The Euro at 15 - 10 fascinating facts you didn’t know

The Euro is 15 years old on New Year’s Day. Launched in 2002 to bring financial security to Europe, the single currency is either a wunderkind or a stroppy teenager depending on your point of view. But while most of us will have changed our sterling into Euros more than a few times over the years, we bet there’s still a few things you didn’t know about the much-talked about currency.

1. Not all Euros are born the same

Over fifteen billion notes and 50 billion coins were produced at the currency’s launch. One side of the coins is the same in every country, the other side is specific to different member nations. In monarchies, for example, the head of state usually features on this side while in other territories it’s a national symbol. Banknotes, however, are all the same.

2. The European Central Bank kinda sounds like it’s in New York…

The European Central Bank (ECB), which helps administer the Euro, is located in Mainhattan, Frankfurt in Germany – not Manhattan in the US. It’s no accident the names sound similar. More than 20 years ago some marketing whizz confected the nickname ‘Mainhattan’ for Germany’s premier financial district. It was a play on the River Main which runs through the city and because of the New York-esque skyscrapers that were being built all over Frankfurt.

skyline
Lychee

3. The first thing bought with a Euro was…

1kg of lychees on the French Island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean, the first European territory to celebrate the New Year. The local mayor handed it over at a market stall three seconds after midnight – after haggling down the price by one whole cent. Bargain!

4. The two cent coin is pretty groovy

All you have to do is feel the edge, where there is a horizontal groove in the centre. This was put in to aid anyone who is visually impaired, but it also helps to distinguish the coin from the United States penny, which has exactly the same diameter but a smooth edge.

5. The highest value note is currently €500

But if you’ve got one, you might want to hold onto it as the ECB plans to phase them out in 2018 and the purple banknotes could soon become collectors’ items.

bank notes
city skyline

6. Finland was too posh for small change

Finland decided not to use one and two cent coins because such low dominations weren’t used in its former currency. However, they’ve since issued a limited number of these coins – which are still rarely used in Finland since prices are always rounded up to the nearest five cents.

7. The Italians were suddenly coining it in

Because their previous currency, the lire, was purely banknotes, Italians gave each other purses as Christmas presents in 2001, just before the Euro was introduced, so they’d have somewhere to carry their change.

8. It’s been called a lot of things

The Euro is made up of 100 cents, but many nations don’t use the word cent. In France, for example, it’s still often called the centime – which is a denomination of the former franc. In Italy, it’s known as centesimo, in Spain they prefer céntimo while the Finns decided upon ‘sentti’.

coins

9. The Greek Euro looks familiar

The image on the Greek Euro is of an owl. Owls have a long association with Athens and the symbol on the Euro was copied from a 5th Century drachma coin. (Drachmas were actually the oldest currency in Europe before the switch, dating back to the time of Alexander the Great.)

10. From lire to zero

For two months after its launch, the Euro was accepted alongside each country’s original currency while the population got used to their new money. However, the former currencies are now worthless – as one poor Italian woman found out in 2014 when she discovered a 100 million lire (€43,000) stash hidden in her late uncle’s cottage. The bank refused to honour the notes.

Now you’re clued up on all things Euro, it’s time you looked for a great travel insurance deals, right here.

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