When 11 E.U. nations swapped francs and lire for euros on New Year's Day 1999, traders called the new money a "toilet currency." Nope! The euro — now the coin of 15 E.U. realms — has proved so strong that Alan Greenspan said it could become the world's main reserve currency. Not that all national identity was lost: Each country customizes one side of euro coinage. here are the 1-euro coins of the original eurozone.
Mozart was born and reared in Salzburg.
Albert II has been king of the Belgians since 1993.
The national bird of Finland is the whooper swan.
The French chose the motto "liberté, égalité, fraternité."
The eagle is an ancient symbol of the German state.
The harp has been an Irish icon since medieval times.
Da Vinci used his Vitruvian Man to map proportion.
Henri rules the world's last grand duchy.
Queen Beatrix succeeded her mother in 1980.
Portugal's first king used this royal seal in 1144.
King Juan Carlos was Franco's chosen successor.
Photographs courtesy of European Commission
A version of this article appeared in the December/January 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.