As the date to redeem remaining peseta currency in Spain elapsed on the 30th June 2021, it has been more accurately estimated that Spanish citizens have still not redeemed more than 1.5 billion EUR in banknotes and coins denominated in pesetas. Owing to the pandemic of COVID-19, the Banco de Espana extended in November 2020 the date to redeem legacy currency from the 31st December 2020 to the 30th June 2021. According to final data to be published by the Banco de Espana and up to the extra grace period, Spaniards handed in only an additional 7 million EUR worth of their old currency. Ten years ago, the Banco de Espana had estimated more than 1.7 billion EUR remained unaccounted for in pesetas banknotes and coins – abbreviated as ESP according to ISO standards. When the Banco de Espana had announced the deadline to redeem pesetas was extended, their estimate was decreased to about 1.6 billion EUR.
The peseta – derived from the Catalan language meaning “small currency” was introduced in Spain as the legal tender during the short tenure of the first Republic in October 1868 and whose coins adhered to the Latin Monetary Union since that time. The peseta was retained after the restoration of the crown in 1870 and remained as such until the introduction of the Euro as an official but virtual currency in the Euro-zone which included Spain on the 1st January 1999. Actual banknotes and coins were released into circulation on the 1st January 2002 throughout the Euro-zone area after which the Spanish Government and Banco de Espana introduced a three-month period of coexistence for both currencies. After the 31st March 2002 and until the 30th June 2021, all Peseta banknotes issued since 1939 and coins that were deemed legal tender on 31st December 2001 remained exchangeable at any branch of the Banco de Espana at the official irrevocable rate of ESP 166.38 = 1 EUR. The Banco de Espana reported that queues of Spaniards had waited long hours at many of the Bank’s regional offices to redeem their banknotes and coins on the last day while adhering social distancing and wearing face masks in line with COVID-19 regulations.
The Banco de Espana have now provided the most concise and specific break-down in terms of the banknotes and coins still outstanding but now, no longer redeemable. Banknotes which went unredeemed totalled ESP 132,110,000,000 equivalent to 794,025,724 EUR and coins unredeemed totalled ESP 130,280,000,000 equivalent to 783,026,806 EUR. In total, the now permanent and outstanding Peseta amount remains at ESP 262,390,000,000 or 1,577,052,530 EUR. Taking this figure into consideration and with over 1.5 Billion Euro in pesetas permanently unredeemed, this equals to about 31.50 EUR or, ESP 5580 for every person in Spain.
With these numbers presently available and final data being published in the next few weeks, the Banco de Espana also estimate that 45% of all outstanding coins issued in pesetas and in circulation before the issue of the EUR would have never been exchanged. This may be due to the fact that many coins remain in the hands of coin collectors, with the general public as mementos, deterioration, loss or having left the country in the pockets of tourists. These numbers also include commemorative and collector’s coins such as the 2001-dated 2000 Pesetas struck as a farewell to the national currency. A commemorative 100-peseta coin was finally struck in June 2001 and the last peseta banknotes were printed as late as November 2001.
In a show of support and nostalgia for Spain’s Peseta, some small shops such as kiosks, cafes and even cinemas in and around the capital Madrid were advertising their prices in pesetas and gladly accepting the currency. As Spain was also one of the countries to record significantly high rates of COVID-19 infection in the early days of the pandemic, a campaign to raise funds to help with vaccination research asked the public to donate their pesetas ahead of the deadline to redeem them. However, online auction sites, coin shops and professional numismatists are stressing that some banknotes and coins in pristine condition have greater collector value which can often exceed their face value in Euro.
No additional information about what the Banco de Espana and the Spanish Treasury intend to do with the windfall amount of uncollected / unredeemed funds. This scenario follows in the footsteps of the Banca d’Italia who had more than 1.2 Billion EUR worth of Lire unredeemed by the end of their deadline for redemption in 2011. The Banque de France followed suit with similar results in December 2012 when francs were relegated to worthless coins and banknotes to the value of more than 550 Million EUR.
The author, Michael Alexander is President of the London Banknote and Monetary Research Centre.
For additional information about Spanish currency, please visit the website of the Banco de Espana.
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Last autumn, Michael Alexander explained why there were so many banknotes missing and an amount of unused British coins.