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The counterfeiters

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BBC News Online

. It took a long time to agree on the design of the euro coins. In fact, it was much more difficult than deciding on a design for the banknotes.

The winning design was eventually unveiled in June 1997, and the successful artist was the Belgian Luc Luycx.

One problem was the question which metals should go into the coins. Sweden pointed to studies that up to 20% of women may suffer from nickel allergies and insisted on a replacement alloy called Nordic gold. But in February 1998 it turned out that Europe's 7 million vending machines and the countless payphones and parking meters could not distinguish between the new 20 and 50 cent coins containing Nordic gold.

Another trouble spot was the size and shape of the coins. The European Blind Union complained that all eight euro coins varied only slightly in size and weight - and were altogether too confusing. One bright but unsuccessful idea to solve the problem was the nine-sided 20 cent coin, but German officials pointed out that such coins would jam most vending machines.

EU ministers nonetheless decided to stick with the original designs, but then discovered that they had been sent the wrong design samples and finally decided to go for change after all.

After further and more forceful protests from the European Blind Union, a new and probably final design was introduced in July 1998.