Euro production figures

The Eurosystem is responsible for the overall production and distribution of the new euro coins and banknotes, which means that there is a partnership between the ECB and the national central banks. The production of the coins started in May 1998, as a total of 50 billion coins had to be minted across the euro area. Much work was done to ensure that the new coins would meet vending machine standards across all european countries,

Map of European Mints

The European Central Bank is responsible for approving the overall value of coins to be issued. The use of coins varies greatly across the euro area, so each Member State has estimated the number of coins it needs and justified that figure to the European Central Bank, which has authorised the appropriate level of production. The coins were minted in several of the participating countries, many using blanks produced at Birmingham Mint, Birmingham, England.

Breakdown of the 50 billion euro coins between the 12 countries Breakdown of euro coins by denomination

The following coins, in terms of number and value, were circulating on 30 April 2007

Denomination Circulation (pieces) Value (in euros)
Total 71,295,000,000 18,192,000,000
2 euros 3,586,000,000 7,171,000,000
1 euro 5,361,000,000 5,361,000,000
50 cent 4,469,000,000 2,234,500,000
20 cent 7,428,000,000 1,486,000,000
10 cent 9,333,000,000 933,000,000
5 cent 11,525,000,000 576,000,000
2 cent 13,363,000,000 267,000,000
1 cent 16,230,000,000 163,000,000

What happened to the replaced coins in the Eurozone? Although a pocketful of centimes or pfennigs won't get you far in Europe today, in China they might just be worth their weight in nickel. Such is China's voracious appetite for raw materials to feed its rapidly growing economy, that the country is snapping up the obsolete coins and melting them down for their metal content. The Asian giant, with booming construction and automobile sectors, is scouring the globe for every piece of scrap metal it can lay its hands on -- and France is one country that has a ready supply of much-sought-after nickel-containing coins. China's stainless steel demand is predicted to rise to four million tonnes next year from 3.4 million in 2003, and nickel is a key component of the medal. It is also very versatile and also finds its way into cars, appliances and kitchenware.

Coins devoured

An official at France's mint told Reuters China had been a major buyer of French coins since they were replaced by euros as the country's legal tender almost two years ago. He said the mint had not auctioned its coins directly. Instead, it sold them to dealers, some of whom in turn sell to smelters and scrap metal traders. The old 50-centime coin, almost 100 percent nickel, is proving particularly popular in China, where it is bought as scrap to supplement tight supplies of the main raw material, refined nickel. The shipments are usually packed 500 to 1,000 tonnes per lot and the stainless steel producers can just put the coins into their furnaces as nickel feed.

Even collectors' items have found their way into Chinese furnaces. "We sell special commemorative coins to various shops, which have then sold some of this stock to the Chinese," said the French mint official. Christian de Barrin, spokesman for the Brussels-based European Copper Institute (ECI), estimated around 260,000 tonnes of old European coins would be recycled by 2005. Germany, the region's largest coin user, had almost 79,000 tonnes of old marks and pfennig coins. But like most other EU countries, it sold most within 18 months of the euro's launch. France had around 43,000 tonnes of old coins and still retains a large portion of this total, the ECI said.

Nickel demand

Secondary copper producers Norddeutsche Affinerie AG of Germany and Elmet of Spain were the two main companies involved in recycling old European coins, said the ECI. De Barrin said the 260,000 tonnes of old coins would yield around 150,000 tonnes of copper, 54,000 tonnes of steel and 43,000 tonnes of nickel. "The old (French) 50-centime coin contained 100 percent nickel, whereas the five-, 10- and 20-centime coins contained 92 percent copper," he said. China only has its eye on the nickel, which is used as an anti-corrosive additive in stainless steel production. Chinese traders saw the nickel contained in coin scrap being offered to China at a discount of two to three percent on the London Metal Exchange (LME) cash settlement price.

But Chinese demand for copper-rich coins is much weaker, the traders said. These coins contain only eight percent aluminium and nickel, and separating these metals from the copper is a difficult and expensive process, they said. Secondary copper smelters in China prefer to import other grades of copper scrap, which are easier to process and relatively cheap, the traders said.