VIEW FROM EUROPE
Sebastian Wieschowski looks back on 2020, the 18th anniversary of the Euro
There were few celebrations or reasons to be cheerful in 2020, but numismatists on the Continent will have given a nod to the eighteenth birthday of Europe’s single currency, as Sebastian Wieschowski explains
The year 2020 has a special meaning for coin collectors in Europe: this is the year in which the Euro as a coin was about to celebrate its ‘coming of age’. Eighteen years ago, the era of the common European currency began in wallets and purses throughout Europe, after the Euro had already been introduced as book money in 1999.
While people all over Europe had to get used to new prices and say goodbye to their beloved currencies, such as the
German Mark, the Franc, or the Lira, the introduction of the Euro brought about a renaissance in numismatics. And the eighteenth year of the Euro was to be celebrated in style… until Corona ruined the anniversary year of European numismatics. The pandemic did not spare numismatics. Countries such as Germany had to withdraw their commemorative coins for planned major events such as the European Soccer Championship: ;If the UEFA Championship takes place in 2021, it will probably be honoured with a new coin,’ the Federal Ministry of Finance announced back in April.
The design of the coin was already known, it was designed by Thomas Serres from Hattingen and Erich Ott from Munich and showed a stylized soccer ball with the inscriptions of all the venues of the tournament. The new release date is now 10 June 2021. Part of the edition had already been produced in the Hamburg Mint and had to be melted down again.
Thanks to the cancellation of the football, 2020 was the first year in which only four silver coins with a face value of €20 were issued. Collectors had to live without an issue from the Hamburg Mint with the mint mark ‘J’.
Also, the second issue of the polymer series ‘In The Air’, which was supposed to be issued in March, was postponed indefinitely, as was the silver coin with a colour application for the 300th birthday of Baron von Münchhausen.
Coin collectors, however, do not have to go without the European Championships in their collection. Spain had already minted its commemorative coins in the spring and put them on sale. Variants in gold with a face value of €100 and silver with a face value of €10 are available. While the gold coin shows the San Mamés stadium in Bilbao, the silver coin shows a duel scene.
The coins were also minted in Portugal, and a commemorative coin with a face value of €2.50, and a circulation of 20,000 pieces has been available on the market since the beginning of November. The issuing programs of many countries were massively cut back given the Europe-wide restrictions on everyday life and an interim shortage on the gold and silver market. Latvia issued only two commemorative coins in 2020, half as many as in the previous year. Spain presented only six different coin designs for 2020 after a total of sixteen different commemorative coins were put on sale in 2019. While a large part of the Spanish minting program for the year 2020 was cancelled, a coin with the motto ‘Gracias’ was minted at short notice with a face value of €30 as a thank you to the country’s key workers.
Coin collectors in Europe also had to reorient themselves with regard to beloved rituals. Long queues in front of the issue desk of the Austrian Mint in the heart of Vienna were not compatible with social distancing rules. Coin fairs had to be cancelled and are in the process of reinventing themselves. In autumn, the Sberatel fair in Prague dared to take a cautious step back to normality, but the feedback from dealers and visitors was reserved, a fair with face masks is no fun after all, and a greatly reduced number of visitors threatens the commercial success. It is eagerly awaited what the fiftieth edition of the World Money Fair will look like; the event in Berlin has been cancelled and there will be a virtual alternative.
While the European economy has suffered massively from the lockdowns and the reluctance of the population to consume in 2020, coin dealers in Europe are reporting pleasingly stable business; its seems the forced break in public life has allowed people to devote themselves to hobbies they can enjoy within their own four walls. And because most dealers have long since discovered the internet as a distribution channel, they have been able to provide their loyal customers with rare treasures for their collections even over long distances. As the Euro starts its nineteenth year, perhaps the world of coins isn’t quite so bad after all.
Coin dealers in Europe are reporting pleasingly stable business… the forced break has allowed us to devote ourselves to hobbies we can enjoy at home