Cash processing ©Nils Thies

Fewer counterfeits in circulation

In the first half of 2018, the Bundesbank withdrew approximately 31,100 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €1.8 million from circulation. This represents a decline of 6.2% compared with the second half of 2017, and an even larger fall of 21.6% compared with the first half of 2017. On an annual basis, there were seven counterfeit banknotes per 10,000 inhabitants in statistical terms.

The €50 banknote is a particularly popular denomination among counterfeiters. Around 72% of all counterfeit banknotes were €50 banknotes, of which over 80% belonged to the first series of euro banknotes.

Conterfeit euro banknotes in Germany by denomination

“The number of €50 counterfeits is expected to decrease as more banknotes from the first series are replaced by those from the Europa series,” said Bundesbank Executive Board member Johannes Beermann. This effect can already be observed among the €20 banknotes of the second series, known as the Europa series. In the first half of 2018, the number of counterfeit €20 banknotes as a share of the total volume of counterfeit notes fell by four percentage points compared with the second half of 2017. This decline was also attributable to the improved protection measures against counterfeiting implemented with the Europa series, according to Mr Beermann. 

The following table shows the distribution of counterfeits across the individual denominations for the first half of 2018. 



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Increase in the number of counterfeit coins

The number of counterfeit coins in Germany increased by around 21% compared with the previous six-month period, with just under 17,100 counterfeit coins being detected in German payments in the first half of 2018. 14,000 counterfeit coins were withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2017. Statistically, this equates to around four counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year. The €2 coin accounted for the bulk of all counterfeit coins at 83%.

Counterfeits were identified only in the three highest denominations, and their incidence in the first six months of 2018 was as follows:



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50 cents











Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

According to information from the European Central Bank, the overall number of counterfeit banknotes recorded in the euro area has fallen and remains at a low level. Some 301,000 counterfeit banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2018. This represents a decline of 17.1% compared with the second half of 2017. Around 83% of all recorded counterfeits were €20 or €50 banknotes. Compared with the number of genuine euro banknotes, the proportion of counterfeits is very low: currently there are over 21 billion euro banknotes in circulation, with a total value of €1.1 trillion.

Counterfeit euro banknotes in the euro area

Checking banknotes for authenticity

The Bundesbank advises that banknotes and coins should be checked carefully at all times. As counterfeit money is non-refundable, banknotes should be checked for authenticity using the "feel, look and tilt" method. There are a number of different security features that should be checked in the process:

  • Raised print on the front of the banknotes can be identified by touch.
    • First series of euro banknotes: the letters "BCE ECB EZB EKT EKP" near the top edge
    • Europa series of banknotes: the letters "BCE ECB EЦБ EZB EKP EKT EKB BĊE EBC" as well as a series of short lines on the left and right-hand edges
  • The watermark appears as a silhouetted image in the unprinted area when the banknote is held against the light. The upper section of the hologram contains a transparent window (denominations of €20 and above) displaying a portrait of Europa.
  • The hologram images change when the banknote is tilted.
  • On the reverse side of the banknotes of the first series, the value numeral on the right-hand side changes from red to green (denominations of €50 and above) when the banknote is tilted.
  • An emerald number can be seen on the 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.

When checking a suspect banknote, it is advisable to compare it with one that is known to be genuine, for example a banknote withdrawn from an ATM. Checking banknotes using a magnifying glass, counterfeit detector marker or an ultraviolet lamp does not always produce a clear-cut test result. It is therefore better to combine the use of these tools with a check of other security features.

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.

Our range of counterfeit prevention workshops and multimedia resources

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. The contact details of our branches can be found on the Bundesbank's website. In addition, information (in the form of brochures and posters) can be ordered from the Bundesbank free of charge. An interactive learning program entitled "Detecting counterfeits" (Falschgeld erkennen) can also be accessed online (German only).