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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Irish love of coins creates euro 'problems'
Millennium Bridge, Dublin
By early next year, Irish people will have to have exchanged their hoarded coins
Up to IR£30m (£24m) worth of coins is stored in piggybanks and jamjars around Ireland.

The Irish love both to use and hoard coins more than many other countries in the European Union, the Central Bank of Ireland admits.

This is set to create a huge problem for the Central Bank when euro notes and coins are launched next year.

The Central Bank of Ireland advertising campaign
The Central Bank of Ireland advertising campaign
Not only is it a big job to get the old coins back in, but the Irish will have to produce far more euro coins per capita than its European Union counterparts to feed demand for coins.

Nation of hoarders

"This is logistically a major job to get those coins back in, not only to get the new euro coins out," a Central Bank of Ireland spokesman said. "You don't want people in the first couple of weeks of January next year to be queueing to change those coins."

"That is not lost coin, or coins that are left in the pockets of tourists, this is deliberately hoarded coin," he added. "That is 550 million separate pieces of coin. The amount of coin is £24 per household."

The most popular place for people to store their coins is in glass bottles, closely followed by jam jars and piggy banks, the Central Bank found in a survey conducted last year.

But people also store coins in vases, tupperware boxes, shoeboxes, biscuit tins and mugs, the survey found.

The problem is one faced by other countries in the eurozone as well.

The hoarded Irish coins
Total value: IR£30m
Number of coins hoarded: 550m
Average per household: IR£24
Favourite storage place: glass bottle
About 8% of those surveyed claimed to have over £50 of hoarded coins in any one day. About 10% of hoarders save £1 coins.

Charity demand

In the months running up to Christmas, the Central Bank is set to renew its advertising campaign to encourage people to return their coins.

Lower demand for coins since it first began its advertising campaign some months ago provides some evidence that people are starting to spend their coins.

Already, several Irish charities have their eyes on the hoarded coins.

Eleven of Ireland's leading charities, including Barnardos and Unicef, are hoping to raise as much as IR£5m of the hoarded coins.

They will embark on a nation-wide door-to-door house collection and set up collection points across the country.

More euro coins

As the old Irish coins find their way to good causes, over a billion euro coins will be rolling their way towards Irish consumers.

The Irish will roll out 1.1 billion coins for its population of 3.5 million people.

In contrast, Greece and Portugal are producing 1.3 billion coins apiece for their respective populations of 11 million and 10 million people.

Even in a normal year, the demand for cash and coins has grown at a phenomenal rate, far outstripping the growth of the Irish economy or inflation.

Last year alone, the Central Bank issued 250 million coins, representing an annual increase of 16.5%.

Love of cash

People find it hard to explain the Irish propensity for hoarding coins and their love of carrying and spending cash.

"People tend to be more cash reliant, rather than credit cards...It is part of the Irish psyche. We always tend to like having loads of cash on us," a spokeswoman for the Bank of Ireland, a leading Irish bank, said.

Some say the reason is that the Irish goverment has been relatively slow to adopt the cashless economy, pointing to the fact that many of those in state employment are still paid by weekly or monthly cheque.

This is despite the high-profile success of the Irish technology sector.

Those that say the euro will help herald an end to the cash economy may be in for a surprise.

The Central Bank spokesman believes that demand for cash will grow with the advent of the euro.

"People will be happier going abroad with cash than they are now," he pointed out.

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