The boy who swallowed a coin

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The Independent Online

Three would-be euro-thieves in Friedersdorf near Berlin had a cunning plan: they would rip one of the bank's cash machines out of the wall. Unfortunately for them, they chose the one that only prints out bank statements.

Three would-be euro-thieves in Friedersdorf near Berlin had a cunning plan: they would rip one of the bank's cash machines out of the wall. Unfortunately for them, they chose the one that only prints out bank statements.

The race to pass the first moody euro seems to have won by the French: a customer at a bar in Auch bought a New Year's night drink with cash from the new euro-denominated version of Monopoly. This pipped by a few hours the Irishman who used a photocopied €10 bill in a shop in Co Kildare. But the novelty notes success of the week was achieved by the German who got £300 when he changed a €500 "note" that was, in fact, clipped from a newspaper.

A considerable stir in the world of coin-tossing has been caused by the findings of two Polish mathematicians that the Belgian €1 piece is unbalanced. When flipped on a table 250 times, it landed heads-up 140 times, a score that they ascribe to the unduly large picture of Albert II.

The first recorded case of a child swallowing a euro coin came from Italy. Michael Sgroi, aged seven, tested a 50-cent coin in the time-honoured children's way. It lodged briefly in his throat, before slipping down nicely with no ill effects.

Forgetful Continentals have already established that euro notes survive being washed in trouser pockets at a temperature of 95C (200F). A run through the spin-dryer leaves them similarly spendable. But ironing is not recommended, as it destroys the metal security strip, as does microwaving, although with rather more satisfying special effects.

Demand in Austria was so heavy on Wednesday that the entire network of 62,700 cash machines seized up for two hours. Tens of thousands in queues throughout the country had to leave empty-handed.

Predictions by the more excitable elements of the British press that the coins' nickel content would cause a plague of eczema have so far proved groundless.

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