Five drachma coins. If Greece were to leave the eurozone, how much would it cost?
Five drachma coins. If Greece were to leave the eurozone, how much would it cost? - 
Listen To The Story

David Brancaccio: Spain will formally ask the European Union for money to bail out its banks tomorrow, according Reuters news agency sources. On Thursday, Fitch Ratings cut the Spanish government's creditworthiness three notches, given its banks exposure to bad mortgages and contagion from Greece.

With the Greek general election set for later this month and the possibility that country could stop using the euro, Marketplace's Jeff Tyler looks at the mechanics of rolling out the replacement currency, the drachma,  if it ever comes to that.

Jeff Tyler: When Greece adopted the euro, its old currency -- the drachma -- was collected and destroyed. Plus, the machine that printed those notes is out-dated. It now sits in a museum. Getting a new, modern currency designed and printed would take weeks, if not months.

Marios Efthymiopoulos: So we're going back to the very basic, simple idea of exchange. You give me milk, I give you water.

Marios Efthymiopoulos is president of Strategy International, a research firm based in Greece. While waiting for a new currency, he says the country would need a temporary substitute.

Efthymiopoulos: We will be working with coupons. Also, everything sold now in euros would need a new price tag.

Jacob Kirkegaard: You would basically need to put new prices on everything, and into every computer system. And this again is something that would take some weeks.

Jacob Kirkegaard is a research fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. He says the shift could cause hyperinflation.

Kirkegaard: The cost would be catastrophic. Greek living standards would fall by a third -- maybe half.

He says many of the country's trading partners would likely refuse to be paid in the new currency. Making a new drachma effectively worthless outside of Greece.

I'm Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Jeff Tyler at @JeffMarketplace