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Parisians queue on last day to trade francs for euros

Hundreds of people queued outside France's central bank on Friday for their last chance to exchange their old franc notes for euros. France replaced its national currency with the euro in 2002.


AFP - Hundreds of people queued at the offices of France's central bank on Friday to take advantage of their last chance to hand in old franc notes after the currency was replaced by the euro in 2002.

The Bank of France set Friday as the last day to exchange leftover franc notes and hundreds were rushing to meet the deadline at the downtown branch on Paris's Boulevard Raspail.

Those in line said they found the bills in places like drawers or a box of foreign currency or even in an old pair of trousers that no longer fit.

Opera singer Euken Ostolaza, 50, came to exchange two 200-franc bills and one 50 as a favour for his elderly aunt "who has a very small pension and who I love more than anything."

The tenor stopped by after rehearsals but said he had no excuse for waiting until the last minute.

"I'm a procrastinator -- may God forgive me," he said, after he dropped off his francs and learned he would be notified in March regarding when to pick up his euros.

Franc coins and older notes were only exchangeable until 2005 but newer notes were given the longer grace period until Friday, at an exchange rate of 15.24 euros for 100 francs.

More than 45,000 people had lined up across the country in 2005 for the first round of exchanges.

The line outside the Paris office Friday extended halfway down the block and on Thursday around 1,100 people stopped by, a bank representative said.

The central bank said those who were unable to get to branches before they closed Friday would still be able to drop off notes in letter boxes until midnight.

But the bank representative said he had received an order to discourage stragglers from doing so and the branch kept its doors open past the regular 3:30 pm closing time.

A series of advertisements ran in advance of the deadline to remind people to exchange the notes and a website was created to help them find their nearest central bank branch.

Restaurateur Didier Montanari, 55, came after hearing about the deadline on the news but left disappointed after his three 100-franc bills from the 1980s were deemed too old to exchange.

"They don't exchange the Eugene Delacroix," he said, referring to the French artist whose likeness graces the bills.

"Oh well," he said, "I'll frame them and keep them as a souvenir."

It was estimated that at the end of 2010 there were still 50 million franc notes at large, worth the equivalent of 602 million euros ($792 million).

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