If you can imagine what shopping would be like in the USA without the penny or the nickel, either, then you can see a rough parallel to what's happening on Sept. 30 in Sweden, when the half crown coin is fading into history and joining the likes of 25, 10, 5, 2, 1 and half öre coinage on collectors' shelves.

Made in Finland (!), some 394 million of the 50 öre coins - mainly containing copper and weighing 1,458 metric tons - will be melted down at the foundry of their origin so that the metal can be recycled. Nowadays, the Swedish Crown is worth about 12-15 cents, depending on the specific season's exchange rates, and the Swedish national bank has decided that smaller denominations simply aren't worth handling.


Having already eliminated five and ten crown paper notes, the bank petitioned Sweden's Parliament to also eliminate the twenty crown bill and replace it, too, with a coin, but popular opinion prevailed for the moment and the familiar lavender and purple portrait of Selma Lagerlöf on its one side will remain in circulation. Five and ten crown coins are now in circulation.

Today, there are 372 million pieces of folding money that are circulating in Sweden, the most common (119 million) being a 500 crown bill (worth about $65). There are also 1000, 50 and 100 crown bills, and like many European countries, the denominations and graphics have changed frequently in recent years for reasons of both security and appearance. The time limitations on redeeming old versions of the recently updated 500, 100 and 20 crown bills at Swedish banks has been extended.

To accommodate for prices and bills that do not end in whole crown numbers, the government has decided to round off upwards to the nearest crown from half a crown (50 öre) and down from 49 öre. There are 100 öre (comparable to pennies on a dollar) in a single Swedish Crown. The "öre" term, by the way, trickled down in history from the Latin word, aurium, meaning "gold." Linguistically speaking, it is another confirmation that Romans had reached Swedish shores and were trading with Scandinavians long before the age of the Vikings.

Sweden's national bank (Riksbanken) was founded in 1668 and is the world's oldest central bank. www.riksbank.com