Luc Luycx of the Royal Belgian Mint won a Europe-wide competition to design the common side of the coins.
One euro is made up of 100 cents. Coins are minted in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros. Milled edges make it easier for the visually impaired to recognise different coin values. The three lowest value (and smallest) coins are made of copper-covered steel. The 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins are ‘Nordic gold’ and the 1- and 2-euro coins use a sophisticated bi-metal technology which helps prevent counterfeiting.
Luc Luycx’s winning designs show three different maps of Europe, with a background made up of the twelve stars of the European Union. The map on the 1-, 2- and 5-cent coins depicts Europe in relation to the rest of the world. The map on the other coins represents Europe as a geographical whole. This is the result of an update decided in 2005 in order to reflect the enlargement of the EU in 2004. Coins produced prior to 2008 only show the 15-member EU.
Each of the euro-area countries uses familiar or traditional motifs and icons for the design of the national sides of their coins. For example, Irish coins show the same harp design and lettering found on its coinage before adopting the euro, while Belgian coins bear a profile of King Philippe. Some countries have a different design for each coin denomination; others apply the same design to all. Whichever is the case, all the national sides bear a common symbol: the twelve stars of the European flag.
Member States are not allowed to change the design of their national sides, except in the case of coins which show the head of state. In that case the coin design may be changed when the head of state changes, or at 15-year intervals to reflect changes in his or her appearance. A temporary vacancy or provisional occupation of the function of head of state does not give the right to change the design of the national sides of regular euro coins, but can be reflected in a commemorative coin.
Commemorative and collector coins
In addition to the regular coins, there are also commemorative and collector coins.
Countries may issue a commemorative 2-euro coin twice a year to celebrate a subject of major national or European relevance. Countries may also decide to issue a commemorative 2-euro coin jointly - bearing the same design on the national side - to celebrate a subject of the highest European relevance.
The commemorative coins issued collectively or on the occasion of a temporary vacancy or provisional occupancy of the function of head of state are in addition to the annual commemorative coin euro-area countries are entitled to issue.
Commemorative coins are legal tender throughout the euro area, and have the same features and properties as regular 2-euro coins. What makes them different is the special design on the national side.
Collector coins are not intended for general circulation and their designs may not be too similar to other euro coins to avoid confusion.
The characteristics of the different types of euro coins (regular, commemorative and collector) are compared in a detailed table.
Citizen friendly euro coins?
Designers of the euro banknotes consulted the European Blind Association to help develop a currency recognisable to all citizens. Several features were incorporated in the coins:
- Different shapes, colours and edges to the coins that make it easier to differentiate the values
- The weight of each coin is different – the heavier the coin, the higher the value (except for the €1 coin)
- The thickness of each coin varies according to value – the thicker the coin, the higher the value (except for the 1- and 2-euro coins)
- The values are clearly displayed on the common side of the coins
Who issues coins?
Euro-area countries are responsible for issuing the coins. The issuing body is typically the treasury in the national finance ministry, while the national mint physically produces the coins and the national central bank puts them into circulation. The denominations and technical specifications are laid down by the Council of the EU, and the European Central Bank approves the volume and value of coins to be issued each year.
In addition to the euro-area Member States, Monaco, San Marino, the Vatican City and Andorra are also entitled to issue limited quantities of their own euro coins through agreements with the EU.
Around 52 billion euro coins, using 250,000 tonnes of metal, were produced in preparation for the euro launch. Since then, demand has grown continuously. Updated statistics on euro coins in circulation can be found on the website of the European Central Bank.
Countering the counterfeiters
Counterfeiting and security were major design considerations for euro coins. Anti-forgery details in the coins include:
- Bi-metal detailing in the 1- and 2-euro coins, the inner part of which is magnetic
- Edge lettering on the 2-euro coin and other distinctive milling around the edges of virtually all coins
- Varying weights and sizes to ensure that correct value coins are used in different coin-operated machines, for example
- Unique metal composition ('Nordic gold') for the 10-, 20- and 50-cent coins, which is difficult to melt and exclusively used for coins
Read more about the legislation underpinning these rules.