Germany’s international investment position at the end of 2005

In the past few months, some "brittle" euro banknotes have turned up – mainly in northern and eastern Germany – which have crumbled into several pieces while in normal use in payments. In some instances, such “brittle” banknotes have also been detected in the course of banknote processing at the branches of the Deutsche Bundesbank.

Since banknotes displaying such defects have occurred for the first time in circulation, they were sent by the Bundesbank to specialist laboratories of the Federal Criminal Investigation Offices (Landeskriminalämter) in Berlin and Mainz for further examination. The investigations concluded that in none of the cases was this due to production errors, say, at a paper mill or a banknote printing works. The “brittleness” must, in fact, be due to the impact of chemicals (acids such as those use in industrial cleaners) acting on the banknotes while they are in circulation. It is the assessment of the Federal Criminal Investigation Office in Berlin that normal contact with such banknotes is unlikely to pose any health risk.

On the basis of the information currently available, it is impossible to tell whether the “brittleness” of the banknotes is due to accidental damage or deliberate interference.

Some 1,500 “brittle” banknotes of various denominations have been detected so far in Germany. Relative to the total number of roughly 10.5 billion banknotes in circulation in the euro area and about 5 billion banknotes in Germany, the probability of coming into possession of such a banknote is very slight.

Suspicious and/or “brittle” banknotes (packed appropriately in an envelope) may be handed in to a branch of the Deutsche Bundesbank to be exchanged. In individual cases, the commercial banks, too, are prepared to accept damaged banknotes for submission to the Bundesbank. Further information may be found on our website ("Internal links").

Irrespective of the possible cause of damage, the Bundesbank wishes to point out that, in accordance with the uniform regulations of the Eurosystem, it will exchange defective, damaged or mutilated euro banknotes at its branches upon request provided that more than 50% of a banknote is presented. If 50% or less of a banknote is presented, the person wishing to exchange the banknote must provide evidence that the missing parts have been destroyed.