If you have any old French banknotes, denominated in Francs, lying around or tucked under your mattress, you have only 5 days to convert them into euros. Until the end of this week the superseded notes, including those with portraits of Pierre and Marie Curie (500 francs), Gustave Eiffel (200 francs), Cezanne (100 francs), Saint-Exupéry (50 francs) and Debussy (20 francs) can be exchanged at branches of the Banque de France for their equivalent values in euros (ranging from 3 euros up to around 75 euros)
After this week they will be worthless except as collector’s pieces, in which form only those with very low serial numbers or printing defects can be expected to be worth anything like their original face value.
The Banque de France says that at the end of 2010 there were still 50 million of these banknotes, with a total exchange value of 602 million euros, still unnaccounted for. Since each old banknote represents a debt owed by France to the holder, the overall national debt of France will be reduced after Friday by the total value of any that remain unexchanged.
Unfortunately, while 600 million used to be considered quite a lot of money, it’s now no more than loose change compared with the nation’s total debt.
Frogsiders advice: Look under the bed, in the sock drawer, and in all the pockets of your old clothes. You might find the missing 600 million!