A currency symbol is a symbolic representation of type of currency used, mostly designated by the country producing the currency. It shouldn’t be confused with the name for different types of money. Euro or dollar are not symbols but actual names. Instead the symbol is a substitution of a symbol meant to indicate the name. For instance in the US we may use $ to indicate US Dollars (USD).
Not all countries have currency symbols, and some symbols of the past have been swept away by the introduction of the Euro. For instance the common £ used to indicate the British pound may now be replaced with €, the currency symbol for euros. Similarly ₣ for the French Franc, ₤ for the Italian Lira, have all been replaced by € for euro.
Sometimes a currency symbol may be used to represent more than one country’s money. For instance Canada and America both use the $ sign for dollars. Lira and pound symbols are almost identical. The cent sign used in the US, ¢ is used in several countries to indicate fractions of money.
Both China and Japan use the symbol ¥ as their currency symbol. The symbol can refer to China’s yuan, or Japan’s yen. Other Asian countries do not use this symbol. Thailand, as an example uses ฿, as a symbol for their currency called baht.
There are different ways of notating a currency symbol when using it with a currency amount. Some countries place their symbol after the money amount, and others before it. In the US, Canada and much of Latin America, symbols tend to be placed before the money amount, with the exception of the ¢ sign, which tends to follow the amount. In Europe and in other countries, the currency symbol may follow the money amount. If something cost 20 Euros you might see this written as 20 €, but in some countries the € may precede the money amount.
There’s also some dispute about how part of a euro is expressed. If something costs 20.50 in euros, this may be written as 20€50 or €20.50. Another expression that is equally common is 20,50€, where a comma replaces the decimal point.
When you are unaware of the currency symbol for a country or if one doesn’t exist, there is a generic currency indicator. This is expressed as ¤. It should not be confused with similar currency symbols like the larger rectangle that indicates Paraguayan guarani or Ghanaian currency.