Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Commemorative euro coins of Greece

A two-euro coin commemorating the 2011 Special Olympics World Games in Athens joins three previous coins with a Greek connection, one each marking the 2,500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon, 10th anniversary of the euro and 2004 Olympic homecoming.

Images from,,,

*Article last updated November 24, 2011

2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games

One million commemorative euro coins were minted to celebrate the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, during which 185 nations gathered to compete from June 25-July 4, 2011.

On the coin is the logo. “A radiant sun,” the source of life; an olive branch depicting excellence; and a spiral representing the center of the sun and its power — all elements that describe athletes taking part in the Games.


“Colors reflect the Greek landscape and project emotions like passion for life in the warm red, optimism in the orange, determination in the blue, freedom in the light blue and hope in the green.” — Organizing Committee for the Special Olympics

25th Centenary of the Battle of Marathon

With a bird in the background to symbolize the birth of western civilization, the coin features a running warrior representing not just the battle for freedom but also the determination, endurance and daring it took to emerge victorious at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C., despite being outnumbered.

The word ‘marathon’ to most people is a running event, but to Greeks and Philhellenes it is a place of historical significance and a word stirring filotimo. Read, “Spirit of democracy & Greek classicism born in the Battle of Marathon.”

10th Anniversary of the EMU

The European Monetary Union (EMU) marked its 10th anniversary by issuing a commemorative coin on January 1, 2009 with a design from the Bank of Greece.


Amongst five finalists chosen by eurozone mint directors, Greek sculptor George Stamatopoulos won 41.48 percent of 141,675 votes cast by EU citizens and residents until polls closed on February 22, 2008.

“The euro is the latest step in the long history of trade, from prehistoric barter – evoked by the deliberately primitive design – to economic and monetary union,” said Stamatopoulos.

Four million are in circulation, though I’ve only seen one since the release date. I kept it.

Other finalists



Athens 2004 Olympics

Greece made eurozone history by being the first country to issue a commemorative coin on March 14, 2004, in celebration of the Olympics returning home.

It features a popular work by Athenian sculptor Myron called ‘Discobolos’ (discus thrower) in the nude*, which is how Olympic athletes competed in ancient times. ‘Discobolos’ was also used on the 1000 drachma note from 1987 until Greece officially entered the eurozone on January 1, 2001.

With 50 million coins in circulation, the Athens 2004 coin is the highest minted commemorative release to date.

*The word gymnasium comes from the Greek word gymnos, meaning naked.

About commemorative coins

All eurozone countries have the option to mint a commemorative coin once a year to bring attention to historical or current events, displaying a unique design on its national side. It can only be used on the two-euro denomination, which advantageously offers the largest palette.

Twelve stars on the coin’s outer rim mirror the European Union’s 12 stars in a circle, symbolizing unity, solidarity and harmony amongst the people of Europe.

Commemorative coins have become collectibles but are different from collectors coins, which are minted with precious metals.


Battle of Marathon commemorative coin” — Royal Scandinavian Mint
Winner of EMU 10th Anniversary contest” —
€2 Commemorative coins” — European Central Bank
Symbols of the EU” —
Commemorative euro coins” — Bank of Greece
Commemorative coins of Greece” —
2011 Paralympic coin” — Eleftherotypia
New 2012 Commemorative Coin” — Ministry of Finance

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To those who sent me private comments, I’m aware that another person started calling herself American in Athens and published a similar post within 1-2 hours of mine. This isn’t the first time, and I tried addressing the issue but the parasitical behavior has not stopped. Just ignore or de-add her. Thank you for your concern.


This is an older article that has been revamped and expanded. Past comments refer to the original post on February 27, 2008 at 7:17 that debated the winning design of the EMU’s 10th anniversary coin. New comments welcome.


  The Scorpion wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 08:15

I think it looks ugly if you ask me. But, then again, sometimes less is more.

Kat Reply:

Sometimes less is more, but…

  Fotis wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 10:07

I think it looks like someone stuck a pencil up his ass and this is what comes out. Greece needs a sculpter for this? My nephew whos 6 could have done the same.

Kat Reply:

Ela vre! Watch your language, young man. Your comment, however, did make me and my Greek partner laugh.

  Stathis wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 10:42

I like it! Simple and funny! It resembles an ancient Cypriot coin and i think that represents 2500 years of European coinage.

Kat Reply:

You say diplomatic and truthful things. I appreciate that about you.

  Peter wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 12:29

If a Frenchman designed this, it would have been called ‘pure art’. I don’t mind it, the caveman drawing speaks to how old coinage has been used .

Kat Reply:

Perhaps, on the French comment. I don’t think cavemen had money though 😉

  FMS wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 18:42

Well, yes, it looks like an early cave drawing. I suppose it’s more interesting than the usual stuff…

Kat Reply:

I’ve seen cave drawings, and they don’t look like this. Who knows what this dude was thinking?

  Gigi wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 18:05

Nope, not really. I think it’s kind of ugly. i suppose I’ll have a chance to see it this summer though.

Kat Reply:

If you’re talking about summer 2008, you won’t. The post says 2009.

  dubaibilly wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 19:26

It doesn’t look anything like a cave drawing – it looks like an adults attempt at a kiddy drawing and, personally, I think it fails.

  dubaibilly wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 19:30

I’ve just shown this to Mrs Dubaibilly and she thinks it looks “quite nice”. Ah well – perhaps it’s me with no taste of the artistic.

Kat Reply:

I agree with it looking like an adult’s attempt at being a kid. That is what’s going on here, after all. Funny how you followed with Mrs. DB’s comment. Did you ask Mr. B?

  melusina wrote @ February 27th, 2008 at 20:06

Crack smoking. At least that is what I thought when I saw it.

I have to wonder if people voted for it as a joke. But I guess art is in the eye of the beholder.

Kat Reply:

I roared with laughter when I read your first two words!!! 😀

If I seriously had to pick one, I’d pick the “loser” in the upper right corner because the design extends beyond the circle and other aesthetics I dig, but I might have voted for the winner on the thought it wouldn’t win. From a practical point of view, the thin, unrefined lines will wear down quickly with use.

  graffic wrote @ February 28th, 2008 at 01:35

It´s the fashion of the simple and shabby.

You can see the same in some webpages that with 2 colours do more than with tons of flash and images.

Perhaps is simple. Ok, it’s quite simple. But, that guy had the idea, not us.

BTW: I draw worse than that, so I better don’t speak so much 😛

Kat Reply:

I thought the ‘in’ thing was to be chic and shabby. I don’t know if this qualifies.

  Nikolaos wrote @ February 28th, 2008 at 05:28

I like the simplicity. To be honest, it most likely took the guy a really long time to think of the idea.

Kat Reply:

Simplicity is my friend, but I don’t know if I like it this primitive. Why don’t they just issue unshaped globs of metal and stamp this on top? 😉

  yiannos wrote @ February 28th, 2008 at 14:07

garbage can design.

Nikolaos: i agree file, it probably took him a while to think of it, and that’s really tragic.

the west is dead! i swear! ;-0

Kat Reply:

LOL, I was waiting for you to say something!

  Zorba The Greek wrote @ February 29th, 2008 at 00:26

The sculptor must be informed that there is a terrible misunderstanding on that issue. This is not a Euro-coin. It is the new official Gold Medal for the next… Olympic Games. 😉

Kat Reply:

LMAO!!! You really make me laugh something terrible. The euro symbol is like a discus, and he’s throwing it away.

That’s the great thing about art — it can be perceived and interpreted in so many different ways.

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.