First euro coins minted in France

PESSAC, France (AP) — With France’s foreign minister hitting the “start” button, a French mint stamped out the first coins Monday for Europe’s single currency, the euro.
The French official, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, took one of the brassy one-euro coins — worth about $1 — at the mint in this southwestern town and bit it “to see if it’s real.”
On Jan. 1, 1999, nearly 300 million Europeans will begin using the euro for noncash transactions in the 11 European Union nations that have agreed to use the currency. Bills and coins won’t go into circulation until 2002.
Until 2002, the EU is to stamp 7.6 billion coins in addition to euro bills. The coins are to come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, one euro and 2 euros.
Each coin is to have a map of Europe on one side and a national face on the other side. France’s has the national motto “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” with the initials RF, for Republique Francaise.
When the euro is introduced Jan. 1,1999, the central banks of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Finland, Ireland, Portugal and Luxembourg will hand over much of their power to the European Central Bank.
As for the other EU nations, Britain, Denmark and Sweden have so far opted to stay out of the euro, and Greece has yet to meet economic and financial restrictions to qualify.