The euro – decimal all ways

It has now been 15 years since the launch of euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002. While UKMA takes no position on the euro, the anniversary of the introduction of euro notes and coins gives an opportunity to emphasise the role of measurement in their production.

The width and length of euro notes and the diameter and thickness of euro coins are all given in millimetres on the European Commission website. This website also gives the weight of euro coins in grams. Here are the stats:

Euro Coins

Denomination Diameter Thickness Weight
1 cent coin 16.25 mm 1.67 mm 2.30 g
2 cent coin 18.75 mm 1.67 mm 3.06 g
5 cent coin 21.25 mm 1.67 mm 3.92 g
10 cent coin 19.75 mm 1.93 mm 4.10 g
20 cent coin 22.25 mm 2.14 mm 5.74 g
50 cent coin 24.25 mm 2.38 mm 7.80 g
1 euro coin 23.25 mm 2.33 mm 7.50 g
2 euro coin 25.75 mm 2.20 mm 8.50 g

Euro Notes

Denomination Length Width
5 euro note 120 mm 62 mm
10 euro note 127 mm 67 mm
20 euro note 133 mm 72 mm
50 euro note 140 mm 77 mm
100 euro note 147 mm 82 mm
200 euro note 153 mm 82 mm
500 euro note 160 mm 82 mm

Another important feature of the euro is that all denominations of euro notes and coins above 5 cents are divisible by powers of 10. This feature is common to most other currencies. There is no argument about the need for any to be divisible by 3, duodecimal or other highly divisible factors, an argument often used by opponents of the metric system. However, imperial measurements use all kinds of factors, many of which do not have high levels of divisibility (e.g. 14 pounds to a stone, 22 yards to a chain, etc.).

Metric Views can confirm there is no basis for the rumour that Brexit will result in reversion to £sd in the UK. It is difficult to believe now that it is less than fifty years since the UK adopted decimal currency, being one of the last countries in the world to do so. Before then, there were 4 farthings in a penny, 12 pence in a shilling, 20 shillings in a pound, and 21 shillings in a guinea. This was divisible by 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 18, 21, 28, 36, 42, 63, 84 and 126, but was not divisible by 10 and was hardly ever used.


7 thoughts on “The euro – decimal all ways”

  1. At one point (might still be true), a large proportion of the copper-coated steel blanks for the 1c, 2c and 5c coins for the whole Eurozone were made in Birmingham, UK—one of the few places which could make them cheaply enough to be viable. Even cheaper now, in euros! All to metric specifications, of course, as is all of what serious manufacturing we still do…

    The sequence 1, 2 or 5 × 10^N is a non-original Renard series (R3) present in many decimalised currencies including GBP (one of the last to go decimal), but not the USD (one of the first) which is a bit, ahem, erratic with its 25c but no $2.50, etc.

    Don’t forget the imperial guinea, which had the very useful property of dividing exactly by seven!

    Oh, you didn’t—and then some 😉


  2. Those who (like Mark Williams apparently) doubt the global competitiveness of UK manufacturing might be interested to know that in the 2016 edition of the well respected Deloitte Global manufacturing competitiveness index, the UK is ranked 6th (behind: 1st China, 2nd US, 3rd Germany, 4th Japan and 5th South Korea). The next European country is Switzerland in 12th place. Of the other big EU countries, France is ranked 22nd, Spain 25th and Italy 28th. Of the other countries often mentioned on these pages, Canada is ranked 9th and Australia 21st.



  3. Charlie P

    That will all change when the UK is on the outside and looking in. With no trade deal and every export taxed when it enters a country will result in a huge drop in competitive index for the UK.


  4. Quelle surprise; another straw-man from Charlie P. If only he had read my previous comment no less carefully than he would have us read his!

    Incidentally, the same UK company made large quantities of other EUR (and GBP, etc.) coin blanks, too—also to metric specifications. Nonetheless, they won’t appear in that manufacturing competitiveness index—`well respected’, or otherwise, now…


  5. @Daniel Jackson wrote “With no trade deal and every export taxed when it enters a country …”.

    Today’s Times cited a problem with taxing imports and exports – the British Governemnt current handles about 60 million import and export documents a year on a computer system that is designed to handle 50 million as year. An upgraded system that can handle 100 million documents a years is currently under development, with with a hard BREXIT, the Department of Customs and Excise expect to handle 390 million a year. Just one of the host of problems tied into BREXIT.


  6. Think positive, of all those jobs created. All those lovely hours spent on conversions from metric into Imperial. Checking all those labels for compliance. If we change back to £.s.d. also, we can re-invent the ICL 1301 computer, the only one in the world designed to calculate in £.s.d., a world leader, a true decimal (not binary) computer.


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