Johannes Beermann (Bundesbank Executive Board) shows coins damaged by the flood at the Bundesbank in Mainz, 09.02.2022 ©Nils Thies

Bundesbank processes more than 1.5 million banknotes following catastrophic floods

The devastating July floods in North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate hit residents hard. Since then, workers at the Bundesbank’s National Analysis Centre have been processing damaged notes and coins, which continue to be sent in from flood-stricken areas. At a press conference in Mainz, Bundesbank Executive Board member Johannes Beermann stated that over 1.5 million banknotes and 1.2 million coins have been received so far. “In total, the Bundesbank has replaced cash worth more than 100 million euro.” The money has come from banks which were flooded out – safes and safe deposit boxes and all – but also, he said, from private individuals. Of the 1,573,032 banknotes, 1,050,165 were from banks and 522,867 came from private hands. These are record amounts in comparison to other floods, such as those in 2013, when 150,000 banknotes were received. The flooding in 2021 “dwarfs everything that we have seen thus far,” according to Beermann.

Manual labour

Swift action and improvisation was necessary to ensure victims of the catastrophic flooding received prompt assistance. The Bundesbank procured tumble dryers to dry banknotes and brought in employees from other departments to assist in processing. The banknotes coming from flood-stricken areas had to be processed by hand, as the thoroughly waterlogged notes would have damaged the sorting machines. Time was also a factor: if damp, bundled banknotes that were very dirty, for example due to mud, had been allowed to dry out, counting them might not have been possible. “And yet we still have to count them, to know how much we need to replace,” Beermann explained. So Bundesbank employees dried the notes as fast as possible, flattened them out, checked their authenticity and counted them. They used a few (household) tricks to make the work easier: to reduce the strong smell of the money, they put fragrances in the dryers. They also made use of tennis balls, which helped prevent the notes from getting twisted up in the dryer. The flattened banknotes were then weighed down with paving slabs. “Of course, the first step is to come up with these ideas,” Beermann said. It was, he explained, the employees’ drive to innovate that allowed these solutions to be put into practice in the first place. “That has allowed us to fulfil our statutory mandate even in a situation like this.”  

Damaged coins are still being processed

As the processing of bank notes was completed at the end of 2021, the coins received from flood-hit areas are next on the agenda. Unlike the banknotes, the coins cannot become clumped or stuck together, Beermann explained at the press conference. As the coins are in many cases still packed into rolls, it is often easier to determine their equivalent value, he remarked. The damaged and rusted coins are also cleaned with water first. “After that, the coins must be rolled out onto a cloth,” Beermann went on, as he demonstrated the process at the conference. Then, they are air dried or dried off with tea towels. If they are too dirty or rusty, they must also be counted by hand. According to Beermann, the Bundesbank plans to complete the work of processing coins from flood-stricken areas by mid-March 2022.

Beermann stressed that sending damaged cash to the Bundesbank remains possible. “The victims do not need to pay.