The euro (sign: €; code: EUR) is the official currency of the European Union (EU), and is currently in use in 16 of the 27 Member States.
There are eight euro coins, ranging in value from one cent to two euros (each euro is divided into a hundred cents). The coins first came into use in 2002. They have a common reverse, portraying a map of Europe, but each country in the eurozone has its own design on the obverse, which means that each coin has a variety of different designs in circulation at once. Three European microstates which use the euro as their currency also have the right to mint coins with their own designs on the obverse side.
The coins, and various commemorative coins, are minted at numerous national mints across the European Union to strict national quotas. Obverse designs are chosen nationally, while the reverse and the currency as a whole is managed by the European Central Bank (ECB).1999–2006 design
The original designs of the 10-, 20-, and 50-cent coins showed the outline of each of the EU-15 member states. This meant that each state was shown as separate from the others, though, thus giving Europe an appearance of being formed of many islands. EU members which were not part of the Eurozone (the United Kingdom, Sweden, and Denmark) were also depicted.
On the €1 and €2 coins, the landmass appeared more cohesive although borders were indicated. The vertical ridges also passed through some non-participating countries. As in current issues, all coins featured 12 stars in their design.
The year featured in the coins can date back to 1999, when the currency was formally established (only on French, Spanish, Belgian, Finnish and Dutch coins print 1999). These countries traditionally put on the coin the year when it was minted rather than the year in which it was put into circulation.Current design
In 2007, a new design was introduced to reflect the enlargement in 2004. The design still retains all elements of the original designs, including the twelve stars, however the map of the fifteen states is replaced by one showing the whole of Europe ‘as a continent’ without borders. The vertical ridges only appear over the ‘sea’.
Cyprus is shown several hundred kilometres north west of its real position in order to include it on the map. On the €1 and €2 coins, the island is shown to be directly east of mainland Greece; on the 10-, 20-, and 50-cent coins, it appears directly below Crete. The original proposal from the European Commission was to include Turkey on the map, however this design was rejected by Council. This was seen as a political snub by the Council to Turkey’s EU membership ambitions.
The first issue of these coins were minted in 2006, by the Mint of Finland, for the Slovenian euro coins. These coins came into circulation in 2007 and will be compulsory for existing members to issue from 2008 onwards. The one-, two-, and five-cent coins remained unchanged, with the Commission stating that they remained unaffected as they show Europe’s place in the world, even though the EU 15 are still highlighted on the map. It is unknown how soon Iceland would be added to the map if it becomes an EU member in the next few years.National sides
The obverse side varies from state to state, with each member allowed to choose their own design. Each of the eight coins can have the same design (such as Belgian coins), or can vary from each coin (such as Italian coins). In monarchies, the national side usually features a portrait of the country’s monarch, often in a design carried over from the former currency (such as Belgian coins). Republics tend to feature national monuments, symbols, or stylised designs (such as French coins). Engravings on the edge of the €2 coin are also subject to national choice.
There are, however, some restrictions on the design: it must include twelve stars, the engraver’s initials, and the year of issue. New issues must also include the name of the issuing country. It can’t repeat the denomination of the coin or the word euro unless it is in a different alphabet (such as on Greek coins). The national side is also restricted from changing until the end of 2008, unless a monarch depicted on a coin dies or abdicates (such as in the case of the Vatican’s coins). Following 2004, states could also produce one €2 commemorative coin a year in limited numbers.