The first phase of the switchover of national currencies
to the euro
in the euro zone
in which the man on the street
actually got in touch with "hardware" euros began between December 14, 2001
and December 17, 2001
, depending on the country. At this point, so called "starter kits" of euro coins
were released in order to allow people to get acquainted with their new money over christmas and prepare them for the final switchover that will begin on January 1, 2002
(when all shops, etc. start to accept the euro for payment) and end on February 28, 2002
(when everyone but the national banks will stop accepting the local currencies).
The starter kits were different in each country, since in most countries, people got them in exchange for a round amount of the "old" currency. In Germany, the starter kits contain EUR 10.23, equal to DM 20. The release of the starter kits was a big feat of logistics, since nearly everyone wanted one, and quickly. It was expected that some people would want to hoard them as collector's items, so they were designed to be plain - just a small, see-though plastic bag with the coins in it. Additionally, the places that released them (banks in most countries) often gave each customer only one or two. After all, it's just meant to allow people to get used to the coins, they don't really need them, since the national currencies will still be accepted for two months.