Many countries, one currency

For kids: It's common 'cents' – these countries share the same currency.

Have any Euros in your pocket – coins, that is? If you have traveled recently to Europe, to any of the 13 member countries of the European Union or a few smaller states that have adopted the currency, perhaps you do. The countries are Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and Spain.

All these nations except Slovenia, which adopted the euro earlier this year, have used the euro as their currency for about five years. It was introduced into circulation Jan. 1, 2002. Instead of all countries having their own coins and bank notes, as they used to, they now share a common currency.

Representatives from the countries worked together on designing the new currency. It was decided that there would be a common side that would be the same on all coins, and a national side that would be specific to each nation. The first common side showed a map of Europe and what the coin is worth. (Beginning this year, the map of Europe was expanded on all coins greater than 5 cents – to be inclusive of new member states.)

For the national side, there were a few rules artists from each country had to follow when creating their designs. First, the national side had to have 12 stars, representing the original 12 EU countries. The other image on the same side could be any of the following:

• Politically/culturally important people.

• Historically important architecture.

• Art, shields, or national symbols/mottoes of the country.

Identifying the different coins or bank notes is like a lesson in European history. This chart gives the subject matter for some of the national designs for the 1 euro coin. Could you have matched the country with the coin?

• Austria Mozart
• Belgium King Albert II
• Finland Two swans flying over a lake
• France Tree representing life and the motto: "Liberté, égalité, fraternité."
• Germany Federal eagle
• Greece Owl – symbol of wisdom
• Ireland The Cláirseach, an Irish harp
• Italy Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man"
• Luxembourg The Grand Duke Henri
• Netherlands Queen Beatrix
• Portugal Seal of King Alfonso Henriques
• Slovenia Primoz Trubar, an author
• Spain King Juan Carlos I

There are eight different denominations of euro coins. To help tell them apart, the coins are minted in three different sizes, are different colors, and have different edges.

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