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Millions of people across Europe have been queueing at their banks and post offices to get hold of the new money, while cash points and teller machines have been converted to handle the euro.

Most of the coins are being brought into circulation through retailers, who will give euro change to bills settled in national currencies until 28 February in most counties. Introducing the new money has been a logistical nightmare - and a huge security problem. Billions of notes and coins have had to be kept safe, and then safely distributed to shops and banks across the eurozone.

Coins are the biggest problem. The Dutch government, for example, estimates that 250 one-tonne trucks have made 8000 journeys to distribute its 1.5 billion allocation of the euro coin mountain: Germany had 20 billion coins to share out.

But the ECB had a chance to learn the lessons of a previous switch from one currency to the other, when in 1990 East Germany dumped its currency for the West German Deutschmark, shortly before the reunification of the two countries.

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