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20 years after switching to the euro, Belgian francs still being brought in for exchange

21:10 25/01/2023

Despite two decades having passed since Belgium switched from its national currency to the euro, people are still finding old Belgian francs and bringing them into banks to be exchanged.

The National Bank of Belgium (NBB) exchanged €1.2 million worth of old Belgian banknotes last year.

While euros replaced the Belgian franc on 1 January 2002, it seems many people are still finding them decades later.

There was estimated to be more than €270 million worth of the older currency in circulation at the end of 2001, and nearly €15 million still has not made its way to the NBB for exchange.

A total of 94.6% of the old banknotes have been exchanged since the switch.

Larger bills were taken in for exchange much more quickly than smaller ones, and many Belgians still hold on to old coins for nostalgic reasons.

Only 0.73% of 10,000-franc banknotes have not been exchanged, 1.41% of 2,000-franc banknotes and 1.39% of 1,000-franc banknotes.

But for 100-franc notes, which feature the images of and face of Ostend painter James Ensor, 11.61% have not yet been exchanged.

When it comes to 200-franc banknotes, which feature Belgian inventor Adolphe Sax, 9.62% are still in private hands.

The NBB estimates that more than 10 million notes will never be exchanged.

“They have been lost, destroyed (in a fire for example), hidden too well by people who are now deceased, found themselves abroad, or maybe transported by their holders who feel that it is not worth the effort to travel to exchange them in Belgium,” the NBB has explained in the past. “They are also kept by collectors.”

Banknotes issued by the NBB since 1944 can be exchanged for their worth in euros at any time.

But 20 and 50-franc banknotes (issued at the time by the Belgian Treasury) and all of the old coins can no longer be exchanged.

Written by Helen Lyons