from circulation.”

The Eurosystem has a duty to safeguard the integrity of euro banknotes and to continue improving banknote technology. The second series of banknotes – the Europa series – has been introduced gradually between 2013 and 2019 and benefit from new security features which offer better protection against counterfeiting. In December 2021, the ECB announced the launch of a redesign process for the next euro banknote series. “After 20 years, it’s time to review the look of our banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds.” said ECB President Christine Lagarde. A multidisciplinary group has been set up to advise the ECB on new themes. A final decision is expected in 2024.

This post is also available in: Spanish