January 1 – Euro Day

Posted on January 1, 2014


A new kind of money—one that straddles national borders, bringing European countries even closer together—was introduced to the world on this date in 1999 and also in 2002.

On January 1, 1999, the euro was introduced to the world financial market as accounting currency. (There was no paper money or coins at that point.) 

On January 1, 2002, the paper and coin versions of the euro were introduced.

No longer would travelers have to trade in a few marks for a few thousand lire. No longer would they puzzle over a pocketful of centimes, pesetas, and drachmas. The euro makes traveling and trading within the eurozone much, much easier!

(Of course, one of the last times I went to Europe, I traveled from Belgium, which uses the euro, to Britain, which doesn't—which has held onto its own currency, called pounds—and then on to Ireland, which again uses the euro. So things can still be somewhat complicated!)

The euro is the official currency of 17 nations and is used by another 5 nations. With 22 euro-using countries, there are around 334 million Europeans using the euro on a daily basis. The amount of banknotes (paper money) and coins in circulation amount to around 943 billion euros. That is more, even, that the amount of U.S. dollars in circulation.

All U.S. banknotes used to be green,
but now we are finally getting some
colorful variation.
(That may seem like a dumb thing to say, that there are more euro notes and coins in use than there are U.S. dollars. I mean, 22 countries have to use more money than one country, right? But the U.S. dollar is the largest reserve currency in the world and is the most traded currency in the world. It's just that a lot of that trade is numbers going back and forth, into and out of accounts, on the computer—not pieces of paper or disks of metal! Plus, quite a few nations, such as Panama, Ecuador, and Zimbabwe, use U.S. dollars as either their official currency or as their de facto currency.)

Facts about the euro:

  • Each euro is equal to 100 cents.
  • Right now (1/1/2014) the euro is worth $1.38 U.S.
  • France was the first country to produce euro coins, perhaps because France is one of the largest users of cash rather than credit/debit cards and other digital transactions. (In 2000, four out of five transactions in France were still made with cash! Here in Southern California, cash is not so usual. Kids paying less than $2 for a hamburger often use a card rather than cash.)
  • Before adopting the euro in 2000, Greece had used its coin, the silver drachma, for about 2,600 years!
  • Each kind of banknote uses a different color:
    5 euro note – gray
    10 euro note – red
    20 euro note – blue
    50 euro note – orange
    100 euro note – green
    200 euro note – yellow
    500 euro note – purple
  • If you are wondering what color 1 euro notes are – the answer is that there is no such thing. Instead, 1 euro is a coin.
  • The colorful euro bank notes are the same all over Europe, but the euro coins produced in each country are different. (Don't worry! A euro coin produced in Ireland can be used—and is worth just as much—in Spain.) With each nation creating its own coins and 8 different coin denominations per country, there are more than 120 different coins for people to collect!

Check out this website to see the 1 euro coins of various nations. You can use the home page of the Euro Coins website to get to pages displaying all the 2 euro coins, 50 cent coins, all the way down to 1 cent coins.

Also on this date:

New Year's Day (also here and here)

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