The euro divides many. Well, it is its opponents who do most of the dividing. Economists are the only people who get naturally animated in support of the euro; for the rest of us, it is more the small pleasures that win us over, such as being able to compare the price of a pint in Galway with that in Turku.

Another reason to love the euro is the coins. Brussels bureaucrats not being blessed with a poetic sensibility, the EU on Euro day was granted a series of anodyne banknotes that were probably a rip off of the Spanish Monopoly rip-off that the Franco regime used to produce. The coins were little better. Until you turned them over. It was here that the nations of the eurozone made everything more interesting. Not all of the designs are pretty. France, Austria and Spain produced coins that, if sold as trinkets, would fail to find a buyer in Knock Shrine. But there are better examples such as the modest little harp on Ireland’s coins, the German eagle and the Epsteinesque rendering of the head of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, all of which are welcome to join the jingles in my pocket any day of the week.

The Portuguese reproduced a number of medieval royal seals for their beautiful coins. The Greeks trumped even this; their one euro coin being a remake of a fourth-century BC drachma. But the top prize must go to the Italians. Admittedly, they had a bit of a head start, using Raphael’s portrait of Dante, Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man and Botticelli’s Venus as templates, but all of their coins have the simplicity and elegance that is great quotidian design. The good thing about the euro coins is that you have the makings of an instant pub quiz lying there in your pocket, whether you are drinking in Galway, where a pint costs €3.20 or in Turku where it costs €3.50. You don’t know what you’re missing, folks.

Originally published by The Guardian.

%d bloggers like this: