Fewer counterfeits in circulation Clear decline in counterfeit banknotes
In 2021, the Bundesbank registered approximately 42,000 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €1.9 million in German payments. The number of counterfeits thus fell by 28.6% on the year, and the nominal value of the banknotes seized decreased by 34.5%.
“There has been a clear decline in the number of counterfeits. This was probably because manufacturers and distributors of counterfeits had fewer outlets. There were major restrictions precisely in those settings where cash is the predominant mode of payment, such as fairs and Christmas markets,” said Johannes Beermann, the Bundesbank’s Executive Board member responsible for cash management.
“As was the case last year, the majority of the counterfeits were “prop copies” or “movie money”, in other words easily identifiable counterfeits,” Mr Beermann explained. The banknotes with the words “prop copy” or “movie money” printed on them do not exhibit any security features, not even watermarks or security threads. Mr Beermann added that
“it is always worth having a closer look at the banknotes you receive”.
The distribution of counterfeits across denominations in 2021 was as follows.
At around 20,550, the number of counterfeits detected in the second half of 2021 was lower than the figure for the first half of the year (21,400).
Recognising counterfeit banknotes
As counterfeit banknotes are not replaced, everyone should check the banknotes they receive for themselves using the “feel, look, tilt” method. It is advisable to compare a suspect banknote with one definitely known to be genuine and to always check more than one security feature.
Movie money and prop copies can easily be identified by the labelling on them.
All counterfeits can be identified by the following characteristics:
- Banknote paper feels crisp and firm.  It is often possible to identify simple counterfeits just by feeling the banknote. However, to be on the safe side, the Bundesbank recommends checking other features as well.
- Raised print on the front of the banknotes can be identified by touch, for example. Banknotes belonging to the Europa series show the letters “BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC” (and “ESB” on denominations of €50 and above) across their left edge as well as a series of short lines on the left and right-hand edges.
- When any banknote is held against the light, the watermark appears as a shadowy image in the unprinted area.
- On denominations of €20 and above belonging to the Europa series, the upper section of the hologram contains a transparent window showing a portrait of Europa, a figure from Greek mythology.
- The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted. Rainbow-coloured effects appear around the motifs.
- An emerald number can also be seen on the bottom left-hand side on the front of the banknotes belonging to the Europa series. When the banknote is tilted, the emerald number changes colour and the effect of a light stripe moving up and down becomes visible.
- The €100 and €200 banknotes have been equipped with new and improved security features. The emerald number contains several euro symbols that change in size and colour. The hologram contains a satellite feature showing two euro symbols that move around the denomination number.
Number of counterfeit coins in circulation also down
In 2021, approximately 41,100 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, compared with around 44,800 coins in the previous year. Statistically, this equates to five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.
Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence in 2021 was as follows.
At roughly 26,500, the number of counterfeit coins detected in the second half of 2021 was significantly higher than the figure registered in the first six months of the year (around 14,600).
Checking coins for authenticity
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 differ slightly in colour 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 are attracted to magnets but can be removed again with very little effort. Counterfeit coins, on the other hand, are usually either non-magnetic or are strongly attracted to magnets.
Through its branch network, the Bundesbank provides training courses free of charge to the banking industry, retailers and any other interested parties. However, these cannot take place at present owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the following learning programs can be accessed via the Bundesbank’s website (German only).
In addition, information (in the form of brochures and posters) may be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge.
Information on this subject is updated regularly on the Bundesbank’s website, the European Central Bank’s website and on the German police force’s website (German only).
To ensure that important information concerning people who pass counterfeits is not lost, the Bundesbank strongly advises you to notify the police of counterfeit banknotes and coins immediately and to hand these in to the police.