Looking for old french coin information? In 1999, nation members of the European Union saw the launch of the Euro, the common currency meant to simplify financial transactions throughout Europe.
For old French coin collectors, however, this changeover marked the end of a coin which had come to symbolize a nation.
Old French coin collectors feel that these national coins of France are some of the most beautiful ever produced, particularly the fine gold franc pieces minted through the reign of the House of Bourbon down through the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte and the creation of the First Republic.
Old French Coin Details by Type
The French franc was once considered the foundation of French currency, on a scale of importance, comparatively speaking, with the dollar in the U.S. and the pound in England.
Although it is impossible to think of France without thinking of the French franc, this old French coin wasn’t actually minted until well into the medieval period.
The history of the French franc goes back to the time of the Hundred Years’ War between the British kings and the dynasties of France.
In 1360, as silver and gold coins were first minted, the French came out with the “franc d’or a cheval.”
This gold coin featured King John on a horse and is now identified as the first franc. The franc, in various varieties, designs and denominations, continued to be minted in both silver and gold up until the reign of the House of Bourbon, when a new era began in the design of the franc.
The Louis d’or
A Louis d’or refers to the coins that first came out in 1640 during the reign of Louis XIII and continued to be minted throughout the Bourbon dynasty. One side always showed a portrait of the king, while the other side showed the royal coat of arms of France.
The Louis d’or was actually copied from the original Spanish escudo or doubloon. Denominations included a half-Louis as well as a two-Louis coin, and the most popular Louis d’or had a market value of 20 francs.
A Napoleon refers to gold French coins that were minted throughout the 1800s; these coins came in 20 and 40 franc denominations.
Napoleons were first minted in the reign of Napoleon I and continued to be distributed throughout the 1800s long after Napoleon’s death.
One side pictures a portrait of Napoleon, while the obverse bears a laurel wreath.
The Guardian Angel
One of the most famous old French coin ever created was the “Guardian Angel” coin. Minted for mainstream currency from 1871-1906, this coin was designed by medal artist Augustine Dupré in 1792 during the height of the French Revolution.
Dupré himself was sentenced to the guillotine only to get a reprieve at the last minute; he always gave the angel on the coin credit for saving him.
Legends about the Guardian Angel coin continued to grow. Napoleon himself always carried the coin in his pocket until the fatal day when he lost it; soon afterward, he lost the crucial Battle of Waterloo.
The Guardian Angel coin was finally minted for the general public in 1871, when it appeared as a 20 franc piece made of 90 percent gold. This coin continued to be part of mainstream French currency until 1906, but even up through World War II fighter pilots would carry the coin for luck.
The écu was first minted at the time of the reign of Louis IX in 1266. Écu means shield, and the coin gets its name from the shield design on one side.
There were ecu d’or coins in gold as well as écu d’argent coins in silver, and the values varied. These coins, which were so closely allied with the reign of the House of Bourbon, were completely abolished during the French Revolution.
Old French Coin Materials
Napoleon coins were made of 90 percent gold, which accounts for their value on today’s market. Likewise, the Guardian Angel coin was also made of 90 percent gold.
There are many souvenir copies of this coin available today, but an original vintage gold piece will be worth from hundreds to thousands of dollars depending upon its year and condition.
Louis d’or coins also have a high gold content. A 20-franc Louis d’or coin minted under the reign of Louis XVI has a gold content totaling 0.2255 troy ounces, and is particularly rare and valuable on today’s market.
Old French Coin Sources
Old French coins can be obtained from a variety of sources, and for many collectors the hunt is as much fun as the acquisition.
For this reason, some collectors enjoy browsing estate sales, antique shops and flea markets to see if they can make a lucky purchase.
Be aware, however, that this form of antiquing requires great knowledge in coin identification and marks, in addition to experience in condition grading.
The best way to locate a particular old French coin is to contact a knowledgeable dealer with a reputation for accurate authentication.
If a coin has the provenance of having been purchased from a famous dealer, it will retain its value and you’ll have a better chance of reselling it later should you want to do so.
Likewise, if you purchase from a reputable dealer, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting, and you can also rest assured that you’re not being overcharged in the transaction.