The Euro Banknote: What is it all about?
Euro is the monetary unit and currency of the European Union (EU). It was introduced as a noncash monetary unit in 1999, and currency notes and coins appeared in participating countries on January 1, 2002. After February 28, 2002, the euro banknotes became the sole currency of 12 EU member states, and their national currencies ceased to be legal tender. Other states subsequently adopted the currency. The euro is represented by the symbol €.
The euro’s origins lay in the Maastricht Treaty (1991), an agreement among the then 12 member countries of the European Community (now the European Union)—United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Luxembourg—that included the creation of an economic and monetary union (EMU)
There are two series of the Euro Banknotes. The first series comprises seven different denominations: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500. The second series, or Europa series, consists of six denominations and was completed with the issuance of the €100 and €200 on 28 May 2019. The €500 banknote was not included in the Europa series and as of 27 April 2019 is no longer being issued. The first series of notes, originally issued in 2002, is gradually being replaced by the Europa series. All the notes are legal tender throughout the euro area.
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Characteristics of the euro banknotes
Euro banknotes are identical in all euro area countries. Their characteristics (size, colour, illustrations, security features) are easy to recognise, including for the visually impaired. There are seven characteristics of the Euro Banknotes;
1 Seven characteristics for all banknotes
The design of the Euro Banknotes
“Attractive, secure and user-friendly” were the three adjectives used by the European national central bank governors to define the specifications for euro banknotes. The ECB Governing Council unveiled the winning designs of the European wide competition it had organised at the European Council meeting in Dublin on 13 December 1996. The winning series was entitled “Ages and styles of Europe” by Robert Kalina, graphic designer at the National Bank of Austria. These draft designs were then amended to incorporate the security features. In the spring of 1999, the technical specificities were finally approved by the European Central Bank and production began in the printing works of the euro area. The second series of euro banknotes was launched on 2 May 2013, with the issuance of the new €5. Named “Europa” after the Greek princess whose portrait appears in the watermark, the series incorporates new security features designed to make the Euro Banknotes harder to counterfeit. The new €5 and €10 notes from the series, designed by Reinhold Gerstetter, a freelance graphic artist from Berlin, were unveiled respectively on 10 January 2013 and 13 January 2014. The new €20 and €50 notes were unveiled respectively on 25 November 2015 and 4 April 2017.
1.1 Seven denominations from €5 to €500
In keeping with the needs and customs of Europeans, Eurosystem central banks issue seven denominations from €5 to €500. The €5 and €10 are available in two formats: the first series of Euro Banknotes which were issued on 1 January 2002, and the second series which was launched on 2 May 2013 for the €5, and on 23 September 2014 for the €10. The €20 banknote, the third banknote of the new series, has been put into circulation on 25 November 2015. The €50 banknote, has been put into circulation on 4 April 2017.
1.2 Seven different sizes
Euro banknotes have different sizes to make them easy to recognise, particularly for the blind and visually impaired. For the €5 to €100 banknotes, the size increases by five millimetres widthwise and by six or seven millimetres lengthwise. The €100, €200 and €500 banknotes are the same width, but vary in length.
1.3 Seven different colours
Each denomination in both series of euro banknotes has a dominant colour which enables it to be easily differentiated from the other denominations.
The colour spectrum is based on the colours of the rainbow.
The €10, €20 and €50 notes are red, blue and orange respectively, while the €100, €200 and €500 are coloured green, yellow and purple. The most widely used banknote, the €5, has a grey colour scheme as this does not show the dirt as much.
The colours will remain the same for the second series of euro banknotes.
1.4 The map of Europe
The map of Europe which appears on the reverse side of the Euro Banknotes was recreated using satellite photographs. The map extends beyond the borders of Europe as it also covers a part of North Africa and Asia Minor. It fits into a box delimited by the Azores and the Canaries in one corner and the Northern tip of Finland beyond the Arctic Circle in the opposite corner.
A small box located at the right of the word EYPΩ represents France’s overseas depart- ments (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and Reunion). The new series Euro Banknotes also feature Cyprus and Malta, which joined the European Union in 2004.
1.5 The stars of the European flag
Th front of the banknotes features the blue European flag with its circle of 12 stars representing the union between European nations. The number of stars remains constant, as the fi e 12 is taken to symbolise perfection and harmony (e.g. the 12 months of the year, the 12 traditional constellations of the zodiac, etc.).
A small amount of text appears on Euro Banknotes in order to avoid translation pro- blems and keep the banknote simple. The face value of each Euro Banknotes is written several times on both the front and the back of the banknotes, and in large print on the front to help the visually impaired. The name of the currency also appears on both sides of the banknotes, written in the Latin (EURO) and Greek (EYPΩ) alphabets and, for the Europa series of euro banknotes, in the Cyrillic alpha- bet, to mark the integration of Bulgaria into the EU in 2007.
The initials of the European Central Bank appear on the front of the notes written in all European languages (BCE, ECB, ЕЦБ, EZB, EKP, EKT, EKB, BĊE and EBC), and preceded by the symbol © for copyright (some of these initials only appear on the Europa series of banknotes due to the extension of the euro area since the launch of the first series). The signature of the President of the ECB is also featured on the banknotes.
1.7 Bridges and gateways
As in the first series, the new Europa series of banknotes will show architectural styles from seven periods in Europe’s cultural history, but will not show any existing monuments or bridges. The styles are as follows:
- €5: Classical
- €10: Romanesque
- €20: Gothic
- €50: Renaissance
- €100: Baroque and Rococo
- €200: 19th century iron and glass architecture
- €500: Modern 20th century architecture (End of the production and issuance of €500 banknote. The €500 banknote remains legal tender)
A gateway (or a doorway) in the archi- tectural style of the corresponding period appears on the front of the Euro Banknotes. It symbolises Europe’s openness to the rest of the world.
A bridge appears on the reverse side of the banknotes, symbolising the ties that unite Europeans.
2 First-Series banknotes have eight security features
Euro banknotes from the first series have eight security features to make them easy to recognise.
To check the authenticity of banknotes, the simple ‘Feel-Look-Tilt’ method can be used :
The Euro Banknotes paper consists of pure cotton. The different stages of its production give it a crisp and firm texture.
The special printing makes the ink on the front of the banknote feel raised. This can be felt by running your finger over it or scratching it gently with your nail. The initials of the European Central Bank are particularly raised.
The watermark is produced by varying the thickness of the paper. It shows the architectural design and the value of the Euro Banknotes.
Against the light, the transition between light and dark parts is smooth. Put the banknote on a dark surface, and the light areas become darker. This effect is very easy to see in the value watermark.
The security thread
The security thread is embedded in the banknote paper. Hold the banknote against the light – the thread will appear as a dark stripe. The word “EURO” and the value of the banknote appear in alternation on the stripe, written in tiny letters.
Incomplete marks printed in one of the top corners of the banknote, on both sides, combine perfectly to form the value numeral. You can see this when holding the banknote against the light.
Hologram stripe/Hologram patch
On the front, the hologram is in the form of a stripe for the €5, €10 and €20 banknotes and a patch for the €50, €100, €200 and €500 banknotes. For the hologram stripe, tilt the banknote – the hologram image will change between the value and the “€” symbol or the ring of stars, all on a rainbow-coloured background. At the edges, tiny letters show the value. For the hologram patch, tilt the banknote – the hologram image will change between the value and a window or doorway. In the background, you can see rainbow-coloured concentric circles of tiny letters moving from the centre to the edges of the patch.
The glossy stripe and colour-shifting ink
Tilt the €5, €10 and €20 banknotes and a gold-coloured stripe will appear on the reverse side. It shows the value and the € symbol.
Tilt the €50, €100, €200 and €500 banknotes and the value numeral on the back of the Euro Banknotes on the right will change colour from purple to olive-green or brown.
3 New features of the Second Series
3.1 Raised print
On the front, there is a series of short raised lines on the left and right edges. The architectural motif, the lettering and the large value numeral also feel thicker. This raised print is designed to make the notes easier to recognise for the blind and visually impaired.
3.2 The watermark
When the banknote is held against the light, a faint image becomes visible showing a portrait of the princess Europa, the value of the banknote and a window.
3.3 The portrait window
When the €20 banknote is held against the light, the window near the top of the hologram becomes transparent and reveals a portrait of Europa on both sides of the banknote. When the banknote is tilted, the window also shows rainbow-coloured lines around the value numeral on the front of the Euro Banknotes. On the back of the banknote, rainbow-coloured value numerals appear in the window.
3.4 Portrait hologram
On the €5 and €10 banknotes of the Europa series, the silvery stripe on the right bears a portrait of Europa, along with a window and the value of the banknote. On the €20 Euro Banknotes of the Europa series, the hologram shows the value of the banknote, a portrait of Europa, the architectural motif and the euro symbol (€).
3.5 Emerald number
When the banknote is tilted, the shiny number in the bottom left corner displays an effect of the light that moves up and down. The number also changes colour from emerald green to deep blue.