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TODAY is an historic day for Europe but a sad one for the 12 currencies which are being replaced by the euro.

They have become strong emblems of the countries and people they served. And they been linked with the most important political events of the last 100 years. Here is their history:


1928 - 2001

SINCE its creation in 1928 the punt's history has been closely linked to its cousin, the British pound.

It was brought in to mark Ireland's independence. But it kept the same name and value as the UK pounds and pence it replaced.

It also retained the same inscription: "One pound sterling payable to the bearer on demand in London," until the early 1960s.

But its design was Irish through and through. The poet WB Yeats was asked to pick an emblem and chose an Irish harp.

The currency was renamed the punt in 1979 when Ireland joined the European Monetary System.


1868 - 2001

THE peseta has always played an active part in its country's chequered history.

Born in 1868, it replaced the peso and was introduced so Spain could join an early financial community - the 1865 Latin Monetary Union - but a fall in silver and gold prices meant that never happened.

During the civil war in the 1930s, the peseta became a symbol of political allegiance, with Republicans and Nationalists having their own version of the peseta and refusing to accept each others.

It was devalued in 1967 after Franco's dictatorship unsettled the economy and sent inflation rates sky-high.


1360 - 2001

ONE of Europe's oldest money systems, it was first known as the "franc a cheval".

The first coin was issued in 1360 during the Hundred Years' War as a ransom to free King John the Good.

It was taken over by Germany during the occupation in the Second World War. The design of coins was also changed to reflect the new regime and Vichy government.

As France was liberated American troops brought new coins with them - minted in Philadelphia - to return the franc to circulation.

It changed again in 1958 when General de Gaulle introduced the nouveau franc worth 100 old ones.


1873 - 2001

LIKE the Spanish peseta, the mark has been at the centre of Germany's political struggles.

Although coins called marks were around in the ninth century, the currency as we know it was formally introduced under Kaiser Wilhelm in 1871.

During the Nazis' rule, swastika-decorated notes were introduced as part of a plan to make them the money of Europe.

After the Second World War two sets of notes were produced to mark the divided country.

There were American-printed deutschmarks for the west and ostmarks for the east - phased out after reunification in 1990.


1832 - 2001

THE arrival of the Belgian franc was a source of great pride.

It marked the country's independence after years of domination by France under Napoleon and then Holland, when the French franc and Dutch guilder were used.

The new currency was based on the French system with coins bearing the image of Belgium's first monarch, King Leopold.

The franc was devalued in 1982 after years of recession in the 1970s.


1848 - 2001

FEW will mourn the end of the Luxembourg franc because not many people know it exists.

It replaced the guilder in 1848 but never had the links with national identity of other currencies.

The franc has been tied to the Belgian one since 1921. They are worth the same and come in the same denominations which in practice means the Belgian version is usually used.

French francs and German marks are also accepted in Luxembourg.



THE schilling replaced the corona as Austria's currency in 1924 following the break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

When Austria became part of Hitler's Third Reich, it was abolished in favour of the reichsmark. But after 1945, the schilling made a decisive comeback.

Austrians have been preparing to say goodbye since last summer when special euro-shaped 50 schilling coins were introduced.


THE markka has symbolised Finland's identity since the times the country was ruled by the Russian tsars

Set aside from the rest of Russia, Finland saw having its own currency as a step on the way to self-rule.

When Finland won independence in 1917, the markka remained an important symbol.

The only blip came in the 1950s when rampant inflation meant a drastic devaluation.



THE escudo replaced the real after the overthrow of the monarchy in 1910.

It lost value in the early days and things came to a head in 1925 when hundreds of thousands of counterfeit notes were distributed in a heist by bank workers.

The escudo joined the Exchange Rate Mechanism in 1992 but has been devalued twice in the past decade. Unsurprisingly 59 per cent are pleased to see the back of it.



WITH roots going back to medieval days, the gilder became Holland's currency in 1816 with the fall of the Napoleonic empire.

It was the first coin to carry an inscription on the rim to stop people filing it for precious metal.

The Nazis ordered all gilders to be given up in 1939 but the exiled Dutch government ignored them and 560million coins were minted in the United States, sent to the UK and distributed in the liberation.



ALTHOUGH the lira was minted in the Middle Ages, it didn't become the national currency until 1860.

Italy's invasion of Ethiopia left a big hole in the country's funds and Italians were urged to give their gold for the fascist cause, generating 400 million lira.

Inflation has been a constant problem and Italians have become used to counting cash in millions.

So it is no surprise that 83 per cent of Italians favour of the euro.



THE drachma dates from the 6th Century BC, but vanished when Greece was regularly conquered.

Greeks started spending the currency as we know it now in 1831, five years after gaining independence from Turkey. But inflation was always a problem.

In 1941, pounds 1 was worth 1,200 drachma. By October 1944 it had spiralled to 1,219 billion.

A new coin was minted equivalent to 50 billion of the old.
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jan 1, 2002
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