Euro banknotes: Wikis


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Euro banknotes

Euro banknotes are the banknotes of the euro, the currency of the eurozone (see European Union). They have been in circulation since 2002 and are issued by the European Central Bank (ECB), each bearing the signature of the President of the European Central Bank. Denominations of notes range from €5 to €500 and, unlike euro coins, the design is identical across the whole of the eurozone, although they are printed in various member states.



The banknotes show the signature of the president of the ECB, currently Jean-Claude Trichet.

There are seven different denominations, each having a distinctive colour and size. The design for each of them has a common theme of European architecture in various artistic periods. The front (or recto) of the note features windows or gateways while the back (or verso) has bridges. The architectural examples are stylised illustrations, not representations of existing monuments.[1]

Common to all notes are the European flag, the initials of the European Central Bank in five versions (BCE, ECB, EZB, ΕΚΤ, EKP), a map of Europe on the back, the name "euro" in both Latin and Greek script ("ΕΥΡΩ") and the signature of the current president of the ECB. The 12 stars from the European Flag are also incorporated into every note.

The euro banknote designs were chosen from 44 proposals in a design competition, launched by The Council of the European Monetary Institute (EMI) on 12 February 1996. The winning entry, created by Robert Kalina from the Oesterreichische Nationalbank, was selected on 3 December 1996.


The paper used for euro banknotes is 100% pure cotton fibre, which improves their durability as well as imparting a distinctive feel.[2]

2002 Series
Image Value Dimensions
Main Colour Design Printer code position
Obverse Reverse Architecture Century
EUR 5 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 5 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €5 120 × 62 Grey Classical < 5th left image edge
EUR 10 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 10 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €10 127 × 67 Red Romanesque 11-12th 8 o'clock star
EUR 20 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 20 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €20 133 × 72 Blue Gothic 13-14th 9 o'clock star
EUR 50 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 50 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €50 140 × 77 Orange Renaissance 15-16th right image edge
EUR 100 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 100 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €100 147 × 82 Green Baroque & Rococo 17-18th right of 9 o'clock star
EUR 200 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 200 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €200 153 × 82 Yellow Art Nouveau 19-20th above 7 o'clock star
EUR 500 obverse (2002 issue).jpg EUR 500 reverse (2002 issue).jpg €500 160 × 82 Purple Modern 20th century 20-21st 9 o'clock star
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimetre. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

The following member overseas territories are shown: the Azores, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Madeira, Martinique, Réunion, and the Canary Islands. Cyprus and Malta are not shown, as they only joined the EU in 2004; also Malta is too small to be shown, with the minimum size for depiction being 400 km2.[3]

These designs use the Duisenberg signature, which has since been replaced by the signature of Jean-Claude Trichet, the current president of the ECB.[4]


Owing to the ubiquity of countless historic bridges, arches, and gateways throughout the continent, all the structures represented on the banknotes are entirely fictional syntheses of the relevant architectural styles, merely designed to evoke the landmarks within the EU[5], representing various European ages and styles.[6] For example, the €5 banknote has a generic rendition of the Classical Period, the €10 of Romanesque, the €20 of Gothic, the €50 of the Renaissance, the €100 of Baroque and Rococo, €200 of Art Nouveau and the €500 of Modern style. However, in a survey conducted by the Dutch NCB (De Nederlandsche Bank), only 2% of the population was able to identify the theme of the €5, and 1% correctly identified the €50 theme. While the designs are supposed to be devoid of any identifiable characteristics, the initial designs by Robert Kalina were of actual bridges, including the Rialto bridge in Venice and the Pont de Neuilly in Paris, and were subsequently rendered more generic; the final designs still bear very close similarities to their specific prototypes; thus they are not truly generic[7].

Special features for people with impaired sight

The design of euro banknotes include several characteristics suggested in co-operation with organisations representing blind people. These characteristics aid both people who are visually impaired (people who can see the banknotes, but cannot necessarily read the printing on them) and those who are entirely blind.

Euro banknotes increase in size with increasing denominations, which helps both the visually impaired and the blind. The predominant colouring of the notes alternates between “warm” and “cool” hues in adjacent denominations (see the chart above), making it still harder to confuse two similar denominations for those who can see the colour. The printing of the denominations is intaglio printing, which allows the ink to be felt by sensitive fingers, allowing some people to distinguish the printed denominations by touch alone. Lower denominations (5, 10, 20) have smooth bands along one side of the note containing holograms; higher denominations have smooth, square patches with holograms. Finally, the €200 and €500 notes have distinctive tactile patterns along the edges of the notes: the €200 note has vertical lines running from the bottom centre to the right-hand corner, and the €500 note has diagonal lines running down the right-hand edge.

Although there have been other currencies pre-dating the euro that were specifically designed in similar ways (different sizes, colours, and ridges) to aid the visually impaired, the introduction of the euro constitutes the first time that authorities have consulted associations representing the blind before, rather than after, the release of the currency.[citation needed]

Security features

The ECB has described some of the more rudimentary security features of the euro note, allowing the general public to authenticate their currency at a glance. However, in the interest of security, the exhaustive list of these features is a closely-guarded secret.

Still, between the official descriptions and independent discoveries made by observant users, it is thought that the euro notes include at least thirty different security features. These include:



€5 holographic band

The €5, €10 and €20 notes carry a holographic band to the right of the front side. This band is imprinted with the note's denomination; e.g., "€5 €5 €5...." in the case of the €5 note.

In the case of the €50 notes and higher, the band is replaced with a holographic decal.

Variable colour ink

Appears on the lower right corner of back side of the €50 and higher. When observed from different angles, the colour varies between purple and green.


Each note has a unique serial number. The final digit of the serial number is a check digit between 1 and 9, that fulfills the following criterion: if the initial letter is replaced by its position in the alphabet (that is L is 12, M is 13,..., Z is 26), then the remainder from division of the resulting number by 9 is 8.[citation needed] Using a variation of the divisibility rule shortcut, the remainder from division by 9 can easily be found by adding the constituent digits and, if the sum still does not make the remainder obvious, adding the digits of the sum.

For example: Z10708476264 gives 2610708476264. The remainder from division by 9 can be found by: 26 + 1 + 0 + 7 + 0 + 8 + 4 + 7 + 6 + 2 + 6 + 4 = 71 , 7 + 1 = 8

Alternatively, substituting the letter with its ASCII value makes the resulting number exactly divisible by 9. Taking the same example, Z10708476264: the ASCII code for Z is 90, so the resulting number is 9010708476264. Dividing by 9 yields a remainder of 0. [Using the divisibility rule again, the result can be checked speedily since the addition of all digits gives 54; 5+4 = 9 - so the number is divisible by 9, or 9010708476264 modulo 9 is 0].

EURion constellation

Euro banknotes contain a pattern known as the EURion constellation which can be used to detect their identity as banknotes to prevent copying. Some older photocopiers are programmed to reject images containing this pattern.


Standard watermark

Each denomination is printed on uniquely-watermarked paper. This may be observed by holding the note up to the light.

Digital watermark

Like the EURion constellation, a Digimarc digital watermark is embedded in the banknotes' designs. Recent versions of image editors, such as Adobe Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro refuse to process banknotes.[8]

Infra-red and ultra-violet watermarks

A 5 euro bill under infrared light.

When seen in the near infrared, the banknotes will show darker areas in different zones depending on the denomination. Ultraviolet light will make the EURion constellation show in sharper contrast, and also some fluorescent threads stand out.

Printing registration

The note value in the upper-left corner is printed incompletely, as is the denomination in the upper-right corner of the back. When held up to the light, this denomination is visible in its entirety. Genuine notes will exhibit perfect alignment (or "registration") between the front and back. If the note has been printed incorrectly, i.e. by a counterfeiter, these numbers may appear poorly aligned.

Raised printing

Some areas of the notes have a different Texture from others. The "BCE ECB EZB" characters are raised to the touch.

Bar code

When held up to the light, metallic bars can be seen to the right of the watermark. The number and width of these bars indicates the value of the note. When scanned, these bars are converted to Manchester code.

Manchester code
Note Barcode Manchester
€5 0110 10 100
€10 0101 10 110
€20 1010 1010 0000
€50 0110 1010 1000
€100 0101 1010 1100
€200 0101 0110 1110
€500 0101 0101 1111

(looked at from the reverse, a dark bar is 1, a bright bar 0)

Security thread

A black magnetic thread in the middle of the note is seen only against a light source. It shows the denomination of the note, along with the word "euro".

Magnetic ink

Some areas feature magnetic ink. The rightmost church window on the €20 note is magnetic, as well as the large zero above it.


The texture lines to the bottom, e.g. those aligned to the right of ΕΥΡΩ mark on the €10 note, are actually made of the sequence "EURO ΕΥΡΩ" in very small print.

Matted surface

The euro sign and the denomination are printed on a vertical band which is only visible when lighted at an angle of 45°. This only exists for banknotes €5, €10, and €20.


There has been a rapid growth in the counterfeiting of euro banknotes and coins since the launch of the currency in 2002.

In 2003, 551,287 counterfeit euro notes and 26,191 fake euro coins were removed from EU circulation. In 2004, French police seized fake €10 and €20 notes with a total face value of around €1.8 million from two laboratories and estimated that 145,000 notes had already entered circulation. Each year between 2003 and 2007 between 500,000 and 600,000 counterfeit notes were removed from circulation, although this is a very small proportion of the 12 billion notes in circulation.[9]

The European Central Bank (ECB) said in July 2008, that the amount of fake euro banknotes was on the rise, with the amount seized jumping more than 15% in the first six months of 2008. It said most were bogus €50 and €20 notes; although high quality €200 and €500 notes are also being made.[10]

Serial number

Unlike euro coins, euro notes do not have a national side indicating which country issued them (which is not necessarily where they were printed). This information is instead encoded within the first character of each note's serial number.

The first character of the serial number is a letter which uniquely identifies the country that issues the note. The remaining 11 characters are numbers which, when calculated their digital root, give a checksum also particular to that country. Because of the arithmetic of the check-sum, consecutively-issued banknotes are not numbered sequentially, but rather, "consecutive" banknotes are 9 digits apart.

The W, K and J codes have been reserved for the EU member states currently not participating in the euro, while the R and E prefixes are reserved for states within the Eurozone that, at present, do not issue euro banknotes.

Country codes are alphabetised according to the countries' names in the official language of each country, but reversed:

National identification codes
Code Country Checksum(1)
in English in official language(s)
Z Belgium België/Belgique/Belgien 9
Y Greece Ελλάδα [Ellada] 1
X Germany Deutschland 2
(W) (Denmark) Danmark (3)
V Spain España 4
U France France 5
T Ireland Éire/Ireland 6
S Italy Italia 7
(R) (Luxembourg) Luxembourg/Luxemburg/Lëtzebuerg (8)
(Q) Not used
P Netherlands Nederland 1
(O) Not used
N Austria Österreich 3
M Portugal Portugal 4
L Finland Suomi/Finland 5
(K) (Sweden) Sverige (6)
(J) (United Kingdom) United Kingdom (7)
(I) Not used
H Slovenia Slovenija 9
G Cyprus Κύπρος [Kypros]/Kıbrıs 1
F Malta Malta 2
E Slovakia Slovensko 3

(1) checksum of the 11 digits without the letter

  • The positions of Denmark and Greece have been swapped in the list of letters starting the serial numbers, presumably because Υ (upsilon) is a letter of the Greek alphabet, while W is not.
  • Ireland's first official language is Irish; however, in the above chart it is clear the order was based on the English Ireland rather than the Irish which is Éire. Note that if the Irish spelling were used, Ireland would be represented by the letter V, which is not used in the Irish language except in some borrowed words. By using Ireland, the letter T is acquired, which is used in the Irish language.
  • In the case of Finland, which has two official languages that are also official EU languages (Finnish and Swedish), the order was based on the Finnish Suomi instead of the Swedish Finland, presumably because Finnish is the majority language in the country.
  • Belgium has three official languages, all of which are official EU languages. Luxembourg also has three official languages, with two being official EU languages. However, in these cases, the countries' positions in the list would be the same no matter which language was used.

The notes of Luxembourg currently use the prefix belonging to the country where they were printed.

Although the Slovenian letter had been reserved since the eurozone enlargement in January 2007, the country initially used previously issued banknotes issued from other member states. The first banknotes bearing the "H" letter, produced in France specifically on behalf of Slovenia, were witnessed no sooner than April 2008[11].The 'Cypriot banknotes' (G) appeared in circulation in November 2009, whereas, those from Malta (F) appeared 3 months later (February,2010).[12]

It seems from that further country codes are assigned in reverse order from the last assigned code "J" for the UK, according to the time a country joins the Eurozone. When two or more countries join at the same time, the same rule is followed as with the initial assignments of country codes, i.e. the country codes are alphabetised according to the countries' names in the official language of each country, but reversed. "H" was assigned to Slovenia which joined the Eurozone in 2007 following "J" which was the last letter assigned so far, to the UK. Then when Cyprus and Malta joined in 2008, "G" was assigned to Cyprus (Κύπρος [Kypros] in Greek, Kıbrıs in Turkish, the island's two official languages both starting with the letter K), "F" was assigned to Malta and "E" was assigned for last member Slovakia.

It has been suggested[citation needed] that, should the prefixes change to two characters, the code should be the state's ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 code (e.g., EE for Estonia, DE for Germany, IT for Italy).

The initial design of the euro with the 2002 signature of Wim Duisenberg, has been issued in each of the 7 denominations by each of the NCBs of Finland, Portugal, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, France, Spain, Germany, Greece and Belgium, with the exception of the €200 and €500 banknotes from Portugal and the €200 banknote from Ireland. Thus, there are 74 country/denomination varieties of the banknotes with the Duisenberg signature.

After the initial introduction of the euro by these eleven NCBs, in 2002, each NCB was tasked with issuing only a subset of the denominations; for example, only 4 NCBs continued to issue the €50 note for several years thereafter. This decentralised pooling scheme means that the NCBs have to exchange the denominations issued in different countries prior to issue, and often source the banknotes they issue from multiple printers. This also means that some country/signature combinations are much scarcer than others; specifically the Duisenberg signatures of the €200 note from Finland, the €100 note from Portugal, €100 and €500 notes from Ireland and €200 and €500 notes from Greece. Also, the banknotes issued subsequent to 2003, carrying the signature of J.C. Trichet are not found in every denomination from every country. As of the end of 2007, only 30 of the 77 possible combinations of banknotes with the Trichet signature were known, but additional combinations continue to be released, along with incremental banknotes issued in 2008 by the NCB of Slovenia, carrying the serial prefix letter "H."[13]

Printing works

On each of the 7 denominations of the banknote, there is a small six-character printing code which uniquely identifies the printing information of each banknote.

These printing codes have an initial letter, followed by 3 digits, followed by a single letter, and ending in a digit, for example, "G013B6."

The initial letter identifies the printing facility, as described below. "G" for example would be Enschede & Sons, a printer in the Netherlands. The 3 digits identify sequential printing plates. "013," for example, would be the 13th printing plate created by the printer. The fifth character, a letter and sixth character, a number, represent the row and column, respectively, of the particular banknote on the particular plate. So "B" would be the second row and "6" would indicate the sixth column.[14]

Banknotes are printed in sheets, with different printers using different sheet sizes, and sheets of higher denominations, which are larger in size, would have fewer banknotes printed per sheet. For example, the two German printers print €5 banknotes in sheets of 60 (10 rows, designated "A" through "J" and 6 columns), the sheets for €10 banknotes have 54 banknotes (9 rows, 6 columns), and for €20 banknotes have 45 banknotes (9 rows, 5 columns) [15]

The printer code need not coincide with the country code, i.e. notes issued by a particular country may have been printed in another country. The printers include commercial printers as well as national printers, some of whom have been privatized, who previously produced national notes prior to the adoption of the euro. There is one former or current national printer in each of the note-issuing country, with the exception of Germany, where the former East German and West German printers now produce euro banknotes. There are also two printers identified in France, F. C. Oberthur, a private printer and the Bank of France printing works, and also in the United Kingdom; Thomas De La Rue, a major private printer, and the Bank of England printing house, which currently does not produce euro banknotes.[16]

Printer identification codes
Code Printer Location Country NCB(s) produced for
(Bank of England Printing Works) (Loughton) (United Kingdom) ---
Not Used --- --- ---
(Tumba Bruk) (Tumba) (Sweden) ---
Setec Oy Vantaa Finland L (Finland)
F. C. Oberthur Chantepie France H (Slovenia), L (Finland), P (Netherlands), U (France)
Österreichische Banknoten und Sicherheitsdruck Vienna Austria N (Austria), P (Netherlands), S (Italy), T (Ireland), Y (Greece)
Koninklijke Joh. Enschedé Haarlem Netherlands G (Cyprus), L (Finland), N (Austria), P (Netherlands), V (Spain), Y (Greece)
De La Rue Gateshead United Kingdom L (Finland), M (Portugal), P (Netherlands), T (Ireland)
Not Used --- --- ---
Istituto Poligrafico e Zecca dello Stato Rome Italy S (Italy)
Banc Ceannais na hÉireann / Central Bank of Ireland Dublin Ireland T (Ireland)
Banque de France Chamalières France U (France)
Fábrica Nacional de Moneda y Timbre Madrid Spain V (Spain)
Bank of Greece Athens Greece Y (Greece)
Not Used --- --- ---
Giesecke & Devrient Munich & Leipzig Germany L (Finland), M (Portugal), P (Netherlands), U (France), V (Spain), X (Germany), Y (Greece)
Not Used --- --- ---
Bundesdruckerei Berlin Germany P (Netherlands), X (Germany), Y (Greece)
(Danmarks Nationalbank) (Copenhagen) (Denmark) ---
National Bank of Belgium Brussels Belgium U (France), V (Spain), Z (Belgium)
Valora - Banco de Portugal Carregado Portugal M (Portugal)
  • The A, C and S codes have been reserved for printers currently not printing euro banknotes.
  • Where a printer is listed as producing bankotes for a particular country, this may apply to a single denomination, or as many as all seven denominations. Some NCBs source different denominations from different printers (Greece sourcing from 5 different printers), and some source even a single denomination from multiple printers (the Netherlands has sourced the €5 note from five different printers up to March 2009). NCBs that issue banknotes are free to source from any authorized printers, and do so in varying quantities. As of June 2008, there are a total of 133 known printer/signature/country/denomination combinations of euro banknotes; with more combinations surely to follow, much to the delight of banknote collectors.

Design changes

Banknotes have to bear the ECB president's signature. New notes printed after November 2003 show Jean Claude Trichet's signature, replacing that of the first president, Wim Duisenberg.

Current issues do not reflect the expansion of the EU to 27 member states (Cyprus is not depicted on current notes as the map does not extend far enough East; Malta is also missing as it does not meet the current series' minimum size for depiction[3]). Since the ECB plans to redesign the notes every seven or eight years after each issue, a second series of banknotes is already in preparation. New production and anti-counterfeiting techniques will be employed on the new notes, but the design will be of the same theme and colours as the current series; bridges and arches. They would still be recognisable as a new series however.[17]

Four more abbreviations of the European Central Bank name will have to be included on the banknotes: the Bulgarian (ЕЦБ), Hungarian (EKB), Maltese (BĊE) and Polish (EBC).

Only the Cyrillic rendering of the name "euro" (ЕВРO) will be added to the new series, since it is ECB policy that the name euro be used in all countries using Latin script. See the article Linguistic issues concerning the euro for more information on this discussion.

The first denomination from the new series will be issued in January 2011. The ECB will announce in time when banknotes from the first series lose legal tender status.[18]

€1 and €2 notes

Italy, Greece, Austria and Slovenia have asked several times to introduce lower denominations of euro notes.[19] The ECB has stated that "printing a €1 note is more expensive (and less durable) than minting a €1 coin". On 18 November 2004 the ECB decided definitively that there was insufficient demand across the Eurozone for very low denomination banknotes. On 25 October 2005, however, more than half of the MEPs supported a motion calling on the European Commission and the European Central Bank to recognise the definite need for the introduction of €1 and €2 banknotes.[20] However it must be noted that the European Central Bank is not directly answerable to the Parliament or the Commission, and will therefore possibly ignore the motion.

See also


  1. ^ "The Euro: Banknotes". ECB. Retrieved 2009-07-10. 
  2. ^ Euro
  3. ^ a b European Central Bank. "The Euro: Banknotes: Design elements". Retrieved 2009-07-05. "The banknotes show a geographical representation of Europe. It excludes islands of less than 400 square kilometres because high-volume offset printing does not permit the accurate reproduction of small design elements." 
  4. ^ ECB: Design
  5. ^ ECB: Design
  6. ^ Public feed back for better banknote design 2
  7. ^ Etching the Notes of a New European Identity - International Herald Tribune
  8. ^ Steven J. Murdoch's description
  9. ^ "10th Anniversary of the ECB". ECB Monthly Bulletin. European Central Bank. 2008. p. 144. Retrieved 26 September 2009. 
  10. ^ "Police seize 11 million fake euros in Colombia". The Guardian UK. Retrieved 2008-09-01. 
  11. ^ EuroBillTracker:: View topic - Slovenian notes, serial number H
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Les Eurobillets 2002-2007" by Guy Sohier; Editions Victor Gadoury (16 April 2007); ISBN 978-2906602304
  14. ^ The preparation of euro banknotes
  15. ^ Witzige Geldgeschenke & Geldgeschenk-Ideen im Geldgeschenke-Shop. Ein Geburtstagsgeschenk oder Hochzeitsgeschenk, mit Lustigen Geldsprüchen
  16. ^ Éditions Victor Gadoury
  17. ^ The life cycle of a banknote, De Nederlandsche Bank. Accessed 2007-08-17.
  18. ^ Monthly bulletin: 10th anniversary of the euro: part 9.5 (Banknotes)Accessed 2008-09-26.
  19. ^ Greece presses demand for one-euro notes — - business, legal and financial news and information from the European Union
  20. ^ P6_TA(2005)0399

External links


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