Fewer counterfeits in circulation Strong trend decline in counterfeit banknotes

In 2011, the Bundesbank detected approximately 39,000 counterfeit euro banknotes. This means that the number of counterfeits declined by over one-third on the year. In unadjusted terms, that means that five (2010: seven) counterfeit notes annually for every 10,000 inhabitants. The losses incurred as a result of counterfeit banknotes fell from €3.4 million in 2010 to €2.1 million last year.

No more than roughly 19,000 counterfeit banknotes were detected in the first half of 2011, a portent of the trend decline in counterfeit money. The second half of the year saw only a slightly higher incidence of counterfeits, at around 20,000.

“The risk of encountering counterfeit money is very low in Germany,” said Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for cash and payment systems. He added that “The low number of counterfeits is due to efficient police work in Germany and abroad as well as to the Bundesbank’s counterfeit prevention measures.”

The distribution of counterfeits across the denominations in 2011 was as follows.

Table counterfeit banknotes
Notes5€ 10€20€50€ 100€ 200€500€ Total
Per cent1%2%36%42%14%4%0% 

The incidence of counterfeit €50 notes declined very sharply in 2011, by more than one-half. Counterfeits of the €20 banknote bucked the trend and showed a slight increase (+10%). Their share is now nearly the same as that of €50 counterfeits.

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Despite the current decline in counterfeit money, banknotes should be checked carefully at all times, as counterfeits are not reimbursable.

Checks should always include multiple security features, as a banknote can be identified as authentic only by examining a combination of the various features.

  • For example, raised print on the front of the banknotes (“BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP” near the top edge) can be identified by touch.
  • The watermark becomes visible in the unprinted area when the banknote is held against the light.
  • The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted.
  • On the back of the banknote, the glossy-stripe (denominations up to €20) or the change in colour of the value numeral on the right-hand side (denominations from €50 upwards) can be checked by tilting the banknote.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine, for example a banknote withdrawn from an ATM.

Checking banknotes using a magnifying glass, counterfeit detector marker or an ultraviolet lamp does not always produce a clear test result. It is therefore better to combine use of these tools with a check of other security features.

Fewer counterfeit coins

In 2011, approximately 52,700 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments. In 2010, this figure had stood at around 67,400. Annually, there are thus around six counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations and were distributed in 2011 as follows.

Table Counterfeit euro coins
Coins50 cent 1€2€Total
Per cent7%18%75% 

At 25,243, the number of counterfeit coins in the second half of 2011 was even lower than that registered in the first half (27,480 counterfeit coins).

Checking coins for authenticity

Counterfeit euro coins can usually be distinguished from genuine coins only after a very thorough visual inspection. The following pointers can make it easier to identify genuine coins.

  • On genuine euro coins, the motif stands out clearly from the background of the coin. By contrast, the image on counterfeit coins often appears blurred, and the surface of the coins may be uneven.
  • Counterfeits generally have a colour which differs slightly from genuine coins.
  • The edge inscriptions of genuine €2 coins are sharp. Those on counterfeit coins are frequently incomplete or irregular.
  • Genuine €1 and €2 coins are only slightly magnetic. They remain attracted to magnets but can be removed again with a minimum of effort. Counterfeit coins, on the other hand, are usually either non-magnetic or are strongly attracted to magnets.

Counterfeit prevention

Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge for the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. Participants are given typical counterfeits to test using the “feel, look and tilt” method. Contact details for the branches may be found on the Bundesbank's website ("internal links").

In addition, information (in the form of brochures and posters) and a new interactive learning program entitled “Detecting Counterfeits” (Falschgeld erkennen) can be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge. Information on this subject may be found on the Bundesbank’s website, the European Central Bank's website or the German police force's website, all of which are updated regularly.

To ensure that important information concerning people who pass counterfeits is not lost, the Bundesbank strongly advises you to immediately notify the police of counterfeit banknotes and coins and to hand these in to the police.