French say adieu to the franc

 

Six centuries after the first one was minted and a decade after they went out of circulation, the last French francs are being exchanged for euros.

The Banque de France set a deadline of the close of business Friday for French savers to exchange whatever leftover franc notes they've kept socked away in drawers or under mattresses, whether held onto intentionally as souvenirs or simply forgotten about.

The euro replaced the franc in wallets and purses in January 2002, but the central bank has continued to accept francs in exchange for euros — until late Friday.

A decade might seem to have been enough time to get to the bank, even for the worst procrastinators. But lines of last-minute holdouts still formed all week long outside Banque de France branches, the last place where francs can be swapped for the new currency at the rate of 6.55957 francs for 1 euro — the exchange rate that was locked in when France joined the euro in 1999.

The French press has been filled with reminders about the looming deadline, after which all those blue 20-franc bills with the cartoon drawing of The Little Prince standing alone on his planet will lose all but their sentimental value.

Some people heard about the deadline just in time.

"They were in a drawer and I found them a few days ago, and when I heard this morning that today was the last day to turn them in, I came this morning to do it," said Rene Huot, as he waited in line at a Banque de France branch on Paris' Left Bank.

The central bank estimates that even after Friday's deadline, around half a billion euros worth of old franc notes will remain in the wild, unexchanged and henceforth worthless.

The existence of the euro, used by over 330 million people in 17 countries, has come into doubt recently as European governments failed to prevent the financial crisis from widening from Greece to Italy and even France. The French and German leaders' shock admission in November that Greece might leave the euro only added to those concerns.

France is the second eurozone country to definitevely phase out its old currency, after Italy stopped exchanging the lire in December. Finns have until the end of this month to turn in their last markkaa, while the Dutch get to hang onto their old guilders until 2032.

About half the eurozone countries have set no time limit at all.

Greeks have until March 1 to exchange their drachmas — if the country hasn't switched back to historic currency by then.

Eurozone ministers are due to meet Monday to decide on a new $130 billion bailout Greece needs if it hopes to avoid becoming the first eurozone member to default on its debts and be ejected from Europe's common currency.

While few Europeans are prepared to scrap the euro — in part because they fear a chaotic collapse more than the current muddle — some are nostalgic for the money they counted on before it arrived.

"We are living a lot less well with the euro, especially when we have a modest salary and a small pension and by God we are really obliged to maintan a tight budget," said Micheline Leblanc, a retiree who was also changing her last francs at the Banque de France.

AP

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Powdered colors are displayed for sale at a market ahead of the Holi festival in Bhopal, India
techHere's what you need to know about the riotous occasion
Arts and Entertainment
Larry David and Rosie Perez in ‘Fish in the Dark’
theatreReview: Had Fish in the Dark been penned by a civilian it would have barely got a reading, let alone £10m advance sales
News
Details of the self-cleaning coating were published last night in the journal Science
science
News
Approved Food sell products past their sell-by dates at discounted prices
i100
News
Life-changing: Simone de Beauvoir in 1947, two years before she wrote 'The Second Sex', credited as the starting point of second wave feminism
peopleHer seminal feminist polemic, The Second Sex, has been published in short-form to mark International Women's Day
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Assistant / Credit Controller

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are an award-winning digit...

Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

£45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

£10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

£17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable