.- Coins bearing the image of Pope Benedict XVI are now in open circulation within Vatican walls. As of this month, Vatican visitors will find that 50 cent pieces are being given as change at places such as the gas station, pharmacy and post office.
Since the Vatican accepted the euro in Jan. 2002, the only coins bearing the Pope's visage available were those sold as part of a collection. Now, as the result of a Dec. 2009 accord between the European Union and the Holy See, approximately two million 50 cent pieces have been minted for circulation.
According to the fine print of this agreement, reported France's I-Media, the Vatican was obligated to put at least 51 percent of the nominal value of its coinage in circulation. However, in order to protect value in the important trade of collections, the 50 cent coins are the only ones in circulation and they will only be given out in pairs: two per customer.
Coins of seven other denominations are available in the collector's set, from nominal values of one cent to the two euro coin.
Allowing circulation of only the 50 cent piece protects the value of coin collectors' purchases, sold and resold at prices above their nominal value, and may give visitors a pleasant surprise as they shop around the Vatican. The coins are being given as change at places such as the Vatican gas station, pharmacy and post office.
The coin features the image of Pope Benedict on one side along with the words "Citta del Vaticano 2010."