The euro will replace the Deutschmark as official currency in Germany and the respective currencies in all other countries of the Euro Zone by the year 2002. It is already legal tender for financial transactions within the Euro Zone. You can have your checking account listed in euros. The currency symbol for the euro is €.

The great promise of the euro is that it will create a huge common market, eliminate the cost of currency exchange as well as the risk of fluctuations in currency values. This should create an incentive for cross border investments and an overall integration of the European economies. The common currency is seen as yet another step in tying European countries closer together. The euro is also supposed to make cross-border shopping (including e-commerce) an everyday reality and level irrational price differentials between member states.

One major threat posed by the euro is the rather disparate economies of the member states, as well as fears of a weakening of fiscal standards and sanctions for member states in violation thereof. Imprudent fiscal policies in member states could severely hurt investor trust in the currency and beat down its long-term exchange rate with the dollar and yen. While the currently (Spring 2000) weak exchange rate seems to be fueling tremendous economic growth due to exports from the Euro Zone, a long-term weakness of the Euro could drive up inflation and force the European Central Bank in Frankfurt am Main, Germany to raise interest rates, stifling growth. Experts see the current weakness as a transient phenomenon not based in fundamental economic data, but rather a psychological one such as expressed in mhwang's writeup on the euro.

It will certainly be interesting to see how the euro fares over the next couple of years. One major short-term suckage for tourists from Europe and everyone living in the United States who gets paid in one of the euro member currencies (such as the Deutschmark) is that it makes everything so expensive. I remember when 1 US$ was worth only a sweet 1.50 DM, and not 2.19 DM, as is currently (May 03, 2000) the case.

Exchange rates as fixed by the European Central Bank as detailed in stage three of the Economic and Monetary Union.

       1 EUR = 40.3399 BEF Belgium Francs
             = 1.95583 DEM Germany Deutsche Marks
             = 166.386 ESP Spain Pesetas
             = 6.55957 FRF France Francs
             = .787564 IEP Ireland Punt
             = 1936.27 ITL Italy Lira
             = 40.3399 LUF Luxembourg Francs
             = 2.20371 NLG Netherlands (Dutch) Guilders
             = 13.7603 ATS Austria Schillings
             = 200.482 PTE Portugal Escudo
             = 5.94573 FIM Finland Markka
             = 340.750 GRD Greece Drachma

The name of the currency is euro, not capitalized. It is divided into 100 cent. Although the name of the subunit is cent (not eurocent), the coins actually say EURO CENT (one word above the other).

The official plurals in legislation are the same as the singular, euro and cent, at least in most community languages (including English). French and Spanish get to use plurals, and Finnish gets to use its partitive case as with other numerals. Oddly, the Greek for cent is lepto (the old 100th part of a drachma).

Coins will be issued for cent multiples and lower euro multiples (1 and 2 euro), and banknotes thereafter up to remarkably high values (5 to 500 euro); these latter feature bridges in various architectural styles through the ages (not intended to be depictions of specific places), and a map of Europe. Worthy but dull.

A little-mentioned fact (am I the only one to notice this?) is that the EMU (European Monetary Union) currencies were formerly lined in flexible but related exchange rates in the so-called snake. And a euro is a kind of wallaby. Why are our monetary masters naming everything after Australian fauna?

The euro symbol:


Microsoft claims support for the symbol (see for precise details), and you, too, can have the little cool symbol appear if you know the ASCII keystroke: hold the right alt key and type in "0128" on your numeric keypad and you should have the symbol: € (browser dependant).

In HTML: € will give you: €. Which, also, is browser dependant. Have fun.

ryano says Re euro: on recent Macs, the Euro is alt+2.
Uberfetus says The Mac key command for the euro is option-shift-2.

shallot says re euro: AltGr+e is a common key binding for the euro sign in Unices. while you mention Microsoft, you might mention other vendors. for example, Debian,

What euro-coins are available?

  • 1 cent (red)
  • 2 cents (red)
  • 5 cents (red)
  • 10 cents (yellow)
  • 20 cents (yellow)
  • 50 cents (yellow)
  • 1 euro (silver with yellow edge)
  • 2 euro (yellow with silver edge)

The back side mentions the value of the coin, whereas the front side is nation specific. For instance the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg display their heads of state. Germany uses oak leaves, the Brandenburger Tor and the German eagle. On Spanish, Italian and Greek coins you will find historical persons and buildings.

The Finns do not use the 1 and 2 cents coins, since they consider them almost worthless. (gn0sis mentions: There are Finnish 1 and 2 cents coins, legislation just allows rounding everything to the nearest 5 cents so they're useless and quite rare.)

What euro-notes are available?

In all countries, banknotes are the same. They symbolically display bridges and gates from the whole Euro zone.

--- Edit: Feb 11, 2002

I removed the paragraph about 1 and 2 euro coins releasing excessive amounts of nickel, thanks to SEoD who finally provided me with a source I deemed reliable enough to do so. If you're interested, read this:

--- End of edit

What euro coins are made of

 1 cent  - copper-covered steel
 2 cents - copper-covered steel
 5 cents - copper-covered steel

10 cents - Nordic gold
20 cents - Nordic gold
50 cents - Nordic gold

 1 euro  - outer part: nickel brass
           inner part (three layers): 

 2 euros - outer part: copper-nickel
           inner part (three layers):
                       nickel brass
                       nickel brass

Details of the euro coins

The national bank of the Netherlands distributed a special euro starterpack to every Dutch resident a month prior to it's official release. In addition to genuine copies of each coin, the starterpack provides the following specifications:


The two euro coin has an inscription on the side . The text is different for each country.

Country: Austria
Inscription: "2 EURO *** 2 EURO *** 2 EURO *** 2 EURO ***"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: The stars are alternately flipped set-wise

Country: Belgium
Inscription: "* * * * * * * * * * * *"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: One of two variations for countries with no national inscription.

Country: Finland
Inscription: "Suomi - Finland"
Translation: 'Suomi' is Finnish for 'Finland'
Remarks: The same inscription as on the old 5 Mark piece.

Country: France
Inscription: "* * * * * * * * * * * *"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: A somewhat surpising, and equally dull, choice by the French. One would have expected "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood') as on the Franc. One of two variations for countries with no national inscription.

Country: Germany
Inscription: "Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit"
Translation: "Unity and Righteousness and Liberty"
Remarks: This inscription appeared on the two and five piece Deutschmarks.

Country: Greece
Translation: "Greek Democracy"

Country: Ireland
Inscription: "...2 * * 2 * * 2 * * 2..."
Translation: N/A
Remarks: The 2's are alternately flipped vertically. One of two variations for countries with no national inscription.

Country: Italy
Inscription: "...2 * * 2 * * 2 * * 2..."
Translation: N/A
Remarks: The 2's are alternately flipped vertically. One of two variations for countries with no national inscription.

Country: Monaco
Inscription: "** ** ** ** ** **"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: The pairs of stars are alternately upside down and right side up.

Country: The Netherlands
Inscription: "God zij met ons"
Translation: "God be with us"
Remarks: The same inscription as on the replaced Gulden.

Country: Portugal
Inscription: Five small pictures of identical castles , each with three towers, followed by five windows with an oval top, followed by another five castles. The last series of castles is inverted. To give a (very vague) impression, it looks like this: "E E E E E D D D D D ∃ ∃ ∃ ∃ ∃"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: The towers and oval windows also appear on the side of the coin itself.The ones on the rim are a bit smaller and more simplistic, for obvious reasons.

Country: Spain
Inscription: "* * * * * * * * * * * *"
Translation: N/A
Remarks: One of two variations for countries with no national inscription. See the French inscription.

Thanks to: typo, CloudStrife, Gone Jackal, =nerochiaro=, koala, tzu and tdent for euro inscriptions

I want to collect all euro inscriptions here. If you know anymore, please /msg irexe. Still missing: Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, San Marino, Andorra, and the Vatican.

First uses of Euros as official currency:

The first Euros in January 1, 2002 were spent in the island of Reunion (a French island in Indian Ocean). Mayor of Saint-Denis, Rene-Paul Victoria, bought fruits, for high price of 0.75 €/kg.

In Europe proper, Finland and Greece, being the eastmost countries, were the first countries to move to the new year - and to the new currency.

In Helsinki, Finland, the Minister of Finance Sauli Niinistö made the first purchase with Euros - a cup of coffee for 1 €.

Meanwhile in Athens, Greece, Prime Minister Costas Simitis withdrew the first Euro banknotes from an ATM. (Niinistö then called him, saying they would be the best people in future EU meetings to talk of Euro issues because they are obviously more experienced Euro users than others =)

(Sources: Yahoo! news, Euronews and the live TV program from Helsinki)

The Finnish euro coins have nature-related patterns (1 € coin has flying swans, 2 € has cloudberries); the eurocent coins have the traditional Finnish heraldic lion.

There has been some confusion since the introduction of the euro as regards the plurals of the words "euro" and "cent". A directive published by the EU shortly after the currency's introduction instructed that on official documentation, the plurals of "euro" and "cent", in all languages, were to remain as the singular. This caused lot of bother, particularly in Italy where stacks of documents had to be shredded because they used the word "euri" as their plural for "euro".

In Ireland, the media formally use "euro" and "cent" as both singulars and plurals, but the use of "euros" and "cents" is widespread in everyday language. Indeed, the word from Europe is that there is no official plural for those words in any of the various EU languages, and that the plurals will naturally take shape according to how each language's speakers evolve them.

How to recognize different types of Italian euro coins from quite a long way away.

Euro minted by the various countries have a common side, showing the value of the coin, while the other side varies for every nation. (After two years of mingling, it's quite common to get a couple of "foreign" coins with your change). The Zecca Italiana made good design choices:

  • 1 cent: the Castle of Andria, also called "Castel del Monte". It's a simple, beautiful structure towering in the middle of nowhere atop a hill in Andria, near Bari. It was probably built in the 13th century by Friedrich II of Hohenstaufen. The layout is octagonal, with an inner eight-sided courtyard, and it's surrounded by eight octagonal towers. If you ask me, good old Friedrich was actually trying to build Unseen University.
  • 2 cent: the dome of the Mole Antonelliana, built in the second half of the nineteenth century in Turin; now it's a museum. The pinnacle represented in the coin was cut in half by a storm in 1953, and was rebuilt eight years later. Any connection with the eight-obsessed Friedrich is purely coincidential.
  • 5 cent: the Coliseum, the most recognizable symbol of Rome, completed in 80 AD as a place of entertainment by Emperor Vespasiano. For those who slept during history lessons, it's the place where Russell Crowe killed all those guys in Gladiator.
  • 10 cent: the lovely face of Aphrodite from the famous painting "The birth of Venus" by Botticelli, now on display in the Uffizi Museum in Florence. The painting is also known with the beautiful name of "Venere anadiomene", meaning "rising from the waters". Vowels were free, in the old days.
  • 20 cent: a strange sculpture by Umberto Boccioni: "Forme uniche della continuità nello spazio", meaning "Unique forms of continuity in space". Boccioni was a futurist, and he tried to capture in bronze the effect of a photographer taking either multiple exposures of a walking man, or a single hit of good LSD. The statue was finished in 1913; I had never heard of it before I saw the coins.
  • 50 cent: the 1800-years old bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius; you can see it in the middle of the Campidoglio in Rome. The pedestal was created much later by Michelangelo. No, not the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle; the other one. The artist who made the coin managed to create an interesting 3D-like effect for the tiles that surround the pedestal.
  • 1 euro: the Vitruvian Man, also called "homo ad circulum et quadratum", the famous drawing made by Leonardo da Vinci (still no turtle connection) representing a man inscribed in a circle and a square. If this were a beauty contest, the 1-euro coin would get my vote. I still own my first 1-euro; it has made a condom-like bulge in my wallet. I am slightly embarassed by the fact that the coin is less than an inch wide.
  • 2 euro: the aquiline profile of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet author of the Divine Comedy ("All hope abandon..."). He was born in Florence in 1265, was exiled in 1302 (the fact that he put quite a lot of popes in his Hell might have angered somebody) and died in 1321 in Ravenna. Easily the worst choice of the lot - Dante was quite ugly, even when painted by Raphael. NO, NOT THE TURTLE.
And now for something completely different: "how to recognize different types of Irish euro coins from quite a long way away".

The euro was fully adopted by twelve members of the European Union on January 1st 2002. The currency has proved remarkably robust on the international markets and 36% of foreign exchange transactions involve euros (second only to USD). Whilst the euro has proved stable internationally economic problems within the member countries continue to cause problems, most noticeably for the European Central Bank (ECB) which determines interest rates for the Eurozone.


The adoption of the euro in 2002 followed a period of three years between January 1999 and 2002 when exchange rates between the Eurozone countries were fixed and use of the euro in banking financial markets was introduced. From 1999 debt began to be issued in euros as well. However the planning for a single currency in Europe goes back much further.

L'Europe se fera par la monnaie, ou elle ne se fera pas - Jacques Rueff, 19501
Roughly translated the above says that Europe is about currency (a single one), or nothing at all. Although Rueff was putting forward this view as early as 1950 it wasn't until the Werner Plan in 1970 that the European Economic Community (as it then was) made its first official moves towards economic and monetary union (EMU). Werner had been asked to head a committed investigating the possibilities of EMU by the heads of state of the member countries, a group which no longer included the obstinately anti-integrationist French President Charles De Gaulle. Werner presented a three stage plan which would lead to EMU by 1980. However the oil crisis, the collapse of the Dollar and more pressing economic concerns meant that the Plan was essentially scrapped by 1974 as the European countries channeled all their energy into reining in the high inflation and moving back towards economic stability.

It was in 1979 that EMU worked its way back onto the agenda with the European Monetary System (EMS). The EMS replaced the 'snake in the tunnel' system that had been in place since the collapse of the Bretton-Woods Agreement on exchange rates in 1971. Under the EMS a European wide Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) was introduced. Each country in the EEC (which now also included the UK, Ireland and Denmark) had to keep their currency within +/- 2.25% of the European Currency Unit or ecu. The ecu was a combination currency made up of a basket of all the EEC currencies. Under this system the German central bank, the Bundesbank, essentially controlled European monetary policy.

The next stage towards EMU came in 1989 with the Delors report into the creation of a single currency. The report laid out the final steps that would lead to the EMU and established the institutional framework that would govern it. In 1992 the plan was formally adopted in the Maastricht treaty. The Maastricht convergence criteria specified certain conditions that potential members had to fulfill to join the new currency;

  • Inflation less than 1.5% above the average of the three lowest member states
  • Interest rates no more than 2% above the average of the three lowest inflation member states
  • Current budget deficit of less that 3% of GDP
  • Total public debt of less than 60% of GDP
  • No move from the ERM bands for previous two years
The final condition, keeping within the ERM bands for two years, became a lot less exacting following Black Wednesday. On Black Wednesday the UK and Italy were forced to leave the ERM due to persistent speculation by currency traders. Following this the currency bands were increased to +/- 15% and the ERM became much more flexible.

Finally in 1998 eleven of the fifteen EU member states decided to go ahead with EMU. The UK, Denmark and Sweden negotiated opt-outs and Greece did not meet the convergence criteria. In 2001 Greece joined the eleven in trading in euros on the financial markets having met the criteria. The criteria themselves were somewhat fudged, in 1999 Italy introduced a one off 'euro tax' to bring its budget deficit into line and Belgium, Greece and Italy all still have total public debt of over 100% of GDP. The wording of the criteria was changed to allow countries 'moving in the right direction' to join the euro.

The Ups and Downs of a New Currency

In the first 3 years of the euro the currency lost 30% of its value against the US Dollar. Despite this large fall the euro did not come under any sustained speculation as many had predicted it would. Additionally there was still considerable faith amongst the international financial community in the currency, where its weakness was viewed as an indicator of the comparative strength of the US economy compared to Europe. This faith proved well founded and between 2002 and 2003 the euro rose 50% against the USD as the US budget deficit soared, war on Iraq cost billions of Dollars and the Fed made it clear that a strong Dollar was no longer one of its priorities.

Despite this impressive performance on the FX markets the problems on centrally managing twelve disparate economies are beginning to tell. Germany2, still struggling with the problems caused by unification over a decade ago, and France continue to suffer from high unemployment and very low growth. Meanwhile Greece, Spain and Ireland all continue to experience high levels of growth. The ECB must manage these competing pressures to try and maintain Eurozone inflation at 2%, the stated target level. Germany and France are both clamoring for lower interest rates to stimulate their faltering economies whilst the ECB must be watchful of high inflation in other countries, a situation that would become even worse with the possible addition of the any of the ten new member states that joined in May 1st.

In 2003 both Germany and France managed to avoid sanctions for their continued flouting of the Stability and Growth Pact (SGP). The SGP takes the two Maastricht convergence criteria relating to member state's budgets (budget deficit of 3% and total public debt of less than 60%) and requires their continued observance for all countries within the Eurozone. The Commission began the excessive deficit reporting procedure against France and Germany in 2002 but to little effect. In November 2003 the Commission requested that the Council confirm enforced deficit reductions on France and Germany, the final step before sanctions that can reach 0.5% of GDP. France and Germany persuaded a sufficient number of EU states to back them in refusing to confirm the procedure and so placed the SGP into 'abeyance'. Regardless of the outcome of a legal challenge from the Commission this decision shows that there is still considerable division within Europe over the governance of the euro.

Expansion and a Federal Europe?

Of the three EU countries that had the opportunity to join the euro and didn't only the UK has not had a referendum on the issue (as of May 2004). The public in Sweden and Denmark rejected entry to the Euro although future membership remains on the agenda. In the UK the government is committed to a referendum should Gordon Brown's five tests be met. At the last full assessment in 2003 Brown said the tests were still not met and indicated a similar position in this year's budget. Many in the UK fear that the loss of sovereignty engendered by a single currency would be merely the beginning of a transition to a federal European 'superstate' that would supersede national governments. This battle is currently being fought over the UK's possible acceptance of the European Constitution and as such the euro question has taken a back seat for at least the next two or three years.

Perhaps of more significance for the current Eurozone countries is the possible membership of the some of the new Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) that have joined the EU as of May 1st. These countries represent great possibilities for expansion and growth but they also hold the dangers of inflationary pressures and economic instability.

1 - Jacques Rueff was a French economist and politician who served with various French governments following World War II.
2 - Figures from Eurostat -
  • Germany: GDP growth of 0% in Q4 of 2003 compared to Q4 2002
  • France: GDP growth of 0.6% in Q4 of 2003 compared to Q4 2002
  • Greece: GDP growth of 5% in Q4 of 2003 compared to Q4 2002
  • Ireland: GDP growth of 2.7% in Q4 of 2003 compared to Q4 2002
  • Spain: GDP growth of 2.7% in Q4 of 2003 compared to Q4 2002

The History of the Euro -
BBC News Online: A-Z of Europe -
FX Outlook - EUR/USD at a Crossword, Neils Christensen, Senior Currency Strategist, SG Corporate & Investment Banking -

While each EU country has a unique design for its Euro coins, Euro banknotes ("bills") are identical across Europe.

Each Euro banknote varies in size depending on its demonination. The larger the bill, the larger the size. This system has obvious advantages for blind (or otherwise visually impaired), intoxicated, or rushed cash handlers. It also makes literal the phrase "large bills", which in the United States (and many other countries) refers only to the largeness of the banknote's monetary value.

Below are the dimensions of all seven denominations of Euro banknotes currently in circulation:

  • 5€ banknote: 120 mm x 62 mm
  • 10€ banknote: 127 mm x 67 mm
  • 20€ banknote: 133 mm x 72 mm
  • 50€ banknote: 140 mm x 77 mm
  • 100€ banknote: 147 mm x 82 mm
  • 200€ banknote: 153 mm x 82 mm
  • 500€ banknote: 160 mm x 82 mm


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