Greece entered the euro single currency on January 1, 2001 and began circulating euro notes and coins on January 1, 2002. Drachma notes and coins ceased being legal tender on February 28, 2002.
*Article last updated July 1, 2012. Photo comes from my personal collection.
- How much they were worth
- Where drachmas were exchanged
- Possibility of leaving the euro
- What I did with mine.
How much were they worth?
Greek drachmas were exchanged at a fixed conversion rate decided by ECOFIN.
340.75 drachmas = 1 euro
Where to exchange drachmas
The Bank of Greece or Τράπεζα της Ελλάδος/Trapeza tis Ellados was the only place in the world you could exchange drachmas for euros.*
Elef. Venizelos 21
102 50 Athens
+30 (210) 320 1111
*There was a small fee.
If you were nowhere near the Bank of Greece, even abroad, you could have sent drachma notes via registered mail to a friend or relative to exchange them and post them back to you.
Within Greece, registered mail is relatively inexpensive and the envelope can be tracked online at “Track and Trace.”
The same service can be used for envelopes going abroad, but postal staff say that tracking stops once outside Greece. Regardless, I have always found it reliable when sending mail to the United States, Australia and anywhere in the EU.
Ditching the euro, return of the drachma
There has been much speculation about Greece exiting the euro zone, either by choice or by force, and returning to the drachma. If this happens, Greece would adopt a new drachma or other currency, and not return to using the drachmas shown above. Experts say it could take up to two years for a new currency to be designed, approved, printed and circulated.
What I did with my δραχμές
I keep 50 and 100 drachma notes in my wallet to remind me of Greece’s history and my own, since I arrived during a period we still used it. There’s a 50-drachma coin with a boat on it, which I keep for luck; other denominations are mixed in a box full of francs, lira, pesetas, escudos, dinars and coins I see as souvenirs from countries I visited; and once in awhile I run across notes flattened in books.
Anything I did not keep or spend was given to friends who collect banknotes and coins as a hobby.
I always felt there was something special about using a national currency with so much history, and it was a shame to let it go.
This post is based on a blurb I wrote in 2008 for a book, which has been expanded online and updated.
“Euro cash changeover” — Bank of Greece
“Valuing the new Greek drachma” — Roubini Global Economics
“Greek elections: Pick euro or drachma” — Reuters
— First-hand experience exchanging drachmas for friends
“Drachma banknotes” — Bank of Greece
In the News
“Whispers of return to drachma grow louder” — NY Times
“ICAP runs drachma-trading drills, just in case” — WSJ
“Talking up the drachma” — NY Times
“Is the euro strong enough to let Greece go?” — Bloomberg
“Last chance to swap those drachmas” — Business Week
“Billions of drachmas left unclaimed” — AFP, Kathimerini