"People come every day to ask us, they think that because they have pesetas that they can no longer exchange, they will have a market, but that's not the case," says the owner of a coin shop next to the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The Bank of Spain gave almost 20 years of term to exchange the old Spanish currency to euros. In this period, almost 97% of the legal tender money that existed when the European currency came into force was redeemed, but some 260,000 million pesetas (just over 1,500 million euros) remained in a limbo in which they no longer have value. neither monetary nor for collectors.
Toño Piñeiro, a man from a small town in Lugo, has found in a house that he was rehabilitating to spend his retirement about 9 million pesetas distributed in different containers. It is understood that they belonged to the previous owner of the property, according to El Progreso. The problem for Piñeiro, and for many others who still have coins at home, is that this money no longer has value. The Bank of Spain stopped exchanging pesetas for euros on June 30 last year and, since then, pesetas are no longer possible to use. This case in Galicia, being extraordinary for the amount of money that is being discussed, has highlighted the significant amount of money that was left unexchanged despite the time it took.
At the end of June last year The queues that were experienced at the headquarters of the Bank of Spain were long to exchange the pesetas that were still kept in the homes without exchanging them for euros before the final term expired. In reality, it was an extension due to the pandemic, since the term ended on December 31, 2020. When the European currency came into operation, in Spain there were 8.1 trillion pesetas in cash circulating, the equivalent of 48,750 million euros. In the first six months of the year, more than 94% was exchanged, since it was possible to do so both at the Bank of Spain and at credit institutions. During the two subsequent decades, until June of last year, the percentage of pesetas exchanged rose to 96.8%.
Thus, the Spanish still keep 3.2% of the pesetas that were in circulation in 2002, when the euro came into force. According to the estimate made by the Bank of Spain, of the 1,575 million euros in pesetas that remained unexchanged, 793 million euros were in bills and 782 million in coins. It should be remembered that in this period only pesetas that were legal tender when the euro came into force were exchanged, so the oldest ones were from 1939.
In the queues of the last few days, those who went to their closest Bank of Spain headquarters blamed having left it until the last minute, having forgotten or not knowing that they could still be changed. Due to the generational changes of these two decades, there were even young people in the ranks who had been born after the entry into force of the euro. There was not a single reason to be in that line, but there were thousands who rushed the last few days to carry out this task.
"There is a tendency to cling to the old," explains Elena Dapra, a health psychologist who specializes in psychological well-being. The also section member at the Madrid Official College of Psychology adds that this is especially important for those who "began their socialization with the peseta". That is, those generations that at the beginning of their social life used the peseta. She rules out factors such as procrastination when not having made the currency exchange despite having had time.
For these generations for whom the peseta played a leading role in their adolescence and adulthood, a special "value" was given to this currency. Even years after the establishment of the euro, many needed to go to the change with the peseta to understand large amounts. This has led, according to Dapra, to many keeping various amounts in pesetas in their homes to make them feel "safe". For them, the arrival of the euro was "leaving a comfort zone" and this clinging to the peseta gave peace of mind, especially to the older ones. He points out that it is not a special behavior of the Spanish and points to other societies such as the Greek with a greater attachment to the old.
Dapra acknowledges that there may be other reasons and among them it also points out that many people, over time, took "balance" of how much the exchange of those pesetas that were left at home in euros could mean and decided that it was not worth it.
It is an idea that is shared among the numismatic stores that have remained on the edge of the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. "There were people who had to take a lot of coins to the Bank of Spain to receive a few euros, and they decided that they were not compensated," says the manager of one of these businesses. In these establishments, they agree that in recent years an idea that has been transferred that there are peseta coins that have a lot of value has hurt. However, they point out that only some extraordinary cases during the Franco era can really be of interest to collectors and that they are not the coins and bills that families kept at home.
"They do not have and will not have any value," says Vicente Vico, president of the Spanish Association of Professional Numismatists. Vico also runs a gallery where, he says, people arrive daily who have received "erroneous information" about the value of their coins. "It is practically impossible that they will have value in the future," this expert in numismatic collecting emphatically points out.
Vico attributes it to a reality and that is that, despite the fact that almost 97% of the coins and bills in circulation were exchanged, there are still many that are still in possession in the market. "Many millions of pesetas have been minted and there is a large population, there are not so many exceptional pieces," he emphasizes. "It is the law of supply and demand, if there is a lot of currency, the interest of collectors drops," says the representative of the sector. "They are demonetized pieces and there is still a lot in the pockets of the Spaniards, it is practically impossible for a person to have one in their house that interests collectors," he settles.
The case of Lugo thus highlights the limbo in which the pesetas find themselves. The Bank of Spain has already terminated the period for the exchange and there is no grace period or exceptions for special cases. Collectors, for their part, do not see numismatic value in these coins and rule out that they will have it in the near future. Thus, the pieces and papers, which once meant so much, now have a difficult time getting out and there is nothing left but a memory of when Spain had its own currency.