Irish harps, euros, and traveling money

One of the rather subtle things I enjoy about being in Ireland is that all of the euro coins minted in the republic carry the design of the ancient Irish harp. For me, music is always present in Ireland, so I think it only right that this design was chosen to appear on all Irish euro some ten years ago when euro coin usage began in the country. The design is of an ancient wire strung harp, based on the one that stands in the long room of Trinity College Dublin. That instrument is sometimes called Brian Boru’s harp, though it actually dates from the fourteenth century, a good few hundred years after the historic ruler of the south of Ireland died.

In any case, music and history and a beautiful design — what could represent Ireland better? I enjoy the look of my Irish coins.

That said, I like to sort through now and again to see what other euro zone coins have turned up in my pocket, and see if I can figure out where they have come from. Ireland being on the western edge of Europe, I often see the Brandenburg Gate design and the stylized eagle from Germany, the Leonardo da Vinci design from Italy, the geometry of flowers from France, and images of poet Miguel de Cervantes on coins from Spain.

There are always a few that puzzle me, too. Commemerative issues, sometimes or just designs I have not come across — most from recently Greece, Belgium, and the Vatican. It’s fun to figure them out, though, and think about where they have come from. And to picture someone in Greece or Germany wondering about this harp design on the coin in hand.

How about you? Do you ever look at the designs of the coins in your hand and think about how far they have travelled?

To hear what the Irish wire strung harp sounds like, take a listen to a bit of this tune played by Siobhan Armstrong, one of the top contemporary masters the instrument.

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