Bargeld Schein Übergabe ©Nils Thies

More counterfeit €10 and €20 banknotes in circulation

Counterfeit euro banknotes in Germany by denomination
The Bundesbank registered more counterfeits in 2020 than in the previous year. Police authorities, retailers and banks in Germany removed from circulation just over 58,800 counterfeit euro banknotes worth a nominal €2.9 million overall. The number of counterfeits thus rose by 6.5% on the year, while the nominal value of the banknotes seized fell by 14.3%.

“In 2019, the most frequently counterfeited denomination was the €50 banknote. In the past year, there has been a marked rise in the number of counterfeit €10 and €20 notes among the total figure,” said Johannes Beermann, the Executive Board member whose remit includes cash management, explaining that counterfeits with no security features were particularly responsible for this increase. This imitation “movie money”, as it is known, can be bought online as a prop for film and theatre productions and often comes from Asia. It even has the words “movie money” printed on the obverse or “prop copy” on the reverse.

Fake €10 and €20 banknotes accounted for 46% of the overall volume of counterfeits last year, up from 34% in 2019. Statistically speaking, there were around seven counterfeit banknotes for every 10,000 inhabitants per year. This means the likelihood of coming into contact with counterfeit money is still remote, Mr Beermann said.

The distribution of counterfeits across denominations in 2020 was as follows.



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Slightly more counterfeit coins in Germany

Some 44,800 counterfeit coins were detected in 2020 in the German payment system, up slightly on the figure of 42,100 for 2019. Statistically, this equates to around five counterfeit coins per 10,000 inhabitants in Germany per year. The most frequently counterfeited denomination was the €2 coin with a share of 89%.

Only the three coins with the highest denominations were found to have been counterfeited, and their incidence in 2020 was as follows.



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Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

Counterfeit euro banknotes in the euro area
According to data from the European Central Bank (ECB), the number of counterfeit euro banknotes in the euro area decreased by 17.7% in 2020, with a total of around 460,000 counterfeit euro banknotes being registered. Fake €20 notes accounted for roughly 36.3% of this number, relegating €50 counterfeits to second place last year at just 30.9%. Counterfeit €50 notes were roughly 22% down on the figure for 2019. Losses caused by counterfeits in the euro area came to €21.5 million, significantly lower than the figure of €29.2 million recorded in 2019. Germany accounted for just 12.8% of the overall volume of counterfeits registered in 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.