The euro has battled countless threats to its existence over the past two decades, from debt crises to politicians hoping to tear the currency union apart.
During the summer, a new risk emerged for the common currency. Not its plunge below parity with the US dollar, but the plan to dismantle an iconic blue sculpture of the euro currency sign that has been located for more than 20 years in the heart of Frankfurt, Germany’s financial center. The cost of maintenance, due in part to regular vandalism, had become overwhelming, said the local nonprofit that owns it.
On Tuesday, Frankfurt-based cryptocurrency startup Caiz Development said it would come to the sign’s rescue with 1 million euros, or about $961,000, in funding over the next five years.
The crypto world is usually more intent on proclaiming the inevitable demise of fiat or government-backed currencies than supporting them, but Caiz saw a marketing opportunity in begging.
“Our first reaction when we heard that the sign was in danger was that we couldn’t believe that the city or the banks weren’t really interested in it,” said Joerg Hansen, Caiz’s executive director. “With how often this sign is photographed, we said ‘Look, this is an absolute no-brainer’.”
“It’s going to be so much exposure,” he said.
The 14 meter high sign bears 12 yellow stars representing the original members of the currency union. It was installed in 2001 and lit for the first time at the midnight strike to celebrate the official launch of euro notes and coins on 1 January 2002.
The sign has been almost ubiquitous in TV broadcasts and news articles about the euro and the European Central Bank ever since – although the ECB is no longer located directly behind the sign since moving to new headquarters in a different part of Frankfurt in 2014.
Manfred Pohl, chairman of Frankfurt’s cultural committee, which owns the sign, said he asked more than 30 financial institutions for money as he searched for a way to avoid auctioning the sign off to the highest bidder. Only eight responded, he said, with six pledged funds, but the amount was not nearly enough to save the sign.
“This symbol is part of the identity of the city of Frankfurt,” said Mr. Pohl. “I cannot understand that we in Frankfurt have to beg for money.”
Hansen has big plans to take advantage of his company’s sponsorship. Already a plaque with Caiz’s branding has been attached to the sign. He also hopes to hold events at the sign and eventually bring it into the metaverse.
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