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Sorting and destruction

Checking if a note is genuine

Banknotes that are returned to an SNB bank office are sorted and checked for authenticity in special sorting machines. Genuine banknotes in good condition are put back into circulation; damaged or soiled ones are destroyed. Notes that the sorting machine does not recognise as genuine are rejected and must be checked manually. Counterfeit banknotes are handed over to the police.

 
Images: Sorting machine

Notes that are fragmented, burnt, decayed, or – due to the improper opening of a security cash box – are dye-stained, or are otherwise severely damaged, are sent to the SNB in Berne for verification.

Images: Examples of damaged banknotes

More information on damaged banknotes.

Destruction of banknotes

The sorting machines used for the processing of banknotes have an integrated shredder, which, in one and the same process, destroys banknotes that have been recognised as genuine but are no longer suitable for circulation. What remain are snippets of banknotes, which are compacted and subsequently taken to the public waste incinerator.

Images: Banknote snippets before they are transported to the incineration plant

The life span of banknotes

The life span of a banknote varies depending on the denomination. Large denominations tend to have a longer life expectancy than small ones. In 2015, destroyed notes accounted for 17% of all processed notes. More than every sixth note thus had to be taken out of circulation.

In 2015, the SNB put 107.7 million freshly printed banknotes with a total nominal value of CHF 10.3 billion into circulation. It destroyed 70.8 million damaged or recalled banknotes with a face value of CHF 4.4 billion.

Chart: Life span of banknotes