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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 21:54 GMT
Tschuss Deutschmark!
Central Bank chief Ernst Welteke displays the last print run of marks in January 2000
Marking history: The last print run in January 2000

What a difference two months make. Since euro notes and coins were introduced in January, the Deutschmark has all but disappeared.

Nobody talks about it anymore, nobody seems to miss it or sheds tears of regret that it is gone.

On the contrary, Germans have embraced the euro with an enthusiasm that surprised even themselves.

Only days after the introduction of the new crisp euro notes, paying with crumbled old D-Marks was considered almost an anathema.

You just didn't do it, or, if you had to, you did it with a bit of embarrassment.

RIP: Deutschmark

Now, on 1 March, the Deutschmark finally will be laid to rest. Shops will no longer accept the old money - the two-month transition period of parallel currencies is coming to an end.

So, time to bid farewell for good to those blue, green and brown notes that for decades represented Germany's economic power and stability.

Goodbye to the tiny copper-coloured Pfennig, or penny, the yellowish "Groschen" or 10-pfennig coin, and the "Big Blue", the blue 100-Mark note with the gentle smile of 19th century composer Clara Schumann.

They already look dated. The new euro notes might still appear a bit unreal, but memories of the old currency are fading away fast.

Our children and grandchildren will look at German notes and coins with the same curiosity or indifference with which our generation looks at pre-1948 Reich marks or at the notes and coins used until 1990 in the former communist East.

Just a piece of history, symbols of a bygone era.

Reference point

But while replacing one currency with another has proved easier than many predicted, the German Mark has not been confined to the history bin just yet.

Although they have disappeared from people's wallets and from the shops, Deutschmarks still linger on in people's minds.

The old currency is still a point of reference, a benchmark against which prices are assessed.

While day-to-day purchases - like a cup of coffee, the groceries, the newspaper - are easily made in euros, it is the bigger sums - for a new stereo, a house, a car, a holiday trip - that still require the mental arithmetic of conversion.

In the midst of a recession, German Marks may no longer stand for continuing economic growth and stability, but they still provide a sort of safety net - one that enables many people in Germany to tell the difference between a rip-off from a bargain.

So, bidding farewell to the Deutschmark just two months after the introduction of the euro might be considered no big deal.

Germans, like their counterparts in the Netherlands and France, are more than happy to give up a symbol of national identity for the European currency project.

Nevertheless, erasing the imprint the old currency has left on the nation's collective consciousness could prove a much harder undertaking.

See also:

16 Jul 01 | Business
31 Oct 01 | Europe
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