On January 4, 1999, eleven European Union (EU) nations—Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain—debuted a new common currency, the euro. Test your knowledge of European currencies that preceded the euro with these trivia questions...
Before the Euro, When Was the Last Time Europe Had a Common Currency? It's been a while, to say the least. Though the European Union had been interested in a common currency since the 1960's, the most recent precedent dates all the way back to the ninth century. Charlemagne, who ruled much of mainland Europe for nearly four decades, instituted a common currency when he declared that one pound of silver should be divided into two-hundred forty pennies. Though the coins were known by different names across Europe, the value was the same everywhere. That enabled traders to buy and sell products to foreign traders without worrying about currency conversions. Charlemagne's silver pennies lasted nearly 400 years before being replaced by more complex currencies. Today, the euro serves very much the same purpose as Charlemagne's pennies: facilitating easier transactions across the EU.
What Three European Union Countries Used the Franc Prior to Adopting the Euro? That would be Belgium, Luxembourg, and of course, France. The franc had been the national currency of France since 1795 (though it was first introduced all the way back in 1360). Belgium adopted the franc in 1832 and Luxembourg followed shortly after in 1848. Switzerland also adopted the franc and today, the Swiss franc is the only one still in use in Europe.
What European Union Countries Elected to Keep Their Own Currencies? Three members of the EU did not elect to adopt the euro: Sweden, Denmark, and Great Britain. All three countries cited the popular opinion of its citizens as a primary motivator for keeping their own currency, however, several other economic reasons—including maintaining control of interest rate policy and fears about transitioning to the euro exchange rate—have also been noted. Prior to the UK's departure from the European Union in 2016, there had been several occasions where it appeared the UK may join the eurozone and convert from the pound sterling. Of course, Brexit brought an end to any possibility of that happening.
What Did Eurozone Member Citizens Do With Their Old Currency? It's believed that over 9 billion banknotes in original currencies were in circulation when euro bills and coins were first introduced in 2002 (the launch on January 4, 1999, was only for trading—no paper currency). While over half of those were turned in before the February 2002 cut-off for exchanging currencies at any eurozone bank, many people held on to the original currency believing it may be worth something as a collectible someday. To be determined whether that's ever the case, but as of 2012, some old currencies can no longer be exchanged at all—even at the European Central Bank.