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Coin Collectors Increase Demand for Finland, Luxembourg Euros


Some of the new euro coins that were introduced this week are a bigger success than expected - in fact collectors are buying and selling them, often far above their face value. Coins from smaller euro zone nations, like Luxembourg and Finland, have been in great demand.

Euro coins may look the same in the 12 countries where they are now legal tender. But look closely. There are differences.

One side of each coin is distinctive and different from country to country, on the other side of each coin are national images, like a national leader or a distinct local plant.

The paper money, however, is the same in every nation.

These national differences in coins make the euros from smaller countries -like Luxembourg, population 440,000 and Finland, with just over five million people - quite rare and it turns out, very collectable.

The Luxembourg coins, for instance, feature a profile of one of their national figures, Grand Duke Henri.

The Finnish coins are more varied with three designs. The two euro Finnish coin shows cloudberries - a type of hardy wild raspberry - and their flowers; the one euro Finnish coin reveals two flying swans; and the lower denomination coins feature the heraldic lion.

Euro starter kits containing basic sets of coins were first issued in mid-December to help get people used to the new money. This apparently caused some intense online trading among coin collectors at eBay and other Internet sites.

Luxembourg collector Francois Besch says that when the Luxembourg kits first came out, they were bringing big money.

"Luxembourg starter kits have been sold on online auction houses for up to 131 euro per kit, and the kit has been sold at the banks and the normal prices is 12.40 [euros]. So they have been up to more than 10 times their value," he says.

Mr. Besch is also a collector of antique enameled tin signs used to advertise products like Coca Cola, cigarettes, and laundry detergent. He follows online collector sites, and that is where he came across the Luxembourg euro starter kits. Sensing a good value - and a way to make some money - he says he has sold about 100 of them, but kept another 100.

According to Mr. Besch, starter kits for other small countries were also bringing high prices in the beginning, especially the euro coins from Finland.

"You have starter kits for other countries, which are paid much higher than the Luxembourgish ones. For example, the Finnish starter kits have been paid up to 400 euro in the first days," he says.

But prices have dropped considerably. A recent check of E-bay showed asking prices for Finnish kits between 100 and 200 euros and many Luxembourg kits around 25 euros. The kits have to be in their original plastic issuing bags to have collector value.

Regardless of price, the Luxembourg euro coin kits are making their way around the world - even to villages in Scotland. Nick Weston, a Scottish computer programmer who works in Luxembourg, says when he went home for Christmas to his village of Annan, population 2,000, people were fascinated with the euro.

"Everyone wanted to see the euro, everyone wanted to touch a euro, everyone wanted to know how much the euro worked out into [British] pounds. There was so much enthusiasm," he says. "I thought the great opportunity to give the ideal Christmas gift to my father so I brought him back a little bag of euros. I think it was the best gift I ever got him," he says.

Even Mr. Weston's mother was caught up in euro fever and proclaimed the new currency to be the greatest thing money-wise since the ancient Roman empire.

"On New Year's day she was celebrating the fact that the euro was, in her opinion, one of the greatest days Europe's had. And she was just ashamed that Britain wasn't part of it. She said it's the first time since the Roman Empire that we've actually had a single currency," Mr. Weston says.

Britain, Sweden and Denmark are the three European Union countries not taking part in the euro.

Despite about all the talk of gifts and collector sets, the Luxembourg government says the money is for use by consumers. Treasury Minister Luc Frieden says there are about 390,000 Luxembourg starter coin kits and most of them were sold in the country.

"Well, these starter kits were not meant to be collection items, but they were meant to be used by the citizens, especially to buy smaller items and to use them in order to have not only major denominations of euro in circulation. And I must say that 90 percent of these starter kits were sold in Luxembourg, there were about 390,000 starter kits and that means that they will not be used for collection purposes, but that they will be used for purchasing," he says.

Whatever the popularity of the Luxembourg euro coins several local cafe operators say people are not using them enough. According to waiters and managers many customers have stopped tipping because they do not yet fully understand the value of the money and so they give exact change. Cafe workers hope this will change in a few weeks.

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