The first thing most tourists learn when they come to Europe–or at least the Euro, Pound and Swiss Franc part of it to stick to countries I know–is to keep an eye on your change. Unlike dollar-based countries, change in Europe can quickly add up. When you have a handful of 1 or 2 Euro coins in your hand, you can easily end up with 10€ in coins. I realize we’re still not talking about huge sums of money but my point is that you shouldn’t take your change for granted when traveling. Weight-wise a handful of quarters might feel the same in your wallet but your spending power is not comparable. Go to Switzerland and you can even get 5 CHF (Swiss Francs) coins! Trust me, I always kept an eye on them.
Euros are minted in 17 EU Member States as well as in San Marino, the Vatican and Monaco. All Euros share a common side with the coins value on it as you can see on the German postcard above. Individual Euro zone countries can choose their own national side. Most countries have a standard national image for each coin. In addition, commemorative coins are also issued. Here in France, we have 2€ pieces commemorating the French EU Presidency and l’Appel du 18 juin (DeGaulle’s famous WWII rallying cry from London) for example. These are regular circulating coins in much the same way as the US Commemorative State and America the Beautiful Quarters work. There are 8 Euro coins ranging in value from 1c to 2€. Euros from smaller mints such as the Vatican are rare enough to be worth more than their face value to collectors. When we visited Vatican City four years ago, we saw multiple signs stating that the store/bank/etc. did not have Vatican Euros available. Carefully look at your change–I have been the unwelcome recipient of a That 10 baht coin on two occasions! It looks and feels similar to a 2€ coin; the value is clearly not the same and being ripped off always leaves a sour taste.
Japan, however, has the world’s highest valued regularly used coin in the world. the 500 yen coin is worth approximately 5€! Definitely a coin not to misplace. 100 yen coins function much the same way as 1€ coins here, practical and always handy to have. Hopefully, I’ll be able to try them out myself in the next few years. Japan isn’t on the books for 2012, but who knows what the future holds! At the very least, the discovery of a few more currency postcards in my mailbox!