Coins on euro banknotes ©foto_tech / AdobeStock

Counterfeits down by 28.6% in 2021

Counterfeit euro banknotes in Germany by denomination
In 2021, the Bundesbank registered around 42,000 counterfeit euro notes in German payments, representing a 28.6% decrease on the previous year. The loss resulting from these forged banknotes amounted to €1.9 million.

Johannes Beermann, the Bundesbank’s Executive Board member responsible for cash management, puts this significant drop down to the fact that 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 Mr Beermann.

Decline in “movie money” and “prop copies”

In Germany, the total of 42,000 counterfeit banknotes equated to five counterfeit notes for every 10,000 inhabitants in 2021. In the euro area, there were ten counterfeit notes for every 10,000 inhabitants.

The majority of these counterfeits in 2021 were “prop copies” or “movie money”. The banknotes with the words “prop copy” or “movie money” printed on them do not exhibit any security features and are therefore easily identifiable counterfeits. 

The number of €10 and €20 counterfeit banknotes with these labels decreased by around 51% in 2021. Overall, €20 and €50 banknotes accounted for around 78% of counterfeits in Germany. The table below shows the distribution of counterfeits in 2021.



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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).

Number of counterfeit coins in circulation also down slightly

The number of counterfeit coins in Germany has fallen slightly. 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. The €2 coin was forged most frequently, accounting for 93% of counterfeits.

Counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, and their incidence in 2021 was as follows.



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Fewer counterfeits in the euro area

Counterfeit euro banknotes in the euro area
In 2021, the incidence of counterfeits in the euro area fell to an all-time low compared with the previous year. In total, 347,000 counterfeit banknotes were recorded, 113,000 fewer (24.6%) than in 2020. At the European level, as in Germany, there were noticeably fewer counterfeit €50 banknotes (17.5%). 

Fake €50 notes accounted for roughly 34% of registered counterfeits, relegating €20 counterfeits to second place at 32.1%. Losses caused by counterfeits in the euro area came to €17.5 million, which was lower than the figure of €21.5 million recorded in 2020. Counterfeit money stemming from Germany accounted for just 12.1% of the total figure for the euro area.

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.

  • Feel:
    • ­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.
  • Look:
    • 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.
  • Tilt:
    • ­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.

Counterfeit prevention

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.