01 July 2008

The Thirteenth Nation

I realise it's a little bit sad, but shortly after the Euro coins became available, I became an accidental collector of them. In truth, if you've known me for long this won't really surprise you. I've had a weakness for unusual coins since I was about twelve, and having studied Roman history hasn't done anything to lessen that.

It was a casual thing, at first. I was working in the pub, infuriating customers that New Year's Day with jovial allusions to the national campaigns to get us used to our new currency; 'the Euro,' I'd say, 'your money,' as I handed over their change.

As things settled over the next week or so, I became intrigued by how different the coins could be, as coins backed with Irish harps were interspersed with ones backed with German eagles, French women, Italian artistry, sundry monarchs and heads of state, and best of all that wonderful Greek coin-within-a-coin. The Belgian coins were definitely the dullest, I decided, concluding that as the British, were they ever to get with the programme, would almost certainly decide to follow a similar pattern, it was best for now if they stayed on the sidelines, brandishing their marvellous two-pound coin.

Foreign euro coins began to accumulate on my bookshelf -- a small pile at first, and then, as I admitted what I was doing, with some speed. I was going to collect them all. Sure, I didn't stand a snowball's chance in Hell of getting my hands on the coins minted by Monaco, San Marino, and the Vatican, but surely I could just watch the tills carefully in the hope of gathering the ninety-six coins minted by the twelve members of the Union that had adopted the new currency.

Eventually, I assembled the set, the Finnish coppers being given me as a friend and the almost equally rare Luxembourg coins being acquired while waiting for a flight at Hahn airport.

Slovenia started minting Euro coins a year-and-a-half ago, but it was only yesterday that I finally saw one, eagerly plucking it from the till and chucking in a 50c of my own. Nice, isn't it? The mountain, in case you're interested, is Triglav, the highest mountain in Slovenia, which is also featured on the national flag and coat of arms, and the quote on the coin is from a famous song about the mountain by a Catholic priest who's regarded as the father of Slovenian mountaineering, and who played a key role in making Triglav central to Slovenian identity; I have no idea why the Constellation of Cancer is on the coin.

Anyway, I guess this means I have seven more coins to collect.

Happy Canada Day, by the way. Yes, I've been listening to Tragically Hip. There are some things one must do, after all.

No comments: