French francs worth something again!

You know where your expired money is. Now a collectible rather than currency, your kids have those leftover lira in a shoebox under the bed. Or, they’ve stashed a jar of “funny money” on the nightstand. Wherever it is doesn’t matter. These random pieces of paper may ignite a child’s imagination about far-off lands or trigger a fond memory from an amazing trip, but the value is strictly sentimental.

Not any more.

The Currency Commission wants to help you turn all these strange bills into real money, specifically Euros. Sure, they’ll take a cut along the way, but that’s only fair. After all, The Currency Commission is turning nothing into something.

You may remember that the notion of a pan-European currency became a reality in 1999. Since then, sixteen countries surrendered their monetary identities in favor of the efficiency of conformity, in addition to others (such as Monaco) that have currency relationships with other countries. Clearly, the experiment has worked. Only three years later, €1 is worth $1.30, and that’s after a decline through much of last year.

Though we celebrate the Euro today, there’s still a lot of orphan old money out there, especially in major non-European countries such as the United States, Canada and Japan, according to David Brooks, The Currency Exchange’s public relations advisor. The people holding this currency missed the deadline for changing it to Euros. Often, the legal currency was in such small amounts that those holding it simply didn’t care.What The Currency Commission realized, however, is that there’s a ton of small money tucked away in sock drawers and coffee cans all over the world. In Germany, for instance, Brooks has seen a study suggesting that there could be up to €3 billion worth of unrecovered Deutsche marks. If you assume a similar amount of legacy currency outstanding for each of the 16 countries officially on the Euro, well, a lot of a little becomes a lot of a lot. And, The Currency Commission just wants a small piece of each transaction.

So, worthless money becomes worth something again. Yeah, I thought I smelled bullshit, too. When I asked Brooks why people should trust The Currency Commission, he made the obvious and powerful point: it’s not like you’re putting anything of value at risk. And, he’s right. At present, your 10,000 lira isn’t worth a dime. So, what do you lose by testing out this service? “Kick the tires. Try it with a small amount first,” Brooks recommends to the skeptics, “then, do more later.”

The process is pretty straightforward. Simply create an account, select the currency and amount you plan to exchange, print and sign the receipts, then mail them in with the bank notes. Your new cash will come back in fewer than 14 days. The company is working on a PayPal interface right now, which Brooks expects to make the process even faster.

If you rush over to The Currency Commission right now, you won’t be the first user. Hundreds have already come before you and swapped old currency for new since the service first launched in early October last year. Among them … Brooks’ parents!

Of course, there’s one big question in all this, and Brooks knew it before I could ask. “I know,” he said with a laugh, “how do we make money, right?” Brooks explains that even though the exchange deadline has passed, the various central banks in Europe are still willing to exchange aged cash for Euros. They just prefer to do it locally. So, The Currency Commission aggregates and repatriates. It collects currency from its customers, sends the money back to its homeland and makes the trade. Economies of scale kick in. again, all these small transactions add up.

So, if you have any dated dinero lingering on your desk, ship it off to The Currency Commission. Your money may be worth something (again).