Some Euros Are More Equal Than Others

Amid the talk of two-tier Euros – a Fiesta Euro for Club Med countries and a Serious Euro for the grown-ups, Geoff Mitchell very kindly points out an FT article which states: ‘Not all euros are identical. They each have a serial number – the first letter of which could determine the winners and losers in the event of a break-up.’

Any break-up of the Euro would have to be done in an instant with each country reverting to its own currency with its own exchange rate which floats against all the other European currencies..

These letters identify which country issued which Euro note and so indicate what that note will be worth in the event of a break-up and a reversion to the old currencies.


Lucky old you if you have euros with an X prefix because this means they are German-issued euros and will rise in value against all other European currencies when Germany reverts to DMarks.

Poor old you if your euros have a Y prefix because these are issued by Greece and will become lowly drachmas – sinking against all other currencies when the break-up occurs.

P is good – that means Holland-issued euros – good and strong; G is Cyprus – dodgy; V is Spain – also dodgy; T is Ireland – very dodgy; M is Portugal – another dodgy one; S is Italy – problematic; Z is Belgium; N is Austria; L is Finland, F is Malta; D is Estonia; E is Slovakia; U is France which is anyone’s guess.

So next time you’re in the Bureau de Change picking up your euros – check that the letter on the serial number is a solid German X.



  1. You’ll find US$ work remarkedly well in Med countries.

  2. As I’m shortly off on the annual trip all I want is the best rate I can get.
    Anything left over will be exchanged at the hypermarket for a golden liquid (single malts only accepted!)

  3. @Mike
    Sounds like a money machine to me.
    I’ll buy those Scottish notes for 98p and walk across the road to a proper bank and change them for £1.00
    Not very practical with notes but really easy for a bank with computer trading to do with X Euros vs Y Euros…
    Precisely as @anonymous says: a Euro is worth a Euro. And if you disagree I’ll happily take the other side of that bet and make free money!
    This is why Spaniards & Greeks are not banking on this idea (amusing as it is) but moving their money into German banks (and causing bank runs in Greece, Spain which of course is making bad situation worse).
    They do not want “German Euro” that will be be devalued by force if it is physically if Greece devalues – regardless of a cute prefix. They want safe money in safe bank accounts with real Euros (or New D-Mark) – again, regardless of the prefix. If my money is in Germany, and I buy a Dunkel in Germany then that is good money (with it is Xy, Y, P or whatever).

  4. @ Anonymous : at bureau de change in many European countries Bank of Scotland notes are only offered 90 to 95% that of Bank of England ones whilst Clydesdale ones are not accepted at all.
    @Gabriel : there is another way and that is for Germany to leave the Euro and allow the Euro to float down wrt the new Deutschmark. Whilst not obliged to do so, it would help if it supported the Euro still though.

  5. David, there are 2 big holes in your line of reasoning;-
    i) Most currency is stored as ones and zeros, not paper currency.
    ii) Any devaluation of a country’s currency after leaving the Euro would not be retrospective.
    Under your line of reasoning, Bank of Scotland pounds should not be worth the same as Clydesdale Bank pounds, but in fact both are worth exactly the same as Bank of England pounds.
    If Greece were to drop out of the Euro & introduce a New Drachma, the New Drachma could slide in value relative to the Euro or Pound, but the Euro couldn’t slide relative to itself.
    That leads to a separate question, which is how much of the Greek population would actually use a New Drachma if the rest of the Eurozone continued to use the Euro?

  6. what you suggest would be the worst way for a breakup to occur
    the best way is to have all contrys in the euro issue there on currency and germany keeping the current euro
    the new german owned bank would then peg those other currencys to the euro for a set amount of time say 6 months after which it would let those currencys start to float freely
    thats the only way you could ever achive a safe breakup of the euro any other way and you would have a Zimbabwe style crisis on almost all those contrys

  7. There’s a big picture on 1 side of the euro (the head-side) that’s also country dependend.
    Takes some cultural knowledge to distinguish the german eagle from the greek temple, but it beats looking for a magic character on the side 😉

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