Smallest Euro coins dropped by two nations

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The Independent Online

The days of the smallest euro coins may be numbered, as two countries start phasing out production of their most fiddly and least valuable coppers.

The days of the smallest euro coins may be numbered, as two countries start phasing out production of their most fiddly and least valuable coppers.

Belgium and the Netherlands are to stop producing the one and two cent coins, following the example of Finland, which has never distributed the two smallest coins.

While the coins will remain legal tender in all eurozone nations, officials say they will gradually disappear. Already millions of the small coins have disappeared, many of them lost down the sofas of the 12 eurozone nations.

Shopkeepers have complained of the administrative cost of stocking the smallest coin, which is worth slightly more than half of 1p.

And mints across the eurozone concur. Jean Van den Spiegel, chief technical officer of the Belgian Royal Mint, said the main reason for phasing out the coins was the price of manufacture. "The cost of the metal and striking the coins is more than one cent and not much less than two cents," he said.

In the Netherlands shopkeepers are to be asked to round prices up or down to the nearest five cents. Research in the town of Woerden, where trials were conducted, showed that more than four fifths of consumers backed the idea.

The decision by the two Benelux nations has prompted a broader debate. Karl-Heinz Grasser, Finance Minister of Austria, said last weekend: "I would be ready to scrap the one cent; it would make people's purses lighter." However, he said a wider public debate was needed before axing the two cent coin.

The same idea is gaining ground in Germany, where the Handelsblatt paper quoted Wolfgang Söffner, head of the Bundesbank's cash division, as saying that a rule may be introduced to round prices up or down to the nearest five cents.

While some fear the change could revive worries about overcharging, retailers are enthusiastic. Not having to stock smaller coins could save Dutch shopkeepers €30m.

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