As most people are probably aware, many European nations have adopted the Euro as their currency, replacing their previous national currencies. The original member nations began using the Euro in 1999 and several other countries have joined since. All nations that have joined the Euro still maintain their old central banks to perform certain functions, but only the European Central Bank in Frankfurt has the power to set monetary policy. Recently, there has been some talk of Greece leaving the Euro-zone. Bob Chapman of the International Forecaster claims to have received multiple independent reports that the Greeks are printing Drachma banknotes in preparation for this event. This report is so far unconfirmed by any other source, so on to the original subject.
Countries that adopt the Euro agree to switch from their old currency at a permanent and irreversible fixed rate. For example, the French Franc is permanently fixed at 6.55957 Francs per Euro. The member countries' respective central banks have discretion as to how long and in what manner they will honor their old coins and banknotes. Some allow for redemption by mail, while others require currency to be redeemed in person. Some allow citizens to redeem by mail, but not non-citizens. Some require you to have a European bank account if redeeming by mail. Some have unlimited redemption and others have set cut-off dates, after which the old currency cannot be redeemed. If you need to check details for a particular currency, you can either go directly to their central bank's website, or the European Central Bank's website (www.ecb.int).
Here is a chart of redemption time limits:
Country --- Exchange of banknotes until --- Exchange of coins until
Belgium ---- unlimited --- 31 December 2004
Germany --- unlimited --- unlimited
Ireland --- unlimited --- unlimited
Greece --- 1 March 2012 --- 1 March 2004
Spain --- unlimited --- unlimited
France --- 17 February 2012 --- 17 February 2005
Italy --- 29 February 2012 --- 29 February 2012
Cyprus --- 31 December 2017 --- 31 December 2009
Luxembourg --- unlimited --- 31 December 2004
Malta --- 31 January 2018 --- 1 February 2010
Netherlands --- 1 January 2032 --- 1 January 2007
Austria --- unlimited --- unlimited
Portugal --- 28 February 2022 --- 31 December 2002
Slovenia --- unlimited --- 31 December 2016
Slovakia --- unlimited --- 31 December 2013
Finland --- 29 February 2012 --- 29 February 2012
Other areas that use the Euro: The Azores, Canary Islands, French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Vatican City, Madeira Islands, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Montenegro, Reunion, Saint Pierre & Miquelon, Saint-Martin, San Marino.
Exceptions to the Euro in Europe are:
Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Pound (GBP)
Sweden Kronor (SEK)
Norway Kroner (NOK)
Switzerland Franc (CHF)
Romanian New Lei (RON)
Poland Zlotych (PLN)
Hungary Florint (HUF)
Estonian Krooni (EEK)
Czech Republic Koruny (CZK)
Croatia Kuna (HRK)
Bulgaria Leva (BGN)
Latvia Lat (LVL)
Lithuania Litas (LTL)
Macedonia Denar (MKD)
Albania Lek (ALL)
Moldova Leu (MDL)
Ukraine Hryvna (UAH)
Belarus Ruble (BYR)
Before converting coins or notes, be sure to check that they are not rare dates or otherwise worth more than their value in Euros. Also be sure that the coins and notes were legal tender in the country at the time that they adopted the Euro. If the currency was already obsolete before the Euro was adopted, you will not be able to change it. If you have a crisp note, chances are that you are better off saving it as a collector item. Ebay is full of pre-Euro notes, many of which are selling at higher than their official conversion rate, though right now it seems that only high-grade notes are consistently bringing a premium.
Personally, I have been collecting coins from Austria, Germany, Ireland, and Spain for several years now because they have no time limit on redemption and are in essence, "as good as the Euro". I was able to redeem several thousand Pesetas in Madrid in 2009, which was quite neat because the Euro coins and notes I received were brand new and uncirculated. There was also a very fine restaurant advertising "Dine with Pesetas", where patrons could pay with the old currency.
I will post more details about Euro conversion in the future if there is any interest.
Below is a picture of the Banco Central De Espana, or Central Bank of Spain. Don't worry if you have a lot of coins - they have a counting machine.
The Spanish Central Bank in Madrid: