European Central Bank Begins Circulation of New €100 and €200 Euro Banknotes

On May 28, the European Central Bank (ECB) announced that it had begun circulation of new €100 and €200 banknotes with upgraded security features.  The ECB described these features, which “make the banknotes more resistant to counterfeiting,” as follows:

At the top of the silvery stripe a satellite hologram shows small € symbols that move around the number when the banknote is tilted and become clearer under direct light. The silvery stripe also shows a portrait of Europa, the architectural motif and a large € symbol. The new €100 and €200 banknotes also feature an enhanced emerald number. While the emerald number is present on all the other notes of the Europa series, this enhanced version also shows € symbols inside the number.

In addition, the ECB explained that the new €100 and €200 notes “are now the same height as the €50 banknote, which makes them easier to handle and process by machines,” and “will also fit better in people’s wallets and last longer, as they will be subject to less wear and tear.”

The new €100 and €200 notes are the last and highest-denomination notes in the so-called “Europa” series.  Although the first series of Euro banknotes issued in 2002 included a €500 note, the ECB stated that there will be no €500 note in the new series. The last of the 19 central banks in the Euro area ceased issuing such notes as of April 26.  The ECB emphasized, however, that all of the old series, including the €500 note, will continue to be legal tender.

Note:  Not only retail operations in European banks, but anti-money laundering teams in financial institutions that handle Euro banknotes, should take note of these changes.   According to the European Union law enforcement agency Europol, the €20 and €50 notes are, respectively, the most and second-most popular denominations for counterfeiters, accounting for 83.3 percent of counterfeit notes detected in the first half of 2015.

With the withdrawal of the €500 notes from circulation, however, the €100 and €200 notes are likely to become increasingly in demand for criminal as well as legitimate cash transactions.  The ECB reported that the demand for €100 and €200 banknotes is already increasing, at annual rates of 7.6 percent for the €100 and 8.6 percent for the €200.

For those interested in more information about the security features of the new notes, the ECB has a detailed fact sheet.

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