Tuesday saw the entry in circulation of the new 100 and 200 euro banknotes, the first time the two denominations have been renewed since the Euro came into force in January 2002.
The new notes are the completion of the Europa series, the second set of designs which omits the 500 euro note. The large-denomination note was thought to be favoured by criminals and money-launderers, but virtually useless for the ordinary members of the public. The Europa series kicked off with the 5 euro note in 2013.
The 100 euro note, on the other hand, is widely used, and the European Central Bank (ECB) will issue 2.3 billion of the notes across the continent. It will also issue 700 million of the 200 euro notes, for a total currency issue worth 370 billion euros. The 500 euro note remains in circulation, but will be gradually withdrawn.
Like the rest of the Europa series, the new notes have a different design, while retaining roughly the same colour scheme, and the same cotton fibre paper stock. The changes are intended to make life difficult for counterfeiters. “We want to stay one step ahead of counterfeiters, and the new notes are stronger and more durable,” said Yves Timmermans, adviser to the National Bank of Belgium, at a press conference.
The battle against counterfeiting appears to be paying off: in the first half of last year, 301,000 fake bills were uncovered, from a total of banknotes in circulation of more than 21 billion.
In addition to the new design, the new notes have a different format to their predecessors, being 77mm wide instead of 82mm. According to a spokesperson for the ECB, “They are more compact and easier to handle, and the colours are brighter.” The new notes are also reported to fit more easily into a wallet.
The new issue will be the last to be printed by the National Bank, whose printing division is due to close down in 2020, it was announced years ago.
The old notes will remain in circulation and will still be legal tender. As the notes become used, they will be withdrawn by banks to be replaced with the new version.