Nearly 10 years after France officially adopted the euro, a staggering amount of the old currency, the French franc, is still waiting to be exchanged—about 600 million euros’ worth, according to the country’s central bank. Now, even as the ongoing euro crisis puts the future of the common currency in question, time to trade those old bills in is running out. After Feb. 17, the central bank will no longer exchange any franc banknotes for euros.
To get the word out, la Banque de France has kicked off a public awareness campaign. Two television commercials ask viewers if they remember where they put their remaining francs (in one, an actor is shocked to hear that his friend put them through the wash a decade ago). There’s also a website, jechangemesfrancs.com, with information on where to exchange the old currency and how many euros one can expect in return (a 20-franc note gets 3.05 euros).
Countries that adopted the euro have varying timelines to switch currencies. Spain, Germany and Ireland, for example, have no set deadlines. Belgian francs were only accepted until the end of 2004. The Netherlands, meanwhile, will allow people to trade in their guilders until Jan. 1, 2032.
In France, some people have been recalcitrant about adopting the euro. As of June 2008, businesses in the village of Collobrières were accepting francs. One man travelled there to blow his old money after he found 20,000 francs in an old jacket and 40,000 tucked away in a junk drawer (worth about 9,100 euros). “He spent it all,” a local baker told the New York Times. But regardless of whether they’re spent or hoarded away, in less than three months, remaining francs will be nothing more than mementos to a dead national currency—at least in the eyes of the French central bank.