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Tuesday, 20 March, 2001, 21:23 GMT
Irish pennies go missing
Irish central bank building
Irish central bank is missing its coins
The Irish Central Bank is looking for more than one billion coins that have gone missing across Ireland causing a shortage for retailers and shoppers.

With the switch to the euro little more than ten months away, no more Irish coins will be minted, so the missing coins cannot be replaced.

The coin "famine" is worst for one and two penny pieces but increasingly five penny coins are disappearing.

"There are 2.4bn coins in circulation, that's about 630 coins per head of population, but about half of them are not in active circulation," said a Central Bank spokesman.

Coin hoarders to blame

The bank estimates tourists have taken home small change at the rate of about six coins each as souvenirs, others have been lost or thrown away, but the major problem is hoarding.

The Central Bank estimates there are 550m coins hoarded, worth about 30m punts (38m euros, $34m).

The existing coins will cease to be legal tender on 9 February, 2002 and the bank does not want a last minute rush to change them.

See also:

12 Feb 01 | Business
Euro cash tough to launch
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