Eurozone small change has cost members of the single currency ?1.4bn (£1.18bn) more than the combined value of all one and two euro-cent coins minted since 2002.
The European Commission is now considering withdrawing the small copper coloured coins after concluding that minting them is “loss-making activity” because their face-value is less that the cost of production.
Since the introduction of the euro 11 years ago the eurozone member has issued more than 45.8 billion one and two cent coins, 137 coins per capita.
Officials note that public opinion is “rather paradoxical”, the coins are popular but there is evidence that they are not re-circulated, perhaps meaning there could be a eurozone dividend if penny jars were emptied.
“They disappear into coin jars and get lost very easily,” the commission concluded.
“While people are attached to these small denominations they handle these coins as non-value items and do not re-circulate them in payment channels. The resulting high loss rate combined with the existence of psychological prices leads to an ever-growing demand for issuance of new small coins, which today represent nearly half of the coins in circulation.”
The main obstacle to removing the coins from circulation is the concern that prices in shops would be rounded up rather than down fuelling inflation and growing popular hostility to the eurozone.
The commission is now consulting with eurozone governments and central banks about how to proceed with a quick or phased withdrawal the favoured options, combined with pricing rules to protect consumers.