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The scene is a bakery, somewhere in Europe. Customers are queueing up to make their purchases. But instead of money, they offer a pair of ice skates, a guitar, a wheelbarrow of coal, a teddy bear. A sign above the counter reads, "?-day. Expect Delays." Another says, "Barter here." If you need a further clue as to what's going on, there's a calendar displaying the date: Jan. 1, 2002.

That's the day the euro is scheduled to be introduced for retail purchases. The transition to the new currency will surely go smoothly, though there is the potential...

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