Document Type


Publication Date


Source Publication

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 41, No. 4 (2021) pp. 1119–1148


banknote, e-banknote, digital currency, CBDC, cryptocurrency, central bank, ECB, legal tender, monetary law


This article discusses whether electronic banknotes can properly be characterised as ‘banknotes’, their design as such and what architectural models are available for their issuance by central banks. Issues are addressed under general principles governing the interpretation of monetary laws in the context of evolving technologies and institutional arrangements. The article proposes a clear terminology to address the concepts underlying digital currencies and access to central bank money, and argues that a banknote may be ‘written’ electronically. The stance adopted in the article is critical of both account-based retail central bank digital currency and cryptocurrencies, and highlights the salient features of non-blockchain token-based alternatives. It sheds light on the considerations that influence the selection of a design that is appropriate from both the functional and legal perspectives.