Life of a euro
Coins and banknotes do not last forever. They have a limited lifetime from designing and producing them to using them and disposing of them. How this lifecycle is managed and who is responsible is explained here.
- Euro: one currency with many designs
- Euro: printing and minting
- What happens to old euro banknotes and coins?
Euro: one currency with many designs
So what types of euro coins and banknotes exist, and who makes them?
Well, the European Central Bank, together with the Central Banks in the euro-area countries, decide when more banknotes will be printed.
National authorities are in charge of coins.
As you will see, all euro banknotes with the same value have the same design in all countries.
So a €10 banknote has the same design whether it is printed in Spain, Italy or Slovenia.
The designs on euro banknotes were chosen following a competition when the euro was launched. If you look at the designs you can see that they represent the different architectural styles in Europe through the ages – mostly of bridges and windows.
Banknotes also contain several security features to prevent them from being copied or 'counterfeited'. These security features include, among other things, a metal strip and a hologram.
Euro coins are not the same across Europe.
The common side of euro coins
One side of euro coins is the same in all countries – this is called the common side. The common side to euro and cent coins shows different maps of the European Union.
The other has a different design depending on the country that issued it – this is called the national side.
The designs on the national sides are very diverse but usually depict some aspect of the country's history, art or nature, among other themes.
Euro: printing and minting
The European Central Bank decides when more banknotes should be printed.
National authorities are in charge of minting coins. New euro banknotes must be printed regularly to meet increased needs for cash and to replace damaged or worn banknotes that have been taken out of circulation. Each national bank in the euro area is given a share in the production of new banknotes. Of course, whichever national bank produces euro banknotes they are exactly the same, except for their serial numbers; only coins have national designs.
In December 2011, there were almost 15 billion banknotes in circulation with a value of over €880 billion.
The ECB approves the quantities of coins that each Member State can produce to meet their needs. It is then the responsibility of each Member State in the euro area to produce their own coins with their national designs on one side.
To make euro coins, first a round metal blank is stamped from a sheet of metal. This blank is then heated to soften it – and the 1, 2, and 5 cent coins are coated with copper. The blanks are struck between two 'coining dies' that stamp the euro coin design on to the surface of the blank. For one and two euro coins, which are made of two metals with a different colour, these two metals are fixed together at the same time as the design is stamped into the surface. The coins are now ready for use. The production of coins is called 'minting'.
What happens to old euro banknotes and coins?
Banknotes and coins do not last forever. They can be damaged, they wear out, or they can be lost. So, the damaged and worn-out banknotes and coins must be identified and replaced.
Banknotes wear out much more quickly than coins because they are made of softer materials, not hard metals. Typically, a banknote only lasts for one and a half to two years.
Damaged and worn banknotes are returned to the national central banks in each country of the EU by organisations that deal a lot with cash, for example banks. The amounts and denominations of these banknotes are communicated to the European Central Bank which arranges for replacements to be printed as needed. Coins last much longer, typically several decades.
When damaged coins are found they are returned to the national central bank or the national mints where they are treated in special machines that mark them as damaged. In this way they cannot be used again and are sold as scrap metal. With the approval of the European Central Bank, the national banks issue new, replacement coins if needed.