In 1999, the euro was born. In 2002, notes and coins entered circulation and began to replace the former currencies. After being ravaged by war in the 20th century, the euro became a symbol of peace and unity on the continent alongside the European Union. In replacing the old European currencies, the individual currencies were integrated and the euro is the ultimate symbol of integration and harmony.
Country used: Austria
Symbol/Abbreviation: S or öS
The first Austrian Schilling was used from 1925 to 1938. It was abolished after Austria was annexed by Nazi Germany on March 12th, 1938. After World War Two, the second Austrian Schilling re-entered circulation from 1945 to 1999.
The banknotes included portraits of an array of people, including Sigmund Freud, Mozart, and Rosa Mayreder.
Country used: Belgium
Symbol/ Abbreviation: fr.
Belgium has seen a few different currencies throughout history. First, the kronenthaler was replaced by the French franc during the Napoleonic era. Then, the franc was replaced by the Dutch guilder after the formation of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. After Belgium gained independence from the Netherlands in 1832, it adopted its own franc which lasted until the euro replaced it in 2002.
Country used: Cyprus
Symbol/ Abbreviation: £
The Cypriot pound was officially replaced by the euro on January 1st, 2008. It was quickly grandfathered out by the end of the month with the help of a free and fast exchange rate. The Cyprus pound was introduced by the British in 1879. It was a controversial introduction since Cyprus still belonged to the Ottoman Empire at the time. However, the Turkish lira was still used in conjunction with the pound (and is still commonly used).
The banknotes didn’t portray political or royal figures. Rather, they depicted Roman gods like Artemis and Aphrodite, sculptures, pottery, and thematic images.
Country used: Netherlands
Symbol/Abbreviation: ƒ or fl.
The Dutch guilder began circulating in 1680 and lasted until the Napoleonic Wars where it was replaced with the franc from 1810 to 1814. The guilder was recirculated afterwards until the euro replaced it. From 1999 to 2002, the guilder was an official subunit of the euro before being taken out of circulation in 2002. The term “guilder” means “gold” in Dutch.
Country used: Estonia
The Estonian kroon was the official currency of Estonia from 1928 to 1940 and again from 1992 to 2011. After 1940, the kroon was exchanged for the Soviet Ruble. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the kroon was reintroduced. The euro was introduced in Estonia on January 1st 2011. For two weeks, the kroon and euro circulated together.
Country used: Finland
The Finnish Markka was introduced in 1860 to replace the Russian ruble. It was the official currency of Finland until February 28th, 2002 when the euro replaced it.
The banknotes didn’t feature politicians or royals. Rather, the banknotes celebrated accomplished Finns like Paavo Nurmi (an Olympic athlete) and Mikael Agricola (a priest and linguist).
Country used: France
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₣, F or FF
The franc was officially established as the national currency of France in 1795 but franc coins date back to 1360. The coinage underwent several changes throughout history. Metallic coins were taken out of circulation and replaced with bonds during the Republic in order to pay foreign soldiers and colonists in North America. Coins were rare until the economy was so poor and citizens so frustrated that a coup ensued. In 1803 new gold coins were made and circulated until 1914. With the commencement of World War One, gold coins became too expensive to produce. The coins then changed to a nickel base and later an aluminum base. The euro officially replaced the franc on January 1st, 1999.
Country used: Germany
The Deutsche mark was the official currency of West Germany from 1948 until 1990. It was the official currency of the unified Germany from 1990 until 1999 when it was replaced by the euro. Mark banknotes and coins remained in circulation alongside the euro until January 1st, 2002. It was first issued in 1948 under Allied occupation.
The banknotes featured prominent Germans in vibrant colours. The portraits were split a perfect 50-50 between men and women.
Country used: Greece
Symbol/Abbreviation l: Δρχ., Δρ. or ₯
The Greek drachma was used in Greece for ten centuries! It was used throughout the Archaic period, the Classical period, and the Hellenistic period up until the Roman period. In the fifth century, the drachma was possibly the most widely used currency in the world. The phoenix briefly replaced the drachma from 1828 to 1832 but it was reinstated in May 1832.The euro began circulating in 2002 and became the official currency in January.
Country used: Ireland
Symbol/Abbreviation: £ or IR£
Irish currency goes back to the year 997. In those early years, the Irish pound was exchanged on par with the pound sterling. In 1801, Ireland joined the United Kingdom, however, the Irish pound continued to circulate until January 1826 when it was officially merged with the pound sterling. The Irish pound circulated in conjunction with the euro from 1999 until 2002.
Country used: Italy
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₤, L. or LIT
The Italian lira was the official currency of Italy from 1861 to 2002. Additionally, it was briefly the official currency of the Albanian Kingdom from 1941 to 1943. From 1999 to 2003 it was a national subunit of the euro.
The banknotes featured several interesting Italians, including Maria Montessori and the painter Raphael.
Country used: Latvia
The official currency of Latvia was the lats. Introduced in 1922, the lats replaced the Latvian rublis until 1940. After being occupied by the USSR, the lats was replaced by the Soviet ruble until the fall of the USSR. The lats was reintroduced on March 5th,1993, but was officially replaced by the euro on January 1st, 2014, with a two week transition period.
Country used: Lithuania
The word “lita” was modelled after the country name and became the official currency of Lithuania on October 2nd, 1922 after World War One. It replaced the ostmark and ostruble – the two currencies introduced by the occupying German forces. On March 23rd, 1939, Germany once again annexed the Memel territory and instated the reichsmark as the official currency. The Soviet ruble was then introduced in April 1941 after Lithuania was seized by the Soviet Union. Finally, after the fall of the Soviet Union, the litas became the official currency on June 25th, 1993. The euro replaced the litas just over a decade later in January 2015.
Country used: Luxembourg
Symbol/Abbreviation: fr. Or F
The Luxembourgish franc was the official currency of Luxembourg from 1854 to 1999. However, from 1941 to 1944, during the Nazi Occupation, the only legal tender in Luxembourg was the German reichsmark. From 1999 to 2002, the franc was a subdivision of the euro but was ultimately replaced in January 2002.
Country used: Malta
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₤ or Lm
The lira was the official currency of Malta from 1825 until it was replaced by the euro on January 1st, 2008. Since the lira was a denomination of the British pound, the banknotes were in English with some Maltese on the obverse side until 1972. The banknotes were rather patriotic, featuring maps of Malta, monuments, the declaration of rights, and other landmarks in Maltese culture and history.
Country used: Principality of Monaco
Symbol/Abbbreviation: fr, F
The Monégasque franc was the official currency of Monaco until it was replaced by the French franc in 1995. In addition to Monaco, the Monégasque franc was also legal tender in France and Andorra. It was subdivided into centimes or ten décimes.
The Monégasque franc was divided into 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 5, 10, 20 franc coins. The banknotes were issued in varrying colour schemes.
Country used: Portugal
Escudo gold coins were first introduced in 1722. The escudo was the official currency of Portugal from May 22nd, 1922 until the euro replaced it in 1999. The escudo is one of the few currencies that thrived during World War Two. Nazi Germany wanted escudos to make purchases and for acquisitions in Portugal and other neutral nations. Therefore, the escudo’s value actually inflated during that time, unlike most other currencies that deflated in value or were replaced altogether.
Country used: San Marino
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₤, £ or L
The Sammarinese lira was the official currency of San Marino from the 1860’s until 1992 when it was replaced by the Italian Lira. In addition to the Sammarinese lira, Italian banknotes and Vatican City coins were also legal tender in San Marino. Likewise, lire were legal tender throughout Italy and Vatican City.
Coins were issued in denominations of 5, 10, and 50 centesimi and 1, 2, 5, 20. 50, 100. and 500 lire. The first coins issued in 1864 were copper and were changed to silver in 1931.
Country used: Slovakia
The Slovak koruna (crown) was the official currency of Slovakia for two periods of time: throughout World War Two and again from 1993 until the end of 2008 (when it was replaced by the euro). Slovakia flipped back and forth between the Slovak koruna and the Czechoslovak koruna.
The Slovak koruna banknotes were often religious in theme and portrayed several different priests, churches, and saints.
Country used: Slovenia
The tolar was the official currency of Slovenia from October 8th, 1991 until the euro replaced in in January 2007. The tolar had replaced the Yugoslav dinar. The word “tolar” comes from “Thaler” which is associated with the English word “dollar”.
The coins came in denominations of 10, 20, and 50 stotinov and 1, 2, and 5 tolars. The coins had a strong nature theme and featured mostly animals like an owl, honey bee, and horse.
Country used: Spain
The peseta replaced the escudo and became the official currency of Spain in 1869 after Spain joined the Latin Monetary Union. It was circulated alongside the French franc and was also used in Andorra.
It is believed that just before the conversion to the euro, large amounts of peseta were used in money-laundering schemes by mafia and criminals. Therefore, tons of pesetas have not been exchanged. The Spanish Central Bank will continue to exchange pesetas until the end of 2020.
Country used: Vatican City
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₤, L
When the State of the Vatican City was established in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty and with it, a distinct coinage was introduced. The Catical Lira was the official currency of Vatican city from 1929 to 2002 until the euro replaced it.
The Vatican Lira was introduced on par with the Italian lira and came in denominations of centesimi and lire. Italian coins and banknotes were still legal tender in Vatican City and the Vatican coins were minted in Rome.
European Currency Unit
Symbol/Abbreviation: ₠, ECU or XEU
The European Currency Unit was introduced on March 13th, 1979 and was the unit of account for the European Community, meaning it was used to gauge the exchange rates and reserves between members of the European Monetary System on a common ground. The euro replaced it in 1999.
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