Sweden pays its last respects to the öre

Sweden pays its last respects to the öre
The 50 öre coin took its final breath on Thursday and The Local's Peter Vinthagen Simpson has had a look at the life and times of Sweden's last remaining copper coin.

The 50 öre, a little 3.7 gramme copper coin which since 1991 has served as the lowest denomination of the Swedish currency, the krona, was rendered expendable by Sweden’s Riksbank in December 2008. On Thursday, September 30th this decision came into effect.

The name öre was derived from the Latin aureus meaning gold but in its dotage the coin was made up of 97 percent copper, 2.5 percent zinc and 0.5 percent tin. It was first introduced as a coin back in 1522 by King Gustav Vasa, then in a silver version, which remained in circulation in various forms until its early demise in 2006.

The decimal system’s introduction in Sweden in 1855 gave the öre a renewed vigour, fixing its value as one hundredth of a krona, where it was to remain until its death.

The 50 öre outlived its siblings – the silver 25 öre and 10 öre, and the copper 5 öre, 2 öre, 1 öre and 1/2 öre – who were laid to rest variously in 1873, 1971, 1984 and 1991. It is survived by the one, five and ten krona (silver) coins.

The removal of the öre’s silver sibling in 2006 resulted in the disappearance of a total of 125 million kronor ($18.5 million) from the monetary system, and as the death knell sounds for the copper 50-öre coin there is reported to be some 394 million krona remaining in circulation.

Mourners seeking to pay with their last öre at funeral services across the country are encouraged to contact their local store for details.

Furthermore many supermarket chains are cooperating with charities to encourage people to bury their final coins in a coffin of goodwill. The Swedish Red Cross is among those looking at the end of the öre era with optimism, having managed to collect some 344,435 coins to date.

While the öre is no longer with us in person it will live on in print, on the receipts of those making purchases in the post-öre era. Items will still be priced, for example, at 5.50 kronor, and those using charge cards will thus hardly register the loss. With cash purchases the price will be rounded up to a whole krona.

Those eking out the household budget by collecting bottles to return for deposit will no doubt gain some solace from the fact that the alluminium cans will now be worth a krona, double their previous sum. Plastic bags, which typically retail for 1.50 kronor, will now be worked into the total grocery bill.

Those unable to attend in-store funeral services before September 30th are encouraged to contact their bank directly before March 31st 2011, after which time the options are to place the copper coin under a pot on the kitchen stove (to promote heat distribution), or to cast them onto the heap as just another item of metal scrap.

The öre’s demise, it seems, will not remain an isolated passing in Scandinavian currency circles, with Norway currently reviewing the existence of its own 50 øre. The öre’s Danish cousin, the øre, is thus set to bear the lone responsibility in carrying on the family dynasty for the time being.

Two public service commercials from the Riksbank (in Swedish)

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