Money with magnifying glass ©Sven Weber/ Fotolia

Significantly fewer counterfeit banknotes in Germany

In 2018, the Bundesbank identified approximately 58,000 counterfeit euro banknotes with a nominal value of €3.4 million. This means that the number of counterfeits has dropped by 20% on the year.

Counterfeit euro banknotes in Germany by denomination
“There has been a clear decline in the number of counterfeits thanks to the introduction of the new Europa series of banknotes with their enhanced anti-counterfeiting features,” commented Johannes Beermann, the Deutsche Bundesbank Executive Board member responsible for overseeing cash management. There are far fewer counterfeit €20 notes in circulation. There has also been a 12.2% drop in the number of forged €50 notes, the most frequently counterfeited denomination, compared with the previous year.

The table below shows the distribution of counterfeits across the various denominations in 2018.



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In Germany, €20 and €50 banknotes accounted for around 88% of counterfeits. Overall, the incidence of counterfeits in Germany remains low. Statistically speaking, if a person lived to 900 years in Germany, they would come into contact with a counterfeit just once in their life.

Slightly fewer counterfeit coins in circulation

The number of counterfeit coins in Germany has fallen slightly. In 2018, approximately 33,000 counterfeit coins were detected in German payments, compared with around 32,500 coins in the previous year. The €2 coin was forged most frequently, accounting for 84% of counterfeits.

In 2018, counterfeits were identified in only the three highest denominations, as shown in the table below.



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Fewer counterfeit banknotes in the euro area

Counterfeut euro banknotes in the euro area

According to information from the European Central Bank (ECB), the overall number of counterfeit banknotes recorded in the euro area has fallen perceptibly and remains at a low level. Some 563,000 counterfeit banknotes were withdrawn from circulation in 2018, representing an 18.9% decrease on the previous year. Around 83.5% of all recorded counterfeits were €20 or €50 banknotes. The euro area’s total loss in 2018 comes to €31.4 million, compared with €36 million in 2017.

To make it harder to counterfeit money, the ECB has been working with the Eurosystem national central banks to continually enhance the security of euro banknotes over the past few years. The new €100 and €200 notes are another step in this direction; they will be introduced in all 19 euro area Member States on 28 May 2019.

Recognising counterfeit banknotes

Anyone can check banknotes themselves using the quick “feel-look-tilt” test. 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 (Exception: €5 and €10 notes are coated and therefore feel smooth 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.

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.