Counterfeits down by 13% in the first half of the year
In the first half of 2021, the Bundesbank recorded approximately 21,400 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €1 million. The number of counterfeits thus fell by 13% compared with the second half of 2020.
“There has been a clear decline in the number of counterfeits due to the coronavirus restrictions. Opportunities for consumption were highly restricted precisely in those areas where cash plays a significant role,” said Johannes Beermann, the Bundesbank’s Executive Board member responsible for cash management.
As had been the case in the previous year, most of the counterfeits were easily identifiable specimens, with the words “movie money” printed on the obverse side or “prop copy” on the reverse. On some of them, counterfeiters even covered over the label “movie money” or “prop copy” and added the signature of the former President of the ECB, Mario Draghi.
The €20 banknote was the most commonly counterfeited denomination, accounting for 41% of counterfeit notes. It was closely followed by the €50 banknote, at 39%. This equates statistically to five counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany in the first half of the year.
The table below shows the distribution of counterfeits across the various denominations in the first half of 2021.
Sharp drop in counterfeit coins in circulation as well
The number of counterfeit coins in Germany also fell considerably compared with the previous six-month period. While some 22,500 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments in the second half of 2020, only 14,600 counterfeit coins were detected in the first half of 2021. This represents a decline of 35%. Statistically, this equates to around four counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany.
Counterfeits were identified only in the three highest denominations, and their incidence in the first six months of 2021 was as follows.
Recognising counterfeit banknotes
Anyone can check banknotes themselves using the quick “feel, look, tilt” method. Counterfeit money is not eligible for replacement.
Several security features can be checked using this test.
- Banknote paper has a special texture. It feels crisp and firm. It is often possible to identify simple counterfeits just by feeling the banknote. However, to be on the safe side, we recommend 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 top 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 silhouetted 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’s face.
- 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.
When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine.
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. Participants are given typical counterfeits to test using the “feel, look and tilt” method. Features that can be checked using magnifying glasses, counterfeit detector markers or ultraviolet lamps are also explained. However, these tools, which are often used in the commercial sector, should always be combined with a check of other security features. Contact details for the branches may be found on the Bundesbank's website.