In the secrets of the factory that makes our euro

The founding of the Monnaie de Paris in Pessac (Gironde) hit the coins in circulation in France and about forty countries. It will be open to the public during Heritage Days, September 21-22.

Heist of the Century. Sneak back to the scene, turn the machines to make money, and then spin to the beaches of far-flung countries with your loot… Difficulties are there as you pass through the gates of the money factory in Pessac (Gironde) near Bordeaux. Don’t think about La Casa de papel. In this successful Netflix series, eight robbers break into the Madrid Strike Institute, where they print millions of tickets and share in the wealth.

However, the size is different: here, in Pessac, we do not produce banknotes, but coins. 1, 2, 5, and 50 cent notes, as well as 1 and 2 euro banknotes circulating in France; euros minted for Monaco, Andorra, Malta, Cyprus, and currencies designed for dozens of countries, using French expertise in this field. The huge concrete building that houses the factory, located near the ring road, has a 1970s appearance and has long been closed to the public. It has been open every year since 2018 during Heritage Days (21-22 September this year, after registration) and reveals some of its secrets to visitors.

Start with this: The location is the industrial branch of Paris-Monnay, the oldest institution in France, founded in 864. At the time, several mints were scattered across the country. For centuries, the main institutions of Paris centralized all currency creation under the patronage of the king. Since 1775, it has been located at 11, quai de Conti, and is now the home of the art studio and the headquarters of the Monnaie de Paris. In 1973, most of the manufacture of francs, and then euros, was moved to Pessac, due to its proximity to Merignac airport and the sea.

1.5 billion pieces per year
“Here, we are producing on a scale”, says factory manager Jacky Frehel. Ultra safe, the site covers 98,000 m2. Thanks to the work of 180 coin operators, engravers, press operators and other specialized technicians, as many as 1.5 billion coins are produced each year at cruising speed. “This is our raw material,” Mr. Fraher pointed out, pointing to the huge coils, each weighing three tons. It is from these “blanks” that the rounds of raw metal are made that will then produce the raw tin coins.

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