The final French francs have now been exchanged for euros after the Banque de France imposed the final deadline for exchange last Friday. After six centuries since the first franc was minted, any remaining notes or coins will now become souvenirs as well as a piece of French currency history.
The euro currency fully replaced the franc back in January 2002. Ever since then, the central bank was happy to exchange any francs for the new euro currency.
Although people holding francs have had over a decade in which to change their money, many people were still queuing at Banque de France branches at the very last minute hoping to change the francs that they had been hoarding. The exchange rate which they would’ve received was 6.55957 to the euro which was fixed on the date when France joined the euro in 1999.
The French press has been actively reminding the general public of this deadline for months in order to prevent people losing their valuable currency forever. Clearly considering the final date to be the perfect day on which to change their money, there was a last minute rush to get to the bank on time. One last minute franc hoarder Rene Huot clearly demonstrates this brinkmanship exchanging francs, “They were in a drawer and I found them a few days ago, and when I heard this morning that today was the last day to turn them in, I came this morning to do it”.
Despite all the efforts made to warn people about the impending deadline, the central bank estimates that francs worth almost half a billion in euros will not have been exchanged in time leaving them completely worthless.
France now becomes only the second country to have phased out its old currency after Italy’s old lire was given a December 2011 exchange deadline. In Finland, the public have until the end of February to exchange their old markkaa currency. While the Dutch have until 2032 to hoard their guilders most other Eurozone countries haven’t set a deadline for currency exchange. Meanwhile, the Greeks can exchange their drachmas until March 1st this year, although recently a return to the drachma couldn’t be ruled out.