A European vacation can provide a lifetime of treasured memories. Until 2002, standing in line every other day to exchange money might have been one of those memories. As of the date of publication, 17 member states of the European Union use the euro as their currency. They are Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Ireland, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Slovakia and Finland. The appearances of the bills -- and to some extent the coins -- are standardized throughout the eurozone.
Euro bills share a number of common features. Each bill's front depicts a window or gateway, symbolizing openness, in one of the historic styles of European architecture. The backs show bridges, symbolizing the euro's role in linking peoples. The bills use a variety of security features, including watermarks, embossed ink, perforations and a printed thread running through each bill. They're printed on crisp, high-quality cotton for durability and a recognizable feel. A depiction of the eurozone is stamped on the fronts. The backs vary by country of origin. The 12-star symbol of the EU surrounds national images, such as Ireland's Celtic harp.
The 500 euro bill is purple in color, depicting a bank of windows in an aggressively modernist, 20th century style. The suspension bridge shown on the rear is in an angularly modern style. The 200 euro bill is yellow and shows an open gate fashioned of iron and glass in a late 19th- or early 20th-century style. The bridge on the rear is fashioned of iron and typical of the Industrial Revolution. The 100 euro bill is green and celebrates the ornate baroque and rococo periods, with an arched stone gateway ornamented with pillars and ornate capitals. The bridge on the reverse features elegant stone arches and railings as well as statuary.
The 50 euro bill is orange and celebrates the architecture of the Renaissance, with a stone neo-classical arch on its front. The blue 20 euro bill celebrates Gothic architecture, characterized by peaked cathedral-style windows with elaborate tracery and leaded glass. The 10 euro bill is red and features a heavy stone arch in the Romanesque style of the middle ages. The gray 5 euro bill represents the classical era with an imposing Roman-style arch. The obverse sides of these bills feature arched stone bridges, which become progressively heavier and clumsier in appearance, culminating in a distinctively Roman "double-decker" bridge.
The eurozone uses coins rather than bills for its 1 euro and 2 euro denominations. They're much more durable than bills, and more convenient to use in vending machines. Both the 1 euro and 2 euro coins are bi-metallic. The 2 euro coin has a silvery outer ring surrounding a gold-colored center, while the 1 euro coin has a gold-colored outer ring surrounding a silver-colored center. The 50 cent, 20 cent and 10 cent euro coins are gold in color, with their denomination stamped on the front. Five cent, 2 cent and 1 cent coins are copper-colored, diminishing in size. Euro coins are issued separately by participating eurozone nations, rather than by the central bank.
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