Death warms up market for euros in Vatican and Monaco

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The Independent Online

The value of the euro has hugely inflated since the leaders of the two smallest countries in the world died.

The value of the euro has hugely inflated since the leaders of the two smallest countries in the world died.

The exchange rate of the vast bulk of euros in circulation is untouched. However, the value of the small quantities of euro coins minted by the Vatican and the Principality of Monaco threatens to go through the roof.

Both types of coins, and those minted by San Marino, have been favourites among collectors since the euro was introduced in 2001. Since the deaths of Pope John Paul II and Prince Rainier, their prices have exploded.

A €2 Vatican coin is fetching €160 on the European coin-collecting market. A 2004 Vatican set of all eight euro coins is going for over €500. A Monaco €1 piece can now command up to €60.

The likelihood that the Vatican and Monaco will mint new coins, carrying the heads of the new Pope and Prince Albert II, has caused a speculative run on the existing coins. Rémi Smith, the director general of Monnaie magazine in France, said that the wholesale price of Vatican coins went up by 20 per cent last weekend alone.

However, he advised collectors to wait before buying Vatican and Monaco euros. The speculative bubble could soon burst, he warned.

The Vatican, Monaco and San Marino are permitted by the European Commission and European Central Bank to mint a token quantity of euros carrying their national symbols. In the case of the Vatican, production is limited to €1m a year, or €1.3m in the year of a papal death.

Although nominally minted to circulate like other coins, the micro-state euros have been snapped up by coin dealers and collectors. The Vatican and Monaco also issue coins in commemorative packs, like postage stamps, at far above their face value.

This trade is so lucrative that another European micro-state, Andorra, has recently asked permission from Brussels to mint euros of its own.

Euro bank notes are the same in all eurozone countries. Euro coins have a European symbol on one side and a national design on the other. But of the 15 different euro coin sets, only 12 are in circulation.