On 12th November 1984 the United Kingdom £1 note ceased to become legal tender and the switch to coin was complete. Generally people don’t like change (no pun intended) and the move was met with some resistance led at first by the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Ironically, £1 notes were greeted with public outrage when they were first put into widespread use as an emergency measure to replace gold sovereigns during World War I thus demonstrating that what goes around always comes around.
It has always surprised me therefore how most of Europe so easily gave up its Francs, Lira, Marks and Drachma when on January 1st 2002 the universal European currency the Euro (€) was introduced.
The euro is useful because it has simplified travel to Europe but I miss the old pre-euro currencies. To have a wallet full of romantic and exciting sounding notes made you feel like a true international traveller. I liked the Portuguese Escudo and the Spanish peseta but my absolute favourite was the Italian lira simply because you just got so many.
When going on holiday to Italy you were, for just a short time anyway, a real millionaire. The first time I went to Italy, to Sorrento in 1976, the notes were so worthless that it was normal practice for shops to give change in the form of a postcard of a handful of sweets. That was really charming but it doesn’t happen anymore of course although looking in at the current economic crisis in Greece there has to be a possibility that next year we will be using Drachma again!
My most favourite bank notes are probably from Switzerland. Everyone knows that the Swiss are fond of money and they leave no one in any doubt of this with the quality of their notes. Not only are they brilliantly colourful but they are printed on high quality paper as well. It is certain that these notes won’t fall to pieces quite as quickly as our own flimsy five-pound notes printed as they are on tissue paper which must surely be the next UK note to be replaced with a coin?
Foreign travel and different bank notes remind me of my dad’s insistence on always returning home from foreign holidays with currency for his personal treasure chest. Even if it was 90˚ in the shade and everyone was desperate for a last drink at the airport dad was determined to bring a souvenir note or coin home and would hang on with a steadfast determination that would deny last minute refreshment to everyone so long as he could get his monetary mementos back home safely. How glad I am of that because now they belong to me and now my own left over bank notes from my travel adventures have been added to the worthless collection.