Since the creation of the euro zone and the region’s common currency, the euro, there has been an incredible expansion of euro notes and circulation of the currency.
Euro notes are tendered worldwide and held as a store of value by millions of people across Europe and other regions of the world. The euro has become the second most utilized currency after the U.S. dollar, with a value of over 1 trillion euros worldwide.
Several denominations of the euro were introduced since the euro’s inception. The common currency status of the euro throughout European countries was pinnacle when it replaced individual country currencies such as the Spanish peso, the Italian lira, and the German deutschmark.
The most popular of the euro denominations has been the €50 note, representing 45% of all euro banknotes in circulation as of April 2016. Another popular denomination is the €500 note. Even though individual €500 notes represented about 3% of all euro notes as of April 2016, they still account for 30% of total euro banknote circulation value.
This past month, the ECB decided to terminate the production of the €500 note, in a move to discourage the use of the large note for criminal and illicit purposes. Eurozone officials have found that the €500 note has been the denomination of choice for drug dealers and terrorists to carry large amounts of cash and that is readily exchangeable into other currencies.
An irony to the €500 note is the argument to keep it in place, due to negative rates in Europe. With rates below zero for various government bonds in Europe, investors would rather keep their savings in cash as opposed to paying banks to deposit their funds into. Euro’s have become a favored store of value for many, since holding onto cash costs nothing.
Sources: ECB, Eurostat