By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — The new euro notes are taking a hammering in Ireland. Despite being in circulation only four months, some of them have deteriorated to such an extent that they will have to be replaced.
Worst hit are the low denomination notes and the Central Bank is appealing for people to treat them with more care.
Other euro countries are much more careful with their cash, but the lifetime of notes in Ireland has traditionally been much shorter. Old fivers only lasted about five or six months.
Because lower notes are used more, they are worst hit.
“We are harder on notes generally and we wear them out quicker,” a bank spokesman said. “Things are changing but we still tend to be a more cash-dominated society.
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“People in Continental countries tend to use wallets more than we do and they also used more ‘plastic’ money, so their notes last longer.
“Here, there is an awful lot of crumpling of notes and putting them in pockets going on. People also fold them up and stuff them into little purses.
“Despite our appeals, there is no question that we do not treat notes in the same way as the rest of Europe does.”
The Bank said they issued 15.5 million euro 5 notes since the Jan. 1 changeover.
“We erred on the side of caution when we issued the euro 5 and other low notes because of higher demand for them,” the spokesman said. “Because we issued so many and retailers had too many of them, more than half of them came back to us within the first few days or few weeks.
“We haven’t reissued them yet. Most of them are in good condition because they were only in circulation for a short time.”
Part of the problem with replacing tattered notes is that retailers tend to hold onto the smaller denominations to use them as change rather than lodge them in banks with their takings.
The Bank is also finding that Irish people are great hoarders or losers of cash, with _500 million in old punts and coins still missing.
Still not handed in to be changed into the new currency is _448.7 million (euro 570 million).
The largest number of missing notes is old fivers. There are almost eight million fivers or 38 percent of all the old fivers still in circulation. They are worth _29 million (euro 37 million).
Huge quantities of other notes are also still missing, including 13 percent of _100 notes worth almost _13 million (euro 16 million euros), 7 percent of _20 notes worth _116 million (euro 147 million) and 26 percent of old tenners worth _33 million (euro 43 million).
The big mystery remains old coins with 39 percent worth _118 million (euro 150 million) still AWOL.
The spokesman said the Central Bank does not expected a lot of the old money will ever be handed in because most of it has been lost, destroyed or taken abroad by tourists.
The Central Bank is the only place where old coins can still be converted to euros because the commercial banks stopped taking them March 28.
“We are still getting people coming in every day and queuing up, but they don’t tend to be bringing in large amounts of coinage.,” the spokesman said. “It’s small beer at the end of the day and most of those coins will never come back.”