Czech National Bank announces withdrawal of 50 heller coin

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In just under a year's time the country's smallest coin - the 50 heller piece - will no longer be accepted as valid currency. The Czech National Bank says the little aluminium coin - which weighs just under 1 gram and is worth less than 2.5 US cents - is no longer worth minting, and will be withdrawn from circulation on September 1st 2008. The 50 heller piece thus goes the way of the 10 and 20 heller coins, which were withdrawn five years ago. Tomas Hladek is the Executive Director of the Czech National Bank's Cash and Payments Department.

"This coin is no longer used in the manner we expect of every coin - it does not circulate. Each month we issue millions of them but they do not return from circulation to the central bank. So it's starting to be a coin for one use only."

Why is that? Why has it become so unpopular, as it were?

"Unpopular...well, it doesn't have that big a value any more, that's the main reason. You can buy almost nothing for 50 hellers."

So people are just leaving them behind in shops and so on.

"Exactly."

When coins are withdrawn from circulation people are usually worried about prices going up. Is that a valid concern do you think?

"It could be, but you know, prices are increased almost regularly on the basis of some inflation. On the other hand, I'm sure you know that inflation is not that high in the Czech Republic, and we at the central bank do not expect that this step will have a big impact on inflation. We can say that with the experience of having even lower denomination coins - the 10 and 20 hellers - which we withdrew from circulation several years ago."

In a year's time the smallest Czech coin - the one-crown piece - will be worth five times more than the smallest US coin and three times more than the smallest euro coin. What economic or even psychological effect do you think that will have on the Czech people?

Foto: archiv Českého rozhlasu - Radia Praha
"Even in these countries and these currencies which you mention, the lowest denominations do exist, but they are not used, as in the case of our 10, 20, 50 hellers, to buy a product. There are not so many products that you could buy for one eurocent. So even in the European Union there is a discussion about the future of these little coins."

Each time you phase out these little coins your fiercest opponents are always the country's card players, who use them in games such as Marias and so. They're not going to be happy that the 50 heller piece is going out of circulation. What message would you have for them?

"Well, I'm not a Marias player, but I've heard that these players either play with tokens or they're switching to 1,2 or 5 crown coins, and don't use such small coins as the hellers any more."

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