The Vatican is in Europe, so they use the euro as currency, right?
The Vatican is actually not a part of the European Union or the eurozone, though a special agreement with EU-member Italy allows the Vatican to use Europe’s common currency. Like the eurozone countries, the Vatican mints its own version of the euro coins, though it does not issue paper notes. Since the Vatican euro first came into existence in 2002, it has usually depicted the current pontiff, with certain exceptions: a “sede vacante” version was issued following the death of Pope St. John Paul II, and the current coins display Pope Francis’ coat of arms rather than his portrait.
What makes the Vatican coins so interesting is not only their subject matter but also their rarity. Up until 2010, they were not put in circulation at all, but only issued in collector’s sets, which faced intense demand and could carry very high price tags.
In 2010, in another agreement with the EU and Italy, the Vatican was allowed to increase the amount of money it minted, but 51% of it had to go into circulation. Most of the circulating coins have been 50-cent pieces. So your chances of owning some Vatican cash went up a little.
Another interesting facet of Vatican currency is the commemorative coin. These are mostly issued in €2 form with a new design or two issued annually, commemorating some relevant theme or event. These coins have only been issued for sets in recent years, not for circulation.
Vatican coinage is rare indeed, especially the older stuff, and is more the realm of collectors rather than spenders. If you’re lucky enough to own a coin bearing the likeness of Pope St. John Paul II or the Sede Vacante coin, keep it in a safe place and pull out your Italian euros to spend on your Vatican trip instead.
You’ll discover many more fascinating factoids about the Vatican in Fr. Jeff Kirby’s book 101 Surprising Facts About St. Peter’s and the Vatican. You’ll have your own Rome-at-home tour and learn about St. Peter’s Basilica and some of our Faith’s most precious and holy treasures. Pick up your copy here!