Time of Opportunity
Volume 39, Number 6, June 2002
MANY sceptics were unprepared for the positive way in which the people of Europe embraced the introduction of their new coinage in January this year. The change-over went almost without a hitch and everyday transactions, far from being more complicated by the euro, have become simplicity itself. Even older members of the population have taken to the new international coinage, unlike the problems Britain experienced in 1968–70 when we changed to the decimal system and many elderly men and women became completely confused. The cry for the UK to join the Eurozone is daily becoming louder and whatever we as individuals feel about it, it would seem that it is only a matter of time . . . most Britons returning from their European holidays tell of the interest amongst the man in the street in their new coinage and children and collectors vie with each other to see how many different countries’ coins they can find in any given period. It is surprising just how quickly the coins of the various countries have travelled—whilst at the Paper Money Show in Valkenburg last month the COIN NEWS team alone came across euros from eight different countries, including, amazingly, a 5 eurocent from Finland—which is relatively rare as that country is believed not to be issuing the lower denominations for general circulation. The euro has undoubtedly simplified travel within Europe and hopefully it will not have a detrimental effect on trade by feeding inflation—as many maintain that decimalisation did when items in shops were rounded up rather than down. Apparently there is a special commission in Europe whose sole responsibility is to oversee that this type of problem does not occur (it’s a pity Britain did not appoint a similar body in 1970!). Looking back over the past few years it is interesting to recall the many “ecu” patterns and trial pieces produced by various entrepreneurs as well as official bodies across Europe and it is fascinating to reflect on the amount of time and effort, not to mention money, that was spent on preparing for the birth of a brand new coinage. When it came, the final design of the common obverse by Luc Luycx, incorporating the map of Europe, was certainly suitable and was widely hailed as the best image to portray a united Europe. The decision to have national reverses, of course, was the final master stroke. Now where do we go from here? Whilst many hitherto eurocoin sceptics now agree that we should “go in” and the Government are already making plans, can we really continue to stay aloof—but that is for the politicians to decide not coin collectors, alas! Assuming we do adopt the euro, surely it must be acknowledged by even the most hardened republican that HM the Queen would have to grace our “national” reverses, but do we want to admit that we are geographically joined to Europe as well? Many would think not and would probably be happier with a different obverse. To this end we applaud the International Numismatic Agency for producing what must surely be a brave, if not brazen, attempt at pleasing “all of the people all of the time” with their patterns for a set of British euro coins announced this month. Their innovative designs, by renowned British sculptor Donald R. Golder, carry Her Majesty’s portrait on the reverse as expected, but the obverse designs depict symbols befitting a united Europe—the 1 and 2 euro feature a sailing ship (the Santa Maria) representing trade, commerce and the discovery of the new worlds, the 50, 20 and 10 eurocents carry a stylised dove and olive branch symbolising peace and the expectation that Europe will play a pivotal role in the achievement of stability in the world, whilst the scales of justice appear on the 5, 2 and 1 eurocent coins. However, the 5 euro coin is typically British with a new version of Britannia standing, with a globe and the famous Cutty Sark. Although the next few months will be an interesting time for the politicians and the financial world, it will undoubtedly continue to be a period of unmatched opportunities for the numismatist who intends to keep up with developments.
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