Greece's Alternatives to the Euro

Posted by: Ben Vickers on November 4, 2011

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Each member of the euro zone produces its own euro coins. One side of the coins is common to all members, but the other carries a design that is particular to each country. A complete uncirculated 2002 set of the eight euro coins from Greece, the coins with which the country joined the euro, can be found on the Internet for about 11 euros. The face value of the eight coins is just under four euros.

In a world that ran by the laws of numismatics, which comes from the Greek for currency or custom, rather than running under the rules of the ECB, Greece might find a way out of debt by packaging up all its euro coins and selling them for almost three times their face value.

Alternatively, there are the euro coins that are only legal tender in Greece. Each euro member produces collector coins, made of precious metals, that can only be used in the country that produces them. There are a whole series of Greek 10 euro coins commemorating the country’s national parks—all fine silver. They are the closest thing Greece has to its own currency. The only problem with that is there aren’t a whole lot of them, and they cost 40 euros each to buy from the Greek central bank.

Otherwise there’s the drachma. The Greek central bank still exchanges drachma notes for euros—all euro members set a long window for exchanging the old currency for the new one. Greeks can still change drachmas for euros at the Greek central bank until March 1, 2012. I asked the bank if they would do the opposite trade for me, and exchange euros for drachmas—not possible, the press officer on the phone said.

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Financial markets are on the edge as investors await a solution to the European debt crisis. This blog examines the banks that hold billions of euros worth of Greek, Italian, and other sovereign debt; the governments that must pay off or refinance that debt; and the implications for the worldwide financial system if they can't.

Analyses or commentary in this blog are the views of the author and or commentators, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg News.

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