The European Central Bank announced on May 4 that it will permanently
stop printing and issuing the €500 bank note by the end of 2018. The
decision is the end result of a discussion that began publicly not
long ago and reached a crescendo after the attacks in Paris and
Brussels in November and March. The dispute over the note’s future
pitted multiple law enforcement agencies against the note’s defenders.
Some of this latter group equate the move with an infringement on
personal freedom. Others say the note is important for those who
distrust the banking system.
The highest value note in the euro series (worth approximately $570
at current exchange rates) has been called the “Bin Laden” and the
note “criminals love” because of its supposed appeal to terrorists,
drug dealers and money launderers. A million dollars in €500 notes,
for instance, weighs just 5½ pounds, while its equivalent in €200
bills would weigh more than double that, and the same in €100 notes,
over four times as much.
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The €500 note will remain legal tender but will not be included in
the new “Europa” series of bank notes, which will now consist only of
the €5, €10, €20, €50, €100 and €200 denominations. The latter two
denominations are scheduled for release in 2018 in quantities
sufficient to coincide with the phase-out of the €500.