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Business

Flocking to Hear the Jingle of Euro Coins

Millions of Germans flock to banks across the country to get their hands on new Euro "starter kits", little plastic bags holding 20 Deutsche Marks worth of the new Euro coins.

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They won't all be this large. Bankers and politicians sound a Euro gong in Frankfurt at midnight Monday, when starter kits of the new Euro coins made their entry.

The seduction has begun.

Little plastic bags, filled with euro coins have started appearing in the hands of Germans. And the beloved, fading Deutsche Mark can only look on in resignation.

Weeks after polls indicated that roughly half of the German population was against the new currency, which will enter the mainstream on Jan. 1, millions flocked to banks throughout the country Monday and paid 20 Deutsch Marks to get hands on "starter kits" holding 10.32 worth of euro coins.

And more than 53 percent of those polled by the Süddeutsche Zeitung said they planned to pick up a starter kit, which were made available to the public in nine of the 12 Euro-zone countries over the weekend.

A proclamation of long lasting love, it isn’t, but the starter kits have done their job in arousing interest.

Freezing for the Euro

More than 1,000 people braved frigid temperatures and lined up on the square in front of the Stock Market in Frankfurt waiting for the Sparkasse bank to open its doors at midnight.

Within one and a half hours the bank had sold more than 6,000 of the kits. Recipients won't be able to use the new coins until Jan. 1, but that didn't seem to have much affect. A few blocks away, at Dresdner Bank, hundreds also stood in line.

About 1,200 guests from the sports, politics and show business realm celebrated the new currency at a Euro Night in Cologne Sunday. Fritz Pleitgen, the head of German radio and television channel WDR, waxed melodramatic on the euro’s imminent introduction.

"I have the feeling I’m taking part in history," he said. "I’m keeping my starter kit for my unborn grandchild."

More than half of the 53.5 million starter kits, financed by the German Finance Ministry and the Federal Bank, were sold in the first day, according to Germany’s banking association.

"Party atmosphere"

"The starter packs are being torn out of the banks’ hands in a euphoric party atmosphere," gushed Ernst Welteke, president of the Federal Bank on Monday.

All in all, more than 185 million starter kits were made for the 300 million citizens in the 12 euro zone countries.

France, Ireland and the Netherlands were the first to start handing out the currency kits. Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Italy and Spain followed suit on Sunday. Greece and Portugal joined Germany in introducing the coins Monday.