It’s all about money

NEW ULM – It is something we deal with every single day of our lives. Some people have a lot of it, some people have barely any of it. Yes, it is money, we are talking about.

The official currency of the United States is the U.S. dollar (USD) and has officially been since 1792. The Euro (EUR) in turn is the currency of 22 European countries, including 18 countries in the European Union and a relatively new currency having been introduced in 2002. Because there are some striking differences not only in historic terms but also in size, color and security features, it seems worth comparing the two currencies.

First, we should have a look at the dollar’s history.

In 1785, Congress adopted the dollar as the money unit of the USA. The Coinage Act of 1792 created the U.S. Mint and established a federal monetary system, set denominations for coins, and specified the value of each coin in gold, silver or copper.

Paper money first went into circulation in 1861. The bills were known as “greenbacks” due to their color. By 1862, the design of U.S. currency incorporated fine-line engraving, intricate geometric lathe work patterns, a Treasury seal and engraved signatures to aid in counterfeit deterrence, which have been extended throughout the years.

Since 1996, there have been a series of redesigns to incorporate new counterfeit deterrents. The latest change occurred to the $100 bill in 2010.

The euro came into existence way later, in January 1999, although it had been a goal of the European Union (EU) since the 1960s.

After tough negotiations, particularly due to opposition from the United Kingdom, the Maastricht Treaty entered into force in 1993 with the goal of creating an economic and monetary union by 1999 for all EU states except the UK and Denmark.

That year, the currency was born virtually. Notes and coins began to circulate in 2002. It rapidly took over from the former national currencies such as the German Mark and slowly expanded behind the rest of the EU. Germans soon started to call it “Teuro” since everything seemed to have become more expensive (German: teuer) after the currency change.

The most striking difference that I, as a German woman usually using the euro, can immediately see when looking at the U.S. dollar and comparing it to the euro, is the size and the color. Even though the Americans pay a lot of attention to care for people with special needs and disabilities, they do not seem to have kept in mind the blind people when establishing the money, an everyday implement. Of course, the new $100 bill has a different feel to it compared to the old note. But how can a blind person tell which bill they are holding in their hands? I do not think there is a way.

The Euro on the other hand, does not only vary in size but also in color. Denominations of the notes range from 5 to 500 euro, and unlike the euro coins which vary from country to country, the design is identical across the whole of the Eurozone, although they are issued and printed in various member states.

They consist of pure cotton fiber, which improves their durability as well as giving them a distinctive feel. They measure from 120 by 62 millimeters (4.7 in x 2.4 in) to 160 by 82 millimeters (6.3 in x 3.2 in). The 5 euro bill is a greyish green, 10 is red, 20 blue, 50 orange, 100 a rich green, 200 yellow and 500 purple. This allows blind people to actually know what kind of note they are holding in their hands.

Apart from that, the euro notes also contain many complex security features such as watermarks, invisible ink, holograms and microprinting that document their authenticity.

To check a banknote, you need to feel the raised print, look at it and hold it against the light, so that the watermark, the security thread and the see-through number will be visible, and tilt it because on the front, you can see the shifting image on the hologram and on the back, you can see the glossy stripe.

Although the U.S. notes do have security features as well, I wouldn’t necessarily call them as safe as the euro notes but that might just be a personal impression.

Concerning the coins, the Eurozone has seven different ones, starting at 1 cent, followed by 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cent coins, as well as a 1 and a 2 euro coin. Apparently, the U.S. coins are 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 cents and 1 dollar, but I have to admit that during the time I have spent in New Ulm so far, I have never come across a 50 cent or a dollar coin.

No matter how many differences there are, one thing will never change: money makes the world go round.

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