Why don't banknotes have barcodes?

10th birthday: the final secrets of the euro bills

Who can tell right away what exactly can be seen on a 20 euro note? It's blue, I'm sure everyone immediately thinks of that, maybe also the fact that arches and bridges can be seen on it. Security features such as the watermark or the security thread are still quite well known. But otherwise?

Europeans have been holding the notes in their hands every day for exactly ten years, and a total of 17 countries are now part of the euro zone. Three other countries that use the euro mint their own coins (Vatican, Monaco, San Marino) and two non-EU countries (Montenegro and Kosovo) also use the euro instead of their own currency. There are now 14.3 billion notes - more than dollar bills.

But despite this great international importance, the banknotes are often strangely alien to us. There is a lot to discover on it. Most of it won't change if a new series of banknotes goes into circulation in 2013 or 2014, as planned.

However, some details should be revised - what and why, that becomes clear when you take a closer look at the notes. Sometimes you even have to use a magnifying glass to help. But it's worth it. Because many exciting and surprising details await on the little voyage of discovery through the world of euro notes.

1. The abbreviation for the ECB

The five abbreviations at the top of the front pages stand for the European Central Bank - that is certainly clear to everyone. But which languages ​​are hidden behind the respective acronyms? The first three should be easy to decipher.

BCE is common in various Romance languages ​​(e.g. French Banque Centrale Européenne), ECB is common in Dutch and some Slavic languages ​​(e.g. Slovak Európska Centrálna Banka) and the Germans are already familiar with the ECB. EKT, however, is the Greek abbreviation - it is just a coincidence that the three Greek letters appear at the same time in the Latin alphabet.

EKP, in turn, stands for the Finnish and Estonian short form of the central bank. In the planned redesign of the notes, four more abbreviations are to be added: (Bulgarian), EKB (Hungarian), BC? E (Maltese) and EBC (Polish).

2. The map of Europe

The designers of the notes on the map of Europe went to great lengths. Not only the outline of the land mass can be seen there, various islands have also been drawn in. To the west of the Iberian Peninsula, far out in the Atlantic, the Azores and Madeira can be seen, and the Canary Islands to the south. To the left of this are four boxes that frame other parts of the country and islands.

This is on the far left French Guiana, which is in South America. The three boxes on top of one another show (from top to bottom) Guadeloupe, Martinique and Réunion, i.e. French overseas territories in the Caribbean and off Madagascar (Réunion). But no matter how precise you were here: Cyprus, on the other hand, is missing a complete member state on the map.

3. The Greek alphabet

A euro is always a euro - but sometimes not. In various languages, the name of the currency is pronounced or written differently. For example, it is called “Ewro” in Maltese and “Eiro” in Latvian. Nevertheless, the EU has stipulated that the currency must always be uniformly referred to as the euro in official documents, otherwise the confusion would simply be too big.

This is why only the word “Euro” appears on the banknotes - the Greek form only uses a different alphabet, but when translated it is also “Euro”. However, the Bulgarian “EBPO” is to be added as a third form in the future, which, when translated, does not mean “Euro” but “Evro” because that is the name of the currency in Bulgarian. Originally, the EU wanted to persuade the government to change the name in Bulgarian by law. In the end, however, Brussels gave in.

4. The non-existent buildings

The representations on the euro bills are quite boring. This is due to the fact that only fictional structures and bridges are shown here, which do not even exist in reality. The reason: You couldn't agree on a selection of real buildings. The models are therefore intended to emulate the various stylistic epochs that existed in parallel almost everywhere in Europe in the past centuries.

It begins on the 5-euro note with the classic, followed by Romanesque (10 euros), Gothic (20 euros) and Renaissance on the 50-euro note. Citizens rarely see the baroque / rococo of the 100 euro note, buildings from the industrial age from the 200s and the representation of current architecture on the 500s.

5. The most common bill

It should come as little surprise that of all the notes, the 50s is the most common. On the other hand, the least common are 200-euro notes. Amazingly, however, there are more than three times as many 500s, and if you look at the value of the notes, they even make up more than a third of the total value of all euro notes. You rank ahead of the 50s.

Even more: since 2002, the number of 50 euro bills has quadrupled, but that of 500 bills has increased tenfold. One reason is that the latter are best suited for transporting large amounts of cash. However, this in turn is necessary above all to pay for undeclared work or criminal activities. A relatively large part of the 500s should therefore also circulate abroad, especially in Eastern Europe. But in Spain, too, their circulation was particularly large during the building boom up to 2007.

6. The barcodes and serial numbers

Barcodes are usually found on packaging in the supermarket. But the euro bills also contain similar barcodes. You can see them if you hold the back against the light, to the left of the watermark. Dark stripes stand for the number 1, light stripes for a 0. The barcode of the 50 euro note is 01101010. The codes differ depending on the value of the note, making it easier for computers to read it.