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Leaving Lire Behind...

by Elena Guarneri last modified 2008-06-20 15:14

An affectionate look at the Italian lira and thoughts on the Euro to come . . .

Leaving Lire Behind...From March 2002 Italians will have to start multiplying by 1936.27 as the good old lira steps down, leaving room for the newly crowned King of Europe, the aptly named Euro.
There'll not be a dry eye in the house as Italians bid farewell to their trusted friend, to the Ancient Roman annals and to Charlemagne's reformation (who declared the libbra as the official currency). Goodbye ‘Italian lira’ consecrated since the Unification of Italy in 1861. Gone, but not forgotten by collectors or by Italy's collective historical iconography.

Currency in the Republic (from 1946 to our days)
A quick look at the lira through the years and gives you an idea of modern Italian history. The first series of coins minted by the Republic - designed by the artist Giuseppe Romagnoli and the engraver Pietro Giampaoli - was characterised by symbols of peace and reconstruction, of a country with strong links to its agricultural roots: Pegasus, an olive branch, an ear of corn, a bunch of grapes and the personification of the Republic holding the torch of liberty.

The second series of coins go into circulation in 1951 and are still considered legal tender (although some of coins are now out of mint). The new symbols reflect a new age of optimism following the economic boom and the industrialisation of the country: a horn of plenty, representing prosperity; Vulcan, the Roman god of fire; Minerva, goddess of wisdom and the arts; and scales, the classical symbol of justice.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
The good was the 500 lire coin minted in 1982and is the only coin in the world with its value written in braille. It was the first of a series of two-coloured coins.
The bad was the new Europe of the 1000 Lire coins, with pre-1989 borders (drawn up before the fall of the Berlin Wall).
The ugly must go to the tiny 50 and 100 lire coins minted in 1989, and which were taken out of circulation in October 200o, much to everyone's relief.

Collector's items
Coin collectors will surely have two special coins in their collections - the silver 500 lire coin minted in 1974 to commemorate the birth of Guglielmo Marconi, and the one dedicated to Michelangelo the following year.

Moving towards the Euro On March 1st 2002 we will be saying out final farewells to the lira, as it leaves circulation forever. Don't worry, those of you with your piggy banks full of coins still have ten years to change your money in the Banca d’Italia.What will the new money be like? Crisp new banknotes, ranging in value from 5 to 500 Euros – as well as a variety of shiny coins. Each country will have its own personalised coin, with Italy claiming Dante Alighieri, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo da Vinci's 'Vitruvian Man' and a variety of famous monuments including the Colosseum and Turin's Mole Antonelliana.
What advantages can we expect? Holidays abroad should be less expensive with no more commissions to pay in the bank and headache-free when it comes to totting up the bills... However don't throw away your calculators just yet . . . you may still need them until you get used to the new currency. A word of advice: in the run up to the switch over watch out for forged lira as counterfeiters will be trying their hardest to get rid of all their old supplies before they become totally worthless.

Short Guide to Italian coins - - Fabio's informative history of the lira from 1946 to today
Commemorative coins - - Some of the best-loved coins of the Republic
Paper money directory - - An exhaustive online list of collectors throughout the world
IPZS - - The official website of the Italian Mint (Italian only)
Cronaca numismatica - - An online collectors' magazine
The changeover to the Euro - - A detailed look at how Italy is coping with the currency changeover.

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