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Euro coins go on sale

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December 14, 2001 Posted: 4:28 PM EST (2128 GMT)
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LONDON, England -- The euro coin has gone on sale in banks in Europe on Friday despite not becoming legal tender until January 1.

The so-called starter kits will be sold by banks so people will get a chance to see what the euro coin looks like.

Notes, which have been distributed to banks during the past few months, will not be available until January 2002.

At the first of the year, 50 billion coins and 14.5 billion new banknotes will become legal tender overnight in the 12 countries which have chosen to adopt a single currency and become part of "euroland."

Those advocating the single currency say it will save tourists and businesses conversion costs and provide better access to a wider market.

Interactive: What will the Euro look like? 
Map: Who's in and who's out of the Eurozone? 
Glossary: Terms you need to know 

The release of the coins comes at the same time as the European Commission released a survey which shows that 61 percent of people support the euro in all the European Union 15 member states except the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden.

The United Kingdom and Denmark have yet to sign up to the euro -- Britain says it will hold a referendum on the issue only when five sets of economic criteria have been met, while the Danes have voted 'no' in a referendum already.

British opposition to the currency was 58 percent, the survey found. Local political groups opposed to the euro say the figure is higher, at two-thirds of the population.

Russell Walters, spokesman for the Democracy Movement, said he was confident the 'no' vote would win any referendum in Britain.

He added: "(The euro) is not going to bring prosperity and it's part of a political project the British people don't want."

The currency is already causing concern over the danger of counterfeiting by both amateurs and professionals.

Willy Bruggeman, deputy director of the police agency Europol, and the head of its euro project, said amateurs would hope to take advantage of the confusion in the early period of its introduction.

"We expect that we will see some amateurs try to test the system," he said.

Crude counterfeits have already appeared in small quantities in attempts to con people into exchanging money for them ahead of time.

But it is the professionals who pose the greatest danger in the long-term with their use of bulky offest printing presses which produces high quality copies.

European Central Bank President Wim Duisenberg said he was confident security measures incorporated into the design of the new euros should protect consumers.

"Citizens can be confident that the euro is a safe currency and one which few residents will have the misfortune ever to see a counterfeit of."

• UK-euro delay: Angst or economics?
December 14, 2001
• Wrangle over EU rapid reaction force
December 14, 2001

• Welcome to the Euro
• Euro Information

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Updated September 21, 2002

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