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Europe Chooses New Banknote Design

Sep 27, 2023

Money, and specifically banknotes, is the theme of today’s English vocabulary lesson for economists. We will look at how the Eurozone is redesigning its paper money. It turns out that it is harder than you might think.

Welcome to English for Economists, the podcast meant for adults who need to discuss economic issues in English. My name is Alan Robert, and this is podcast number 80. Thanks very much for joining me today.

Europe’s Quest

Today, we’re unraveling a subject that touches on identity, security, and technology. We will be looking at a recent article from the Economist Magazine titled: “Which country’s genius deserves the €200 note? Europe prepares for a fight.”

So, from time to time, central banks or maybe government ministries need to acquire new banknotes. Banknotes:  that’s the paper money you use to buy things, you might know banknotes as ‘bills’ or ‘banknotes’). These eventually get old and need to be replaced.

Another reason to renew banknotes is to introduce a new denomination, and by denomination, I mean the value of the currency note, the amount that represents how much the note is worth.  Common denominations for banknotes might include values like $1, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100, etc., depending on the currency and country in question.

Another reason to get new banknotes is so that the central bank can introduce bills that incorporate new security elements to make them harder to counterfeit (to make a fake copy).  And sometimes, and this is the point of our story today, central banks take advantage of the moment when they order new banknotes to update or change the images they use on the bill.  

You will probably agree with me when I say that banknotes are more than just paper. They’re symbols of national pride, history, and values. The imagery on a note or bill communicates a nation’s identity and ideals.

These sentiments might be conveyed through the use of the image of past or present national leaders, like a queen or a president. Or perhaps it’s the image of an artist, writer, musician, or maybe a war hero. It is usually a somebody, or something related specifically to one country.

So, that leaves the European Central Bank (ECB) with a special kind of problem. You see, it wants to change some of the images it uses, but it needs to find images that are recognizable, and that in some way connect, or represent all the different countries included in their economic union. It is a special kind of problem, isn’t it? Quite an important decision. So, as the article explains, they are applying a smart solution. They are holding contests where they ask the general public from all of these countries to suggest ideas of images and design ideas. On one hand, they are taking advantage of the creativity of all the people within their borders, and they are being open about the process. After all, they are looking for images that connect, and which don’t separate. If you want to dig a little deeper into the topic, I have included a link to the article in the podcast notes you can find at While you are on the website, you can also subscribe for alerts to hear about new English courses for economists. The kind of specialized lessons that anybody who needs to read, write or talk about the economy in English, can use.

Or, if you are already signed up, you can also search the internet using the keywords from the title or the article: “Which country’s genius deserves the €200 note?”

Here’s a quick review of today’s vocabulary.

  • Banknote: A piece of paper money.
  • Bills: Another term for paper money.
  • Denomination: How much the bill is worth.
  • Counterfeit: Fake (false) currency made to imitate the real thing.

Well friends, every year we seem to rely less on cash money, paper money, bills, banknotes. For example, the ECB reported that last year, cash was used for only 59% of transactions, a decrease from 72% three years prior. For the modern European, money is less about physical notes and more about what’s displayed on a smartphone screen. Probably it is the same where you live.

Thank you for tuning in. Remember, economics isn’t just numbers; it’s about people, identity, and our shared history. Stay inquisitive, and I’ll return soon with more English words for economists. Until then, stay safe and keep learning. Goodbye!

Foto de Robert Anasch en Unsplash


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