The designs for the 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro banknotes were inspired by the theme ‘the ages and styles of Europe’ and depict the architectural styles from seven periods of Europe’s cultural history: Classical, Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo, the Age of Iron and Glass, and modern 20th century architecture. All notes depict typical elements of these periods, such as windows, gateways and bridges.
The windows and gateways on the front side symbolise the European spirit of openness and co-operation. The 12 stars of the EU represent the dynamism and harmony of contemporary Europe, while the bridges on the back symbolise communication between the people of Europe and between Europe and the rest of the world.
Citizen friendly euro banknotes?
Designers of the euro banknotes consulted the European Blind Association to help develop a currency recognisable to all citizens. Several features were incorporated in the banknotes:
- Each denomination is a different size
- Each different banknote has a dominant colour and contrasting colours for pairs of banknotes in sequence (e.g. red for 10-euro notes, blue for 20s)
- Values are printed in large, bold figures
- Elements of the notes are printed in relief using the ‘intaglio’ printing method which generates tactile marks along the edges of the 200- and 500-euro notes
Who issues banknotes?
The European Central Bank (ECB) has the exclusive right to authorise the issue of banknotes by the national central banks within the euro area. All decisions on the banknote designs, denominations, etc. are taken by the ECB.
The different national central banks of the euro area are then in charge of the practical aspects of producing and putting banknotes into circulation, since they provide commercial banks and the cash-in-transit sector with the necessary quantities.
Countering the counterfeiters
Euro notes have advanced security features built into them, detectable through visual and tactile means:
- Thanks to a special printing process, banknotes have a unique, raised feel
- Look for visible features on the notes (from the front or back): a watermark, security thread and a see-through number
- A moving image or hologram can be seen by tilting the notes: on the back, a glossy stripe appears (on the 5-, 10- and 20-euro banknotes) or a colour-changing number (on the 50-, 100-, 200- and 500-euro notes)
- Additional security features can be checked with a magnifying glass (microprinting) and an ultraviolet lamp (special colour effects)
- A "portrait window" near the top of the hologram stripe which becomes transparent when seen against the light
The European Central Bank provides guidance on how to spot a fake banknote.
Euro banknotes and their security features (ECB website)
EU initiatives against the counterfeiting of euro coins and banknotes
Around 14.9 billion euro-banknotes were printed, worth some €633 billion, in preparation for the euro cash launch. Around 7.8 billion banknotes, worth € 221 billion, were available in the euro area beginning of January 2002 when euro cash was launched. Since then, demand has grown continuously and the value of the banknotes in circulation has almost tripled. As of October 2015, there are over 18.1 billion euro-banknotes in circulation worth about €1053.8 billion.
The European Commission produces a regularly updated overview of the main facts and figures on euro banknotes