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At last they're here! Today, December 14, 2001, nine years after the Maastricht Treaty,

I have euro coins in my hand!

Dozens of euro coins in my small hands! Right now they're on my desk since I'm typing this writeup.

                1 cent,
2 cents,
5 cents (small red copper-covered coins),
10 cents,
20 cents,
50 cents (middle-sized yellow coins),
1 euro,
2 euros (heavy bimetallic coins).

My entire fortune in euros amounts to 15.24 euros! I never had so many euros in my hand! Well, I never had any euro at all until now.

Why do I have euros two weeks before they become legal? Because they're beginning to sell small euro bags today in post offices and tobacco shops. Actually only tobacco shops are selling them because post offices have gone on strike. I forgot to mention it: I'm in France.

Of course we cannot use them until January 1st. But it still makes a difference to be able to touch them. The new currency is becoming real.

My 40 coins are nothing compared to the incredible amount of coins that are being produced in Europe: about 56 billion euro coins! 250,000 tons of coins!

The coins are rather nice. Their size, shape and edge have been designed to make the life of blind people easier. This is not different from existing French coins, which I can already recognize in my pocket with my fingers. The two colors, white and yellow, of the bimetallic coins (1 and 2 euros) are not as different as they look like on Web sites which present them.

An interesting feature of the coins is that they have a country-specific face. You could buy a porno magazine and receive the change with coins from Vatican. So after a few months, I guess everybody will have Italian, German, French, Spanish, Greek coins in their hands and be able to use them to buy their bread or beer. The percentage of international coins in any given country will indicate how much people travel in the European Union. French coins display a tree on 1- and 2-euro coins, a sower woman on 10- to 50-cent coins (she's already portrayed on Francs coins) and another woman's face on 1- to 5-cent coins, along with the "RF" initials ("République Française"). Women have always been associated with the Republic here, although none of them has ever had an important role in macho French politics.

There is just one problem with euro coins. Apparently 2-euro coins look just like Thai 10-baht coins, so that you can use Thai coins in European vending machines after January 1st. 10 bahts are worth only 0.25 euros. The machines will probably be updated in the future.

In case you want to make your own coins, here are the technical specifications:

Face Value        Diameter         Thickness     Weight

2 euro            25.75mm          2.20mm        8.5g
Shape: Round
Colour: Ext. part: White; Int. Part: Yellow
Composition: Copper-nickel (Cu75Ni25); Three-layer Nickel-brass/Nickel/Nickel-brass CuZn20Ni5/Ni12/CuZn20Ni5
Edge: Edge lettering; Fine milled

1 euro            23.25mm          2.33mm        7.5g 
Shape: Round
Colour: Ext. part: Yellow; Int. Part: White
Composition: Nickel-brass (CuZn20Ni5); Three-layer Cu75Ni25/Ni7/Cu75Ni25
Edge: Interrupted; Milled

0.50 euro         24.25mm          2.38mm        7.8g
Shape: Round
Colour: Yellow
Composition: Nordic Gold Cu89A15Zn5 Sn1
Edge: Shaped edge with fine scallops

0.20 euro         22.25mm          2.14mm        5.74g 
Shape: "Spanish Flower" shape
Colour: Yellow
Composition: Nordic Gold Cu89A15Zn5 Sn1
Edge: Plain

0.10 euro         19.75mm          1.93mm        4.10g 
Shape: Round
Colour: Yellow
Composition: Nordic Gold Cu89A15Zn5 Sn1
Edge: Shaped edge with fine scallops

0.05 euro         21.25mm          1.67mm        3.92g 
Shape: Round
Colour: Red
Composition: Copper Covered Steel
Edge: Smooth

0.02 euro         18.75mm          1.67mm        3.06g 
Shape: Round
Colour: Red
Composition: Copper Covered Steel
Edge: Smooth with a groove

0.01 euro         16.25mm          1.67mm        2.30g
Shape: Round
Colour: Red
Composition: Copper Covered Steel
Edge: Smooth

(The values relating to thickness are of an indicative nature)

Technical specifications: http://www.emuaware.forfas.ie/what/notecoin.html
If you want to see what the coins look like: http://www.bcibank.ca/euro/english/notes.htm

Update, 2002/02/19: during the first 50 days of euro, I had:

  • 1 Belgian coin
  • 3 Spanish coins
  • 1 German coin
  • 1 Italian coin

I expect to obtain more foreign coins once the tourist start invading Paris in May or June. But should I say "foreign"? I don't really see Belgium or Spain as foreign countries.

baht-euro confusion

One of the more amusing pieces of fallout observed in early 2002 from the conversion of the European Union to the euro for real-world transactions was the discovery that many European vending machines were prone to confusing less-valuable coins from Thailand with the 2 euro coin.

The 10-baht coin has the same weight (8.5 grams) and very nearly the same dimensions as the 2 piece (the baht is 0.25 mm thicker). Both coins are bi-metallic, with a gold-colored center and a silver-colored outer ring. The result was that many vending machines could not distinguish between the two coins. Bad news for vending machine operators- the 2 euro coin is worth 8 times as much as the 10 baht coin! More advanced vending machines- capable of judging metallic content- are able to tell the two apart, but many other machines required refitting (often only a software update), or had to be replaced.

The problem first appeared in Spain, but later spread as enterprising world travelers discovered that they could turn a nice profit by using left-over 10-baht coins in unsuspecting European vending machines. The problem was quickly resolved by vending machine operators eager not to loose money on underhanded currency conversions, and was expected to dissapear by the end of 2002.

(For reference, as of April 2002 1&euro = aprox. 38.5 baht, and 10 baht = 0.26&euro)

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