The Bundesbank puts one hundred million euros in the dryer


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One of the dangers of putting money in the mattress is that a flood can come and wash it away. That is what happened last July in Germany, where the overflow of several rivers in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, in addition to 180 fatalities and damages worth 30,000 million euros, soaked hundreds of thousands of bills in houses, shops and banks that were flooded. The law says that the Bundesbank is obliged to change the damaged banknotes if at least 50% of its physical entity is preserved and those affected arrived at the German central bank with wheelbarrows of banknotes, requesting their replacement.

Never before has the Bundesbank been faced with such a situation.

I've never had to before
process such an amount of wet money and lacked protocols
. “This has dwarfed anything we have had in similar cases in eastern Germany or Bavaria,” explained Bundesbank board member Johannes Beermann at a press conference presenting the results of the operation in the Bonn House of History. The Bundesbank received more than 1.5 million wet banknotes, some of which were also contaminated with oil and dirt of various kinds. The number was so high because the vaults of the Volksbanks and Sparkassen savings banks in the region had also been flooded. About one million wet banknotes came from banks and another 500,000 from individuals. The first thing they had to do was count them.

To begin with, most of the bundles had been soaked in blocks and it was not even possible to separate the bills from each other, which made it impossible to count the amounts of money. The Bundesbank resorted to a homemade recipe that allowed the operation to start. He hired additional employees and bought a series of domestic tumble dryers into which the bills were gradually stuffed. It should be clarified that these banknotes have never been in circulation again, but at least they could be correctly counted to establish the amounts to be returned. From July 2021 to the end of January 2022, the date on which the operation ended, the Bundesbank has accepted and redeemed banknotes worth more than 100 million euros.

Cash under the mattress

The process has exposed just how much cash Germans actually keep at home. In general, more wet cash was handed out per person than is reported on average in surveys and tax returns. German citizens say in the polls that they have about 100 euros in their wallets and an average of 1,364 euros at home. "The differential is quite high," states Beermann, who highlights the case of a citizen who arrived with more than a million euros in bundles of bills turned into hard blocks of paper and mud that looked more like building bricks. "Only thanks to the innovative spirit of the employees were these problems able to be solved," the official stressed. In addition to dryers, tennis balls were purchased, which were placed in the dryers to avoid jams during drying. Fragrance additives were also used in the dryers, otherwise the fumes from the flood's dirty money were unbearable. "It wasn't exactly solemn," Beermann describes the work. In each round in the dryer, money from a single depositor was put in, so as the peculiar laundry progressed, it became clear how much each person had to be reimbursed.

Beermann says it takes a certain amount of expertise to dry money without damage in two to three hours with the dryer, on the gentle cycle, and he strongly advises against people trying to do it on their own at home. "And in any case, if someone feels an irresistible temptation, the dryer is always better than the oven, which should not be used for this in any case," he says.

In the case of banknotes, it was "imminent danger" of destruction, so the Bundesbank gave them priority. The operation with the coins, which has been the following, will not end until mid-March. We are talking about 1.2 million coins, with an approximate value of one million euros. Some of them have also arrived very dirty and rusty, so the counting machines cannot be used. In some cases, the Bundesbank he has even used pipe wrenches to break rolls of coins that got wet in bank vaults. They clean them with water and then dry them in the air and partly with kitchen paper. Only after this process can some of them be counted by machine, the rest by hand.

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