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After nearly two decades of using the euro, is Spain finally ready to say goodbye to the peseta?

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By Carlos Marlasca
Person paying with pesetas at a news stand in Madrid
Person paying with pesetas at a news stand in Madrid   -   Copyright  Euronews
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It's over 20 years since Spain became one of the first countries to adopt the euro.

Yet people in the country still have a stockpile of pesetas - worth the equivalent of 1.5 billion euros - but the clock is ticking for Spaniards to get them converted.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bank of Spain has extended the exchange deadline from December 31 to June 30. After this date, pesetas will no longer hold any nominal value.

Director of Wash Comics, Nacho Marugán, has found a way of giving new life to the old currency, allowing people to purchase the comics he distributes to raise money for a good cause.

"Part of Wash's philosophy is to tell everyday stories that seem super heroic to us. Fighting Alzheimer's seems to us to be a really titanic cause, it is like fighting against the world. And we didn't want the peseta to be forgotten".

Jesús Paíno owns a news stand in the centre of the Spanish capital. He says the idea has been well received by his customers.

"People of all ages come here. There are people from my generation - and they come from all over Madrid. People have had to take the car just to come here to spend their pesetas".

Spanish people still have the equivalent of 1.5 billion euros in pesetas. They can exchange their old cash at the Bank of Spain, invest it in charitable causes or use it to access cultural events. Until the end of March, tickets can be purchased in pesetas at Artistic Metropol cinemas in Madrid.

"There is another drama that goes hand in hand with the pandemic, and that is fear. It is important that people lose their fear of going to the cinema or going to the theatre, because there has been a very important investment in the cultural sectors to make movie theatres safe.” says executive director Angel Mora.

It is the latest adventure of a currency that was born in 1868 and that, in a few months, will become a collector's item.