We don't have to miss out
Volume 40, Number 1, January 2003
It has been a year since the bold experiment of the single currency became a reality for the millions of people living in the so-called “Euro-Zone” an experiment that has both failed and succeeded just as both side predicted it would. For travellers and holiday makers the ease of transition from one country to the next makes the whole thing worthwhile in itself, in business transactions are done far more quickly and easily than ever before and suddenly Europe seems like a smaller, friendlier place. At the same time prices are beginning to escalate, reports of rises of up to 20% have been reported in some countries, and the economic prosperity of certain countries is now inextricably linked to others in a way that is making all but the most optimistic jittery. As Germany’s jobless figures creep up, Ireland’s house prices rocket and Greece’s inflation begins to climb those caught in the middle wonder how they will fare. It still remains to be seen whether the UK will jump on board but with the Treasury now running a specialist department called “Euro Preparations” and sending out communiqués to businesses telling them how wonderful the new currency is it seems somewhat inevitable that, at some point, we will! All of this is of course politics, and as a rule politics is of no real interest to us as numismatists, however this is different, this is something that does interest us as the decision to move into the Euro Zone is one that is likely to stimulate our hobby in a way that nothing has since decimalisation. Back then of course we were all looking for the old coins, the rare coins, the coins that would no longer be around after 1971- with the Euro the opposite is true. We won’t be hunting for certain £1 coins before they disappear forever, the modern 5p will gladly be consigned to history and even the £2 coin with the necklace will be no more sought after than it already is (and it’s still only worth £2) no if we are to go Euro it will be the new coins that are the collected ones, not the old. Already, across Europe we have seen a huge surge in the popularity of coin collecting as both children and adults check their change for coins of different countries, and for different mintmarks on those coins. Even I found myself doing it when in Europe recently, looking to see where the coins I had been given were from, wondering how far their owners had travelled. I found myself searching for certain countries, frustrated that I kept coming up against the same designs time and again and one wonders how long it will be before children in playgrounds up and down the countries of the continent will devise their own games – maybe swapping two German Euros (they seem to get everywhere) for one Greek or maybe 50c from Monaco – whole economies could soon be based on the perceived worth of the coins in circulation, Greece with it’s beautifully designed pieces could find itself in a stronger position than Germany with its very Teutonic Euro reverses simply by dint of the fact that it’s coins seem scarcer across the rest of the Euro Zone! If this follows then British Euros will be eagerly sought after everywhere bar perhaps Spain and Greece - where they will be more numerous than the local variety! It remains to be seen what coins would be popular over here but with our track record with most of Europe (we have tended to treat every one as our enemy at some point in recent history, either on the battlefield or the football field) there are no obvious candidates for the title of “most coveted country” to have in the average schoolboy’s collection. However it is the fact that there will once again be schoolboy (and girl) collectors that is important, coin collecting in this country might well be going through something of a renaissance at the moment but that may not last forever and it is always good to see new collectors coming up through the ranks - even if we as a country do not join the Euro zone, package holidays, cheap flights, the channel tunnel et al mean that we do not have to miss out on this new collecting craze and hopefully this will once again lead to our hobby being as popular over here as it is becoming “over there”.
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