|Italy’s 1-euro coin|
In 2002, 15 members of the European Union changed their individual national currencies to a new currency that would be used by them all – the euro. This was probably one of the biggest currency changeovers in modern history, and the most well-known example of a currency union (where multiple countries use the same kind of money).
2012 marks the 10th anniversary of the coins and bills of the euro (which was first used in 1999 for electronic transactions between nations). The euro (always lowercase, like dollar or penny) is currently used by 17 countries in Europe:
- The Netherlands
- Monaco (in France)
- San Marino (in Italy)
- Vatican City (in Italy)
|The reverse sides of the 8 standard euro coins|
The standard euro coins come in denominations of:
- 1 cent
- 2 cents
- 5 cents
- 10 cents
- 20 cents
- 50 cents
- 1 euro
- 2 euros
|Euro 2-cent obverses (left to right):
Italy, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, and France
Each country that issues euros has a unique design on the front (obverse) of their coins. These designs allow you to figure out which country the coin came from. The European Central Bank has pictures of every euro’s obverse (also called the national side) to assist you in identifying coins. The obverse is also where you’ll find the date of the coin. Even though euro coins weren’t put into circulation until 2002, minting of the coins began in some countries in 1999 in order for there to be enough for the changeover. In France, Belgium, Finland, The Netherlands, and Spain, the coins had the year that they were minted (even though they were not going to be issued until 2002) – so it is possible to find coins dated 1999, 2000, and 2001 from these countries.
The 2-euro coins are frequently minted with special commemorative designs to honor a person, place, or event. The European Central Bank has pictures of the commemorative 2-euro coins issued by each country since 2004. Sometimes a single special 2-euro design is minted in all euro countries, such as 2012’s “10 years of the euro” coin.
The backs (reverse) display the amount and are the same in all countries. The coins are also the same size and shape in all countries, so the only difference you’ll see between an Austrian 1-euro coin and a Slovakian 1-euro coin is the design that is on the front.
|Portugal’s 5-cent coin|
For world coin collectors, the introduction of the euro meant that 15 countries were all getting new coins at the same time, and the former national coins were no longer going to be made. That means that over time, coins for the French franc, the Greek dinar, and the Slovenian tolar (among others) are going to be harder and harder to find. Each new country that relinquishes their national currency for the euro gives coin collectors a new opportunity to collect a new set of coins for that country. As a collector, it is exciting to have new types of coins to collect. But it is also sad to see the demise of the many and varied national coins from so many countries at once, and more to follow in the future.