Characteristics of the euro banknotes and coins

Euro banknotes are identical in all euro area countries. Their characteristics (size, colour, illustrations, security features) are easy to recognise, including for the visually impaired. Euro coins all have an identical reverse side and a national side which is specific to the country of issuance.

1 Seven characteristics for all banknotes


The design of the banknotes

“Attractive, secure and user-friendly” were the three adjectives used by the European national central bank governors to define the specifications for euro banknotes. The ECB Governing Council unveiled the winning designs of the European wide competition it had organised at the European Council meeting in Dublin on 13 December 1996. The winning series was entitled “Ages and styles of Europe” by Robert Kalina, graphic designer at the National Bank of Austria. These draft designs were then amended to incorporate the security features. In the spring of 1999, the technical specificities were finally approved by the European Central Bank and production began in the printing works of the euro area. The second series of euro banknotes was launched on 2 May 2013, with the issuance of the new €5. Named “Europa” after the Greek princess whose portrait appears in the watermark, the series incorporates new security features designed to make the banknotes harder to counterfeit. The new €5 and €10 notes from the series, designed by Reinhold Gerstetter, a freelance graphic artist from Berlin, were unveiled respectively on 10 January 2013 and 13 January 2014. The new €20 and €50 notes were unveiled respectively on 25 November 2015 and 4 April 2017.   


1.1 Seven denominations from €5 to €500 (see note)

In keeping with the needs and customs of Europeans, Eurosystem central banks issue seven denominations from €5 to €500. The €5 and €10 are available in two formats: the first series of banknotes which were issued on 1 January 2002, and the second series which was launched on 2 May 2013 for the €5, and on 23 September 2014 for the €10. The €20 banknote, the third banknote of the new series, has been put into circulation on 25 November 2015. The €50 banknote, has been put into circulation on 4 April 2017.

Note : ECB ends production and issuance of €500 banknote

See more on the ECB Website: “Security features” and “Our money»

1.2 Seven different sizes

Euro banknotes have different sizes to make them easy to recognise, particularly for the blind and visually impaired. For the €5 to €100 banknotes, the size increases by five millimetres widthwise and by six or seven millimetres lengthwise. The €100, €200 and €500 banknotes are the same width, but vary in length.


1.3 Seven different colours

Each denomination in both series of euro banknotes has a dominant colour which enables it to be easily differentiated from the other  denominations.

The colour spectrum is based on the colours of the rainbow.

The €10, €20 and €50 notes are red, blue and orange respectively, while the €100, €200 and €500 are coloured green, yellow and purple. The most widely used banknote, the €5, has a grey colour scheme as this does not show the dirt as much.

The colours will remain the same for the second series of euro banknotes.


1.4 The map of Europe

The map of Europe which appears on the reverse side of the banknotes was recreated using satellite photographs. The map extends beyond the borders of Europe as it also covers a part of North Africa and Asia Minor. It fits into a box delimited by the Azores and the Canaries in one corner and the Northern tip of Finland beyond the Arctic Circle in the opposite corner.

A small box located at the right of the word EYPΩ represents France’s overseas depart- ments (Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyana and Reunion). The new series banknotes also feature Cyprus and Malta, which joined the European Union in 2004.


1.5 The stars of the European flag

Th front of the banknotes features the blue  European flag with  its  circle  of 12 stars representing the union between European nations. The number of stars remains constant, as the fi   e 12 is taken to symbolise perfection and harmony (e.g. the 12 months of the year, the 12 traditional constellations of the zodiac, etc.).


1.6 Inscriptions

A small amount of text appears on ECB banknotes in order to avoid translation pro- blems and keep the banknote simple. The face value of each banknote is written several times on both the front and the back of the banknotes, and in large print on the front to help the visually impaired. The name of the currency also appears on both sides of the banknotes, written in the Latin (EURO) and Greek (EYPΩ) alphabets and, for the Europa series of euro banknotes, in the Cyrillic alpha- bet, to mark the integration of Bulgaria into the EU in 2007.

The initials of the European Central Bank appear on the front of the notes written in all European languages (BCE, ECB, ЕЦБ, EZB, EKP, EKT, EKB, BĊE and EBC), and preceded by the symbol © for copyright (some of these initials only appear on the Europa series of banknotes due to the extension of the euro area since the launch of the first series). The signature of the President of the ECB is also featured on the banknotes.


1.7 Bridges and gateways

As in the first series, the new Europa series of banknotes will show architectural styles from seven periods in Europe’s cultural history, but will not show any existing monuments or bridges. The styles are as follows:

  • €5: Classical
  • €10: Romanesque
  • €20: Gothic
  • €50: Renaissance
  • €100: Baroque and Rococo
  • €200: 19th century iron and glass architecture
  • €500: Modern 20th century architecture (End of the production and issuance of €500 banknote. The €500 banknote remains legal tender) 

A gateway (or a doorway) in the archi- tectural style of the corresponding period appears on the front of the banknotes. It symbolises Europe’s openness to the rest of the world.

A bridge appears on the reverse side of the banknotes, symbolising the ties that unite Europeans.


2   First-Series  banknotes have eight security features

Euro banknotes from the first series have eight security features to make them easy to recognise.

To check the authenticity of banknotes, the simple ‘Feel-Look-Tilt’ method can be used :

  • Feel,
  • Look,
  • Tilt.


2.1 Feel

The paper

The banknote paper consists of pure cotton. The different stages of its production give it a crisp and firm texture.

Raised print

The special printing makes the ink on the front of the banknote feel raised. This can be felt by running your finger over it or scratching it gently with your nail. The initials of the European Central Bank are particularly raised.

2.2 Look

The watermark

The watermark is produced by varying the thickness ofthepaper. It shows the architectural design and the value of the banknote.

Against the light, the transition between light and dark parts is smooth. Put the banknote on a dark surface, and the light areas become darker. This effect is very easy to see in the value watermark.

The security thread

The security thread is embedded in the banknote paper. Hold the banknote against the light – the thread will appear as a dark stripe. The word “EURO” and the value of the banknote appear in alternation on the stripe, written in tiny letters.

See-through number

Incomplete marks printed in one of the top corners of the banknote, on both sides, combine perfectly to form the value numeral. You can see this when holding the banknote against the light.


2.3 Tilt

Hologram stripe/Hologram patch

On the front, the hologram is in the form of a stripe for the €5, €10 and €20 banknotes and a patch for the €50, €100, €200 and €500 banknotes. For the hologram stripe, tilt the banknote – the hologram image will change between the value and the “€” symbol or the ring of stars, all on a rainbow-coloured background. At the edges, tiny letters show the value. For the hologram patch, tilt the banknote – the hologram image will change between the value and a window or doorway. In the background, you can see rainbow-coloured concentric circles of tiny letters moving from the centre to the edges of the patch.

The glossy stripe and colour-shifting ink

Tilt the €5, €10 and €20 banknotes and a gold-coloured stripe will appear on the reverse side. It shows the value and the € symbol.

Tilt the €50, €100, €200 and €500 banknotes and the value numeral on the back of the banknotes on the right will change colour from purple to olive-green or brown.


3 New features of the Second Series

3.1 Raised print

On the front, there is a series of short raised lines on the left and right edges. The architectural motif, the lettering and the large value numeral also feel thicker. This raised print is designed to make the notes easier to recognise for the blind and visually impaired.

3.2 The watermark

When the banknote is held against the light, a faint image becomes visible showing a portrait of the princess Europa, the value of the banknote and a window.

3.3 The portrait window

When the €20 banknote is held against the light, the window near the top of the hologram becomes transparent and reveals a portrait of Europa on both sides of the banknote. When the banknote is tilted, the window also shows rainbow-coloured lines around the value numeral on the front of the banknote. On the back of the banknote, rainbow-coloured value numerals appear in the window.

3.4 Portrait hologram

On the €5 and €10 banknotes of the Europa series, the silvery stripe on the right bears a portrait of Europa, along with a window and the value of the banknote. On the €20 banknotes of the Europa series, the hologram shows the value of the banknote, a portrait of Europa, the architectural motif and the euro symbol (€).

3.5 Emerald number

When the banknote is tilted, the shiny number in the bottom left corner displays an effect of the light that moves up and down. The number also changes colour from emerald green to deep blue.

Euro coins

While the ECB has the exclusive right to authorize the issue of euro banknotes, which are put into circulation by national central banks, responsibility for euro coins lies entirely with the European Commission and with the Member States participating in the euro (i.e. with their respective state treasury departments).

The design of the euro coins

At the informal ECOFIN meeting held in Verona in Italy on 12-13 April 1996, the European Heads  of  State  decided that the front side of the euro coins would be common to all euro area countries and that the reverse side would display country-specific designs.
A European-wide competition was then organised to select the designs for the European side of the coins. The winning designs were produced by Luc Luycx, designer at the Royal Belgian Mint. The selection procedures for the national sides differed from country to country. In Italy, the designs were chosen by RAI television viewers. In monarchies, it was decided to feature the effigy of the monarchs. In France, a jury chaired by the Minister of the Economy and Finance chose the national sides on 21 April 1997.


1 Coins in circulation

Euro coins come in eight different denomina- tions: 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, €1 and €2. Unlike banknotes, which are absolutely identical throughout the euro area, European coins have a common side and a national side.

They may be used in all countries participa- ting in the Monetary Union; they are legal tender throughout the euro area.


Markedly different colours and features

The eight denominations are different sizes and have different features to make them easy to recognise:

  • The €1 and €2 coins are two-coloured;
  • The 10, 20 and 50 cent coins are yellow;
  • The 1, 2 and 5 cent coins are a copper red colour.

The edge finishing of the coins differs according to their face value. Two consecutive coins never have the same edge finishing.

Common sides

To make them easy to recognise, euro coins all have one common side which is the same regardless of the country of issuance, and which bears the face value.

The first three coins (1, 2 and 5 cent) feature Europe in relation to Africa and Asia on a globe. The 10, 20 and 50 cent coins and the €1 and €2 coins feature an integrated Europe, before its expansion in 2004.


1ct     2cts    5cts    10cts     20cts      50cts      1€     2€


A national side, with country-specific designs

Euro coins are issued by the 19 Member States which made up the euro area on 1 January 2014, as well as by the Vatican City, San Marino and Monaco.

Each country can choose its own design for the national side of its coins, provided it includes the 12 stars of the European flag and the year of issue.

The French sides all display the letters “RF” standing for République Française (French Republic) and the 12 stars of Europe. The 1, 2 and 5 cent coins bear the image of Marianne, which is a symbol of France and Republican values.

The 10, 20 and 50 cent coins represent the Sower, which embodies France’s place in the European integration process. A tree,symbolising life, growth and continuity, appears on the €1 and €2 coins.


1ct    2cts     5cts       10cts     20cts     50cts     1€     2€

French Series


1ct      2cts     5ct     10cts     20cts      50cts     1€     

Germany Austria   Belgium      Cyprus          Spain           Estonia               Finland              Greece


1ct      2ct     5cts      10cts   20cts   50cts   1€   2€

Ireland       Italy     Lettonia         Lituania         Luxembourg            Malta          Netherland                  Portugal


1ct      2cts

Slovakia   Slovenia


€2 commemorative coins

Each participating Member State is entitled to issue a €2 commemorative coin twice a year. The design of these coins must be validated by the European Commission and by the other European Union Member States. Exceptionally, a country may be authorised to issue a third coin to commemorate an event of Europe-wide relevance. These commemorative coins are legal tender throughout the euro area and can be used in the same way as any other euro coin.

The most recent French coins : 

To find the visuals of the commemorative coins issued since 2004, click on this link:

More examples: 


€2 commemorative coins €2 commemorative coins


2 Collector coins

Participating Member States may issue collector coins that are not intended for circulation. They are only legal tender in the issuing Member State and have different face values and technical features from those of the coins described in this factsheet. In France, the Monnaie de Paris (the national mint) has issued a collector series entitled “Gold and Silver Euros”, comprising ten different denominations: €5, €10, €15, €25, €50, €100, €250, €500, €1000 and €5000. They can be purchased from national post office branches or by subscription, and come in special packaging with a certificate of authenticity. They are not intended for use as a means of payment, and are generally acquired as an investment. However, owners can exchange them for regular coins at the Banque de France branch located at 48 boulevard Raspail in Paris.

2€ Collector coins

Updated on: 04/15/2021 12:53