Euro Makes Its Debut

Euro coins and notes debuted on January 2, 2002. Read this article to learn more about the new European currency.
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Common currency adopted in Europe

by David Johnson

The Euro

On January 2, 2002, the new European currency, the euro, became official in 12 countries, known as the eurozone. The original currencies were no longer accepted in transactions after Feb. 28, 2002.

The 12 nations that adopted the euro are: Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain. With a population of slightly more than 300 million people, the eurozone became one huge market.

The euro countries all belong to the political organization, the European Union (EU). Denmark, United Kingdom, and Sweden have not adopted the euro, although they may do so in the future.

New Members Join

Cyprus, The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the EU in 2004. The former Communist nations with weak economies and high inflation welcomed EU membership since it brought easy access to western European markets. Joining the eurozone also made it easier for rich countries, such as Germany, to invest in Eastern Europe. Andorra, Kosovo, Montenegro, Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican City also use the euro as their official currencies, but they are not members of the European Union.

The Euro Denominations

The euro is available in seven different bills and eight separate coins. The bills are available in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euro denominations.

The coins are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 euro cents, and 1 and 2 euro denominations. Nations may change the term "cent" if they wish, and call the new coins by the names of earlier currency. It is likely the Germans will call their coins "euro-pfennigs" and the French will refer to theirs as "euro-centimes."

While all the coins will have the same front, each country will putting national symbols on the back of those coins minted in that country. Regardless of what they are called in each nation and what symbols they display, the coins will be interchangeable. Coins minted in different countries may differ minutely in size.

The Euro's Value

The euro fluctuates against the dollar, the Japanese yen, and other major currencies. But it has a fixed value against the currencies it replaced. People turning in German marks, for example, received a fixed number of euros. By keeping the exchange rates stable, currency speculation, and its potential for destabilizing a nation's economy, was avoided.

Where the Euro Is Official Currency
Euro Conversion Rates
Eurozone Members—Previous Currency

Germany— mark
Ireland—punt (or pound)
The Netherlands—guilder

Other Sovereign European Nations:

Andorra—Andorran peseta and Andorran franc
Monaco—French franc
San Marino—Italian lira
The Vatican—Italian lira

Sections of Serbia:

Kosovo—German mark
Montenegro—German mark

French Overseas Territories:

French Guiana—French franc
Guadeloupe—French franc
Martinique—French franc
Reunion Island—French franc
One euro is equal to:

13.7603—Austrian schillings
40.3399—Belgian francs
5.94573—Finnish markkaa
6.55957—French francs
1.95583—German marks
340.750—Greek drachmas
0.787564—Irish pounds
1936.2—Italian lira
40.3399—Luxembourg francs
2.20371—Dutch guilders
166.386—Spanish pesetas
200.482—Portuguese escudos
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