Biannual information on euro banknote counterfeiting

13 July 2009

In the first half of 2009 a total of 413,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation. This is an increase of around 17% on the quantity recovered in the previous six months. The table below indicates the half-yearly trend in the number of counterfeits recovered.

Period 2004/1 2004/2 2005/1 2005/2 2006/1 2006/2 2007/1 2007/2 2008/1 2008/2 2009/1
Number of counterfeits 307,000 287,000 293,000 286,000 300,000 265,000 265,000 296,000 312,000 354,000 413,000

No significant new counterfeit classes [1] were discovered during this reporting period. Thus, the increase in quantity is due entirely to existing counterfeit classes being distributed more widely than before.

The scale of counterfeiting should be compared with the number of genuine euro banknotes in circulation (some 12.5 billion on average in the first half of 2009).

Nevertheless, the Eurosystem – i.e. the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 16 national central banks of the euro area – advises the public to remain alert with regard to the banknotes received in cash transactions. The more familiar one is with the properties and characteristics of genuine banknotes, the easier it will be to detect a counterfeit. Consequently, the Eurosystem is continuing to invest considerable effort in ensuring both that the public are well informed about how to recognise a counterfeit banknote and, for the professional cash-handling community, that banknote-handling and processing machines can reliably identify and withdraw counterfeits from circulation. Genuine banknotes can be easily recognised using the simple “FEEL-LOOK-TILT” test described on the euro pages of the ECB’s website ( and the websites of the Eurosystem national central banks.

If in doubt, however, a suspect banknote should be compared directly with one that is known to be genuine. Anyone who suspects that they may have received a counterfeit should contact either the police or – where national practice allows – the relevant national central bank.

The table below provides a breakdown by denomination for the counterfeits withdrawn from circulation in the first half of 2009.

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500
Breakdown by denomination 0.5% 1% 48.5% 34% 13.5% 2% 0.5%

In the first half of 2009 the most counterfeited banknote was the €20, which accounted for almost half of all counterfeits found. The three mid-range denominations (€20, €50 and €100) together accounted for more than 95% of all counterfeits.

The majority (more than 98%) of counterfeits recovered in the first half of 2009 were found in euro area countries, with only around 1% being found in EU Member States outside the euro area and less than 0.5% being found in other parts of the world.

[1] A counterfeit class is a group of counterfeits having a common origin.

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