Regulations concerning the protection of banknotes and coins Overview of regulations

In addition to the prohibitory provisions set out in Sections 146 et seq. of the German Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch), there are a number of further regulations that concern the protection of cash. An overview of these is provided below.

Banknotes

In accordance with section 128 (1) No 1 of the Act on Breaches of Administrative Regulations (Gesetz über Ordnungswidrigkeiten - OWiG), the production or distribution of any printed material or reproductions, which, owing to their nature, could be mistaken for genuine banknotes in payment transactions or be used to produce paper tokens closely resembling paper money constitutes an administrative offence. Furthermore, Section 128 (1) No 2 of the OWiG stipulates that the production, procurement, offer for sale, safekeeping, handing over, import or export of any plates, forms, printing templates, printing blocks, negatives, matrices, computer programmes or any similar material, which, owing to their nature, could be used to produce the printed material or reproductions described in No 1 of this section constitutes an administrative offence. These provisions apply to both euro banknotes and banknotes of a foreign currency area. Breaches of administrative regulations are punishable by a fine of up to EUR 10,000.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has also adopted rules on the permissibility of euro banknote reproductions, the most recent version of which can be found in Bundesbank Notice No 3001/2021. Under these rules, reproductions of euro banknotes are only permissible either if they comply with certain criteria specifically set out by the ECB Governing Council or if, exceptionally, the ECB or the relevant national central bank, as applicable, gives its consent upon receiving a written request. Such consent is conditional upon it not being possible for the reproduction to be mistaken by the general public for a genuine euro banknote. 

  • Enquiries relating to the permissibility of banknote reproductions should be sent to the National Analysis Centre for Counterfeit and Damaged Banknotes and Coins.
  • Enquiries relating to Section 128 of the Act on Breaches of Administrative Regulations (Gesetz über Ordnungswidrigkeiten) should be sent to the Munich office of the Directorate General Legal Services.

Coins

Various regulations are currently in force to safeguard regular issue euro coins and German euro commemorative coins.

"Council Regulation (EC) No 2182/2004 of 6 December 2004 concerning medals and tokens similar to euro coins" as amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 46/2009 of 18 December 2008 (see also our information-only version (in German only) of the provisions in force as of 11 February 2009 (no responsibility is taken for the correctness of the information given)) aims to prevent any medals and tokens whose optical characteristics, size or metallic properties are similar to those of regular issue euro coins from being produced or sold commercially. In line with this, the regulation fundamentally prohibits the production of medals and tokens (metallic objects which look like and/or have the technical properties of a coin), their sale, import or distribution for the purpose of sale or for other commercial purposes,

  • when the terms "euro" or "euro cent" or the euro symbol appear on their surface
  • where their size falls within a certain reference band in terms of diameter and edge height, or
  • when part or all of their mint design is similar to that of a euro coin, bears national symbols of the member states as depicted on euro coins, has a similar edge design or edge to that of a euro coin or is similar to the euro symbol.

Certain medals and tokens which fulfil the specific requirements described in article 3 of the regulation are excluded from this ban. For further information, see Bundesbank notices concerning medals and tokens similar to euro coins (in German only) (Hinweise der Bank zu Medaillen und Münzstücken mit ähnlichen Merkmalen wie Euro-Umlaufmünzen).

German euro commemorative coins are similarly safeguarded by the Regulation on the production and distribution of medals and tokens for the protection of German euro commemorative coins (Medals regulation) (in German only) (Verordnung über die Herstellung und den Vertrieb von Medaillen und Münzstücken zum Schutz deutscher Euro-Gedenkmünzen (Medaillenverordnung)) of 31 October 2005. For further information, see the Bundesbank notices concerning medals and tokens similar to German euro commemorative coins.

In accordance with section 11 (1) of the (Coinage Act) (in German only) (Münzgesetz), it is also forbidden to reproduce, counterfeit, stock coins for sale, offer for sale, bring into circulation or import coins which have been withdrawn from circulation or which are no longer legal tender for other reasons (including foreign coins) so long as they are not clearly designed as replicas or were produced prior to the year 1850. The same applies for objects whose appearance could give the impression that they were previously valid coins (including foreign coins). For further information, see the Bundesbank notices concerning medals and tokens similar to coins which have been withdrawn from circulation or which are no longer legal tender for other reasons (Hinweise der Bank zu Medaillen und Münzstücken mit ähnlichen Merkmalen wie außer Kurs gesetzte oder sonst als Zahlungsmittel ungültig gewordene Münzen) and the Supplementary notices concerning medals and tokens similar to Federal coins denominated in Deutsche Mark and pfennig (in German only) (Ergänzende Hinweise zu Medaillen und Münzstücken mit ähnlichen Merkmalen wie auf Deutsche Mark oder Deutsche Pfennig lautende Bundesmünzen).

In accordance with section 12 of the Coinage Act, infringements of the aforementioned regulations constitute a breach of administrative regulations and may result in a fine of up to EUR 10,000.

Authority for administrative offences

The Deutsche Bundesbank is the competent autority for prosecuting and punishing the above mentioned breaches of administrative regulations. The task is performed by the Legal Department, Munich Office (R 11-11 and R 11-12).

The aforementioned office also provides information in specific cases regarding the permissibility of medals and tokens. Enquiries relating to the permissibility of banknote reproductions should be sent to the National Analysis Centre for Counterfeit and Damaged Banknotes and Coins (H 31).

Reproductions of coin designs on non-metallic materials

In its Communication on copyright protection of the common face design of the euro coins of 13 November 2001, the Commission commented on the admissibility of reproducing the coin design, in full or in part, of the common reverse side of euro coins on non-metallic material. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Finance in Berlin is the competent authority for granting authorisation for reproductions if required pursuant to that Communication.