Friday, January 27, 2006

French Gold Coins

Collecting French gold coins can be a fascinating hobby. There is a lot of history attached to the various coins from the pre Bonaparte era right up to the present day.

Early French coins were know as the Livre. This word came from the Latin for pound or book, libra. The Ecu was another early French gold coin. The word ecu means, shield, and these coins would include a coat of arms.

In 1360 the first Franc gold coin was struck. The word franc, incidentally, meant free and showed King John in armour on horseback. It was known as a franc à cheval. The Franc coin was then dropped from use until the revolution era in 1795 when, what is perhaps the first, decimal currency was introduced.

The French, among with other countries, make what is called, Monnaie de Luxe. These are coins with a very superior finish. The term monnaie de luxe basically means coins of luxury. They were produced for display or as specimen coins, not for circulation. The quality of the French monnaies de luxe is so good it is better than many proof coins of other countries.

Many French gold coins were produced in the Napoleon Bonaparte era and of course these are extremely popular with collectors.

Most of these coins have a fineness of .900 with some variations. They were produced in 5, 10, 20, 40, 50 and 100 Franc denominations with the 100 Franc coins having a gold content of .9355 of a troy ounce.

It is important that, when you purchase any French coins, you purchase from a reputable dealer and ensure that each gold coin comes with a guarantee of authenticity. The Monnaie de Luxe particularly should come with a certificate of authenticity.

Examples of how much one can expect to pay for a good French gold coin, at time of writing, are: An 1857A Napoleon III Shield, with a grade of VF (very fine) should fetch about 450 dollars US. A 1907A Angel VF should fetch around the same price. A 1989 Monnaies de Luxe - "Droits de l'Homme" (pictured) uncirculated should fetch about 550 dollars US. Only 1000 of these were minted so they are quite rare.

Collecting French gold coins can be a rewarding experience not just for the beauty of the coins but also for the appreciating value they accumulate over the years.

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