FAQS - Frequently Asked Questions


A coin is a method of payment issued by the Member States with the purpose of being used in economic transactions and to which legal tender and discharging power is granted.

The rights of issuance of metallic euro coins belong to the euro-area Member States, subject to approval of the volume of issuance by the European Central Bank (ECB). In Portugal, this responsibility is up to the State through the Ministry of Finance – Directorate General for the Treasury and Finance – while Banco de Portugal ensures that euro coins are put into circulation.

In Portugal, coins are produced by Imprensa Nacional Casa da Moeda (INCM) Portuguese Mint and Official Printing Office, located in Lisbon.

The common sides of the coins were designed by Luc Luycx of the Royal Belgian Mint. They show representations of the European Union (EU) or of Europe and symbolise the unity of the EU. The 1, 2 and 5 cent euro coins show Europe in relation to Africa and Asia on a globe. The national side is the responsibility of each Member State. In Portugal, the national sides were designed by the sculptor Vítor Santos.

No. There are twelve stars because traditionally this number represents a symbol of perfection, plenitude and unity.

Coins for current circulation are usually minted with a normal finishing. Collector coins or coins for numismatic purposes may present a special finishing and can be sold for a higher value than its face value.

The map is a geographical representation of Europe. However, due to mintage limitations, the designs must obey a specific scale. For that reason, it is not possible to reproduce islands with a reduced area.

Taking into consideration the special needs of visually impaired people, specific characteristics were incorporated into euro coins so as to facilitate its recognition, namely:

  • Different shapes, colours and edges, contributing to an easy recognition of the denomination;
  • The weight of each coin is different – the higher the denomination, the heavier its weight, with the exception of the 1 euro coin;
  • The thickness of each coin depends on its value;
  • The denomination is easily distinguishable on the common side of the coin.

Euro in Circulation

The rights of issuance of euro coins belong to the euro-area Member States, subject to approval of the volume of issuance by the European Central Bank (ECB). In Portugal, this responsibility is up to the State through the Ministry of Finance – Directorate General for the Treasury and Finance – while Banco de Portugal ensures that euro coins are put into circulation.

Eurosystem is the term designating the ECB and the national central banks of the 19 Member States from the UE that have adopted the euro.

The 19 Member States that comprise the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) and that have adopted the euro are: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Netherlands, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Portugal.

Legal tender stems from a legal document that provides coins with the capacity to be used as a means of payment in a certain common area, making its acceptance by its nominal value mandatory.

Euro coins as legal tender differ in their categories. Accordingly:

  • Current euro coins and commemorative coins intended for circulation are legal tender in the euro area;
  • Collector coins are legal tender only in the respective issuing Member-State .

On 1 January 2002, the euro was adopted as legal tender in 12 Member-States of the European Union, in other four European countries, in two Balkan countries and in many regions and islands in the world that belong or are associated to a Member-State of the euro area. To the present moment, the euro is legal tender in:

  • EU Member-States: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Spain, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Portugal.
  • European countries that use the euro due to a formal agreement with the European Community: Vatican City, Principality of Monaco and Republic of San Marino.
  • Countries or regions that use the euro without any formal agreement: Principality of Andorra, Kosovo and Montenegro.
  • Overseas departments, regions or islands that belong or are associated to a Member-State of the euro area: Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Mayotte, Reunion, Saint Pierre and Miquelon and French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

Yes. However, such coins are only legal tender in the respective country of issue, while also observing that as a rule no party is obliged to accept, in one single payment, more than 50 of these coins.

No. As long as the coins are legal tender in Portugal, credit institutions cannot refuse to accept them, the limit of 50 coins for transaction not being enforceable to those entities. It should be noted that coins for numismatic purposes or collector coins are only legal tender in the country of issue.

Checking the authenticity of coins

Yes, this is possible, since there are admissible variations in the various processes coins undergo before they are put into circulation.

Yes. If there is a bad handling of the coin some of its security features can be damaged, thus presenting different characteristics from expected. For example, if the coin is subjected to abrasive agents, its relief may be damaged.

The FEEL – LOOK – CHECK method should be used. The verification can also be performed by resorting to support equipment, such as a magnifying glass and a magnet.

Coin on-the-spot controls should be performed, which means:

  • Compare the coin with one you know to be genuine from the same denomination and national side;
  • Check the existence and performance of the security features.

Yes. However, it is advisable to use auxiliary instruments – magnifying glass and magnet – in order to analyse the coin employing the FEEL – LOOK – CHECK method.

No. To check if the euro coin is genuine you should resort to several security features, employing the Feel – Look – Check method with support equipment: magnifying glass and magnet.

No. If the authenticity of the coin is verified, and as long as it meets the requirements for reimbursement, then it will be paid for.

Yes. Euro coins are very safe, its production being developed according to the highest international safety standards.

Euro coins incorporate security features that keep up with security technological advances in terms of coin production.

The diversity of security features aims to make the crime of counterfeiting significantly difficult.

Fight against counterfeiting

The European Commission has created a counterfeiting analysis centre to coordinate technical and statistical information related to counterfeiting. The information stored in the centre’s database is shared with national police authorities and other entities involved in combating counterfeiting. Moreover, it works in close collaboration with the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol), empowered to combat coin counterfeiting (with a particular emphasis on the euro), and the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol). The European Commission carefully monitors technological advances in mintage and is permanently informed about the number of apprehended counterfeits. The Coin National Analysis Centres (CNACs) from the euro area examine and gather information about the apprehended counterfeits, allowing them to share information with the system about the most dangerous counterfeits. Research and development in the field of coin production is oriented towards the need to reinforce the integrity of the euro as an international coin.

All professional cash handlers are obliged to immediately withhold and submit to the competent authorities coins denominated in euro, together with the details of the presenter’s identification , date, place and method of presentation of the valuables withheld which they come into possession in the course of their activity and of which the falsity is obvious or there is good reason to suspect it.

Yes. You must not, when in doubt or under no pretext, try to pass on to a third-party a fake or counterfeit coin as this act constitutes a crime and is severely punished by the law (Article 265 and following of the Portuguese Penal Code).

No. Receiving a counterfeit coin as if it were genuine means losing its value. This demonstrates how important it is to recognise the authenticity of the coin, right at the moment of acceptance.

Coin counterfeiting is the complete and illegitimate reproduction of a genuine coin.

A fake coin is a genuine coin that has been altered and intended to be put into circulation.

Unfit coins for circulation

The Member States reimburse or replace coins that have become unfit due to prolonged circulation, caused by an accident or that have been rejected during the authentication procedure for other reasons. The Member States may refuse to reimburse unfit euro coins for circulation which have been altered either deliberately or by a process that could be reasonably expected to have the effect of altering them, notwithstanding reimbursement of coins collected for charitable causes, such as ‘fountain coins’.

In Portugal, reimbursement or replacement of coins that have become unfit for circulation depends on the analysis of Coin National Analysis Centre (CNAC) and the instructions issued by Banco de Portugal.

The holder of damaged coins should head to one of the branches of Banco de Portugal, where the appropriate examinations will be carried out.

Every entity involved in recirculation must ensure that every coin they get and intend to put back into circulation undergoes an authentication process. During this process every suspect and unfit coins for circulation must be withdrawn from circulation.