Although nowadays we increasingly use bank cards and mobile phones to make payments, we still carry those little bits of metal invented over 2,500 years ago. Coins, like notes (which started out as paper substitutes for metal currency), are still useful in everyday life and an essential part of the identity of modern states and their alliances.
Since 2002, the euro has been the currency of 19 of the 27 member-states of the European Union. This “single currency”, tangible proof of European integration, was planned and debated for over 40 years prior to its introduction.
The design of the notes, with bridges, windows and doors that convey a message of openness and cooperation, is the same throughout the union. However, the coins have one side common to all members—the map of Europe with the face value—and another determined by each issuing country. As a result, euro coins can depict everything from national motifs, representing the systems of government and symbols of each state, to European cultural milestones.
Take a look at the euros in your pocket. Most are probably Spanish, but sometimes your change will include pieces brought by travellers from other countries. In addition to the legends, images and year of production, you will see a mark indicating the city where the coin was minted: in the case of Spain, a small crowned M for Madrid.