From the outset, each country in the euro area has been entitled to issue a €2 commemorative coin once a year. Since July 2012, each country may issue two such coins per year. These coins have the same features and properties and the same common side as normal €2 coins. What makes them different is their commemorative design on the national side. Only the €2 denomination can be used for commemorative coins. They are legal tender throughout the euro area. That means they can be used – and must be accepted – just like any other euro coin.
Most of these coins commemorate the anniversaries of historical events or draw attention to current events of historic importance. The very first €2 commemorative coin was issued by Greece to commemorate the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004.
Designing and issuing the coins is the competence of the individual euro countries. The ECB’s role regarding the commemorative but also all other coins is to approve the maximum volumes of coins that the individual countries may issue.
New common commemorative euro coin in 2012
Citizens and residents of the euro area selected the winning design for the new euro coin issued by all euro area countries to commemorate ten years of euro banknotes and coins in January 2012. Using web-voting, they had five designs to choose from. Those designs had been pre-selected by a professional jury at the close of a design competition that was open to citizens from all euro area countries.
The winning design symbolises the way in which the euro has become a true global player over the past ten years, as well as its importance in day-to-day life, with various aspects being depicted: ordinary people (the family of four), trade (the ship), industry (the factory) and energy (the wind power stations).
The design was created by Helmut Andexlinger, a professional designer at the Austrian Mint.
So far, there are three commemorative coins that the euro countries have issued jointly: the first, in March 2007, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, the second, in January 2009, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Economic and Monetary Union, and, the third, in January 2012, to commemorate ten years of euro banknotes and coins.
As a rule, euro countries may each issue only two €2 commemorative coins per year. Exceptionally, they are allowed to issue a third, provided that it is one issued jointly and that it commemorates events of Europe-wide importance.
These coins use a common design on the national side, showing the name of the issuing country as well as the event commemorated in the respective language(s).
Unlike banknotes, euro coins are still a national competence and not the ECB’s. If a euro area country intends to issue a €2 commemorative coin, it has to inform the European Commission. There is no reporting by euro area countries to the ECB. The Commission publishes the information in the multilingual Official Journal of the EU (C series).
The Official Journal is the authoritative source upon which the ECB bases its website updates on euro coins. The reporting process, the translation into 22 languages and publishing lead to unavoidable delays. The coin pages on the ECB’s website cannot therefore always be updated as timely as users might wish.
If the ECB learns of a euro coin that has not yet featured in the Official Journal, only its image will be posted on the ECB’s website, with a brief statement that confirmation by the European Commission is pending.