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Euro banknotes: denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal

The European Central Bank (ECB) Decision establishes the denominations of euro banknotes and their technical specifications. The reproduction of banknotes is subject to conditions, and any reproduction which the public might mistake for a genuine banknote is unlawful. The Decision also stipulates the conditions governing the exchange of mutilated or damaged euro banknotes.

ACT

Decision of the European Central Bank of 20 March 2003 on the denominations, specifications, reproduction, exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes (ECB/2003/4).

SUMMARY

In its Decision ECB/2003/4, the European Central Bank (ECB) establishes the rules on the technical specifications of euro banknotes. It also specifies the cases in which the reproduction of banknotes is authorised, and also the arrangements under which damaged banknotes can be exchanged.

This Decision only concerns euro banknotes. The rules on the technical specifications of euro coins are governed by Regulation (EC) No 975/98.

Denominations and technical characteristics of euro banknotes

The first series of euro banknotes comprises seven denominations: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.

The technical characteristics of these banknotes are as follows:

5 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 120 x 62
  • colour: grey
  • design: classical

10 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 127 x 67
  • colour: red
  • design: romanesque

20 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 133 x 72
  • colour: blue
  • design: gothic

50 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 140 x 77
  • colour: orange
  • design: renaissance

100 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 147 x 82
  • colour: green
  • design: baroque and rococo

200 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 153 x 82
  • colour: yellow-brown
  • design: "iron and glass" architecture

500 euros

  • dimensions (mm): 160 x 82
  • colour: purple
  • design: modern 20th century architecture

The motifs on the reverse side of the banknotes are: the symbol of the EU, the name of the currency in the Roman and Greek alphabets and the initials of the ECB in their official language variants.

Reproduction of euro banknotes without risk of confusion to the public

The Decision authorises all or part of banknotes to be reproduced in certain cases, provided that there is no risk of the public mistaking the reproductions for genuine euro banknotes. The following are deemed lawful:

  • one-sided reproductions whose size is at least 125 % or at most 75 % of that of a genuine banknote;
  • two-sided reproductions whose size is at least 200 % or at most 50 % of that of a genuine banknote;
  • reproductions made of a material clearly different from the paper used for banknotes.

Reproductions which the public might mistake for genuine euro banknotes are prohibited. The Decision lays down strict criteria for intangible reproductions made available on websites, because paper printouts of those reproductions might be mistaken for genuine banknotes.

Exchange of mutilated or damaged euro banknotes

The national central banks (NCBs) exchange mutilated or damaged euro banknotes when more than half of the banknote is presented, or when half or less of the banknote is presented if the applicant can prove that the missing part has been destroyed. The exchange of mutilated or damaged banknotes is also subject to the following conditions:

  • where doubt exists as to the applicant's legal title to the banknotes or as to their authenticity, the applicant must provide identification;
  • when ink-stained, contaminated or impregnated banknotes are presented, the applicant must provide a written explanation as to the kind of stain, contamination or impregnation;
  • when banknotes have been discoloured by an anti-theft device, they must be presented by a professional banknote-handling entity such as a credit institution or a bureau de change (Article 6(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1338/2001) and the entity must provide a written statement concerning the nature and cause of the invalidation;
  • when banknotes have been mutilated or damaged in bulk by an anti-theft device, they must be presented in sets of 100 euro banknotes, provided that the amount of banknotes presented is sufficient to form such sets.

Where NCBs know or have sufficient reason to believe that the euro banknotes have been intentionally mutilated or damaged, they must refuse to exchange the banknotes and must withhold them in order to avoid their return into circulation and prevent the applicant from presenting them to another NCB for exchange. The same applies where NCBs know or have sufficient reason to believe that a criminal offence has been committed. In that case, NCBs must present the banknotes in question to the competent authorities to initiate a criminal investigation (or to support an ongoing criminal investigation). Unless otherwise decided by the competent authorities, the banknotes will be returned to the applicant at the end of the investigation and can then be exchanged.

However, NCBs may exchange the banknotes if they consider that the applicants are bona fide or if the applicants can prove that they are bona fide. Banknotes which are mutilated or damaged to a minor degree, e.g. by having annotations or numbers placed on them will not be considered intentionally mutilated or damaged.

Withdrawal of euro banknotes

The Decision stipulates that the withdrawal of a euro banknote type or series will be regulated by a decision of the Governing Council published for general information in the Official Journal of the European Union and other media.

Replacement of previous Decisions

Decision ECB/2003/4 repeals the previous Decisions ECB/2001/7 and ECB/2001/14. References to Decisions ECB/1998/6, ECB/1999/2 and ECB/2001/14 are to be construed as references to Decision ECB/2003/4.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Decision ECB/2003/4

26.3.2003

-

OJ L 78, 25.3.2003

RELATED ACTS

Guideline ECB/2003/5 of the European Central Bank of 20 March 2003 on the enforcement of measures to counter non-compliant reproductions of euro banknotes and on the exchange and withdrawal of euro banknotes [Official Journal L 78, 25.3.2003].
The Guideline specifies the measures applicable to non-compliant reproductions of euro banknotes and to the exchange and withdrawal of banknotes.

Decision of the European Central Bank of 16 September 2010 on the authenticity and fitness checking and recirculation of euro banknotes ECB/2010/14 [Official Journal L 267 of 9.10.2010].
This Decision species the rules which must be complied with by the professionals responsible for checking the quality of euro banknotes and their circulation. These rules are set by the European Central Bank. In particular, they relate to the machines to be used for the authentication and circulation of banknotes. Furthermore, only banknotes in a good condition may be placed in circulation. Suspect counterfeit banknotes must be returned to the national competent authorities.

Last updated: 11.02.2011

See also

For further information, please consult the following websites:

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