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Biannual information on euro banknote counterfeiting

12 January 2009

In the second half of 2008 a total of 354,000 counterfeit euro banknotes were withdrawn from circulation. This is an increase of around 13% on the quantity recovered in the previous six months. The following table, which indicates the half-yearly trend in the number of counterfeits recovered, shows that there has recently been a gradual increase in the number of counterfeits.

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

However, since the number of genuine euro banknotes in circulation is also increasing (averaging over 12 billion during the second half of 2008 [1]), the scale of counterfeiting remains small. The public can therefore have confidence in the quality of euro banknotes and their security features. At the same time, the Eurosystem, i.e. the European Central Bank (ECB) and the 16 national central banks of the euro area, advises the public to be alert and to check the authenticity of the banknotes that they receive.

The breakdown by denomination of the counterfeits withdrawn from circulation in the second half of 2008 is as follows:

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500
Breakdown by denomination (in %) 0.5 1.5 43 34 17.5 3.5 0

Historically, the €50 has been the most counterfeited banknote, but in the second half of 2008 the most counterfeited banknote was the €20. The three mid-range denominations (€20, €50 and €100) together accounted for about 94% of all counterfeits.

The majority (98%) of counterfeits recovered in the second half of 2008 were found in euro area countries, with approximately only 1% being found in EU Member States outside the euro area and the remaining 1% in other parts of the world.

The Eurosystem continues to invest much effort in ensuring that both the public and the professional cash handling community are well informed about how to recognise a counterfeit banknote. Counterfeits can be easily distinguished from genuine banknotes by using the simple FEEL-LOOK-TILT test described in the Eurosystem’s publications, as well as on the ECB’s website and the websites of the Eurosystem national central banks. In cases of 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 respective national central bank, giving as many details as possible about the banknote’s origin.

  1. [1] The number of banknotes in circulation is explained in further detail on the ECB’s website at


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