The euro banknotes share the same designs across all countries in the euro area. Their seven denominations bear distinctive features, sizes and colours for aesthetic and practical reasons. Their designs, by Austrian Robert Kalina, from the Österreichische Nationalbank (Austrian National Bank), were selected after a competition calling for innovative and balanced proposals.
The European Monetary Institute (EMI) (the forerunner of the ECB) launched a Europe-wide design competition in 1996. From the 44 submissions, a jury of independent experts in marketing, design, advertising and art history produced a shortlist. A survey of professional cash handlers and the general public was then performed. On the basis of the jury recommendations and the results of the survey the Council of the EMI selected the winning design series in 1996.
The winning 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.
Feel, look, tilt
Euro notes have advanced security features built into them, detectable through visual and tactile means:
The European Central Bank provides guidance on how to spot a fake banknote.
>> View euro banknotes (ECB website)
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.
>> National central banks
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 .