The last of September in Sweden marked the date when a centuries old cash denomination of payment faded into history with the demise of the 50 öre coin. Sweden's öre, 100 of which equal a crown, will remain as the smallest official currency unit and be used for bank account balances, credit card purchases, invoices and all other payments that do not involve hard cash. Cash payments will now be rounded up to the next whole crown when they are above 50 öre, and below, rounded downward.

The move was applauded by the public. The 50-öre coins have been Sweden’s smallest denomination coin since 1992 when the 10 öre coin - first minted in 1792 - was removed from circulation. A survey commissioned by the Swedish national bank, Riksbank, found that two out of three Swedes considered that the coin was no longer necessary. Retail stores also preferred the coin's abolishment.


The word "öre" itself is a Scandinavian tweak on a Roman word ("öre" came from the Latin "aure" which was the basic part of the word "aureus" that meant "gold"), and its use and links to Latin give it nearly a two millennium history. Such other uses of the word include Öresund, the strait between Sweden and Denmark, at which was a Roman trading post and harbor was active in the latter centuries of the empire.

Both the one öre and two öre copper coins went out of circulation in 1971, and the 50 öre, or half crown, was the last of the species that also covered the five öre coin, first minted in 1792 and removed from use in 1984. Somewhat shrinking in size and metallic worth over the years, the Swedish 25 öre coins also ended their era in 1991.

To envision this happening overnight in America, it would be like awakening tomorrow and having no smaller coin than a dime with which to pay. Without a doubt, the size of the now bulky one crown coin in Sweden - closer to being as big as a fifty cent US coin than as small as a quarter - will diminish one day soon to approximate the size of the American dime, although officials plan to retain the current size for the moment.

First minted in 1857 with a weight of 4.25 grams, a diameter of 21.9 mm, and containing 0.75 silver, the Swedish 50 öre coins were worth was about seven cents in exchange for US money. However, they held such low esteem that most Swedes did not bother to pick them up if they were dropped onto the ground. Official estimates were that 200 million existed in circulation on September 30, but now they are no longer valid as legal tender and can only be traded in at banks for a short period of time into the future.

Versions of the 1, 5 and 10 crown coins remain as legal tender, as does the 2 crown coin, although its return might soon be expected after having been taken out of circulation in 1971. Currently, the most valuable Swedish coin is a specially issued 4,000 crown commemorative coin in gold that commemorates last summer's wedding of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel Westling. Including this, there are currently 660,658 special commemorative coins currently circulating, although these are almost never used for actual payment.

Taking over as the smallest coin, the one crown Swedish coin was first issued in 1875 and noted the unified Kingdom of Sweden and Norway. The five crown Swedish coin was first issued in 1881 and remains in circulation. Ten crown Swedish coins have gone in and out of circulation since 1873, and today's "gold" appearing ten crown piece (struck in Copper-nickel) is about the size of an American dime, although weightier with about 2.5 times the thickness.

First appearing in 1873 and containing 0.9 gold, the Swedish 20 crown coin was last issued in 1925, but it has not yet returned into updated circulation although the national bank has asked the Swedish Parliament to re-issue this alongside a 20 crown coin that is proposed (against public wishes) to replace the 20 crown "Selma Lagerlöf" bill. For the future, banknote series will bear the denominations 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1 000 crowns.