French franc

French franc

Overview
The franc was a currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Along with the Spanish peseta
Spanish peseta
The peseta was the currency of Spain between 1869 and 2002. Along with the French franc, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra .- Etymology :...

, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

 (which had no national currency with legal tender). Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois
Livre tournois
The livre tournois |pound]]) was:#one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and#a unit of account used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.-Circulating currency:...

 and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was re-introduced (in decimal form
French livre
The livre was the currency of France until 1795. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.-Etymology:...

) in 1795 and remained the national currency until the introduction of the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 in 1999 (for accounting purposes) and 2002 (coins and banknotes).
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Encyclopedia
The franc was a currency
Currency
In economics, currency refers to a generally accepted medium of exchange. These are usually the coins and banknotes of a particular government, which comprise the physical aspects of a nation's money supply...

 of France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

. Along with the Spanish peseta
Spanish peseta
The peseta was the currency of Spain between 1869 and 2002. Along with the French franc, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra .- Etymology :...

, it was also a de facto currency used in Andorra
Andorra
Andorra , officially the Principality of Andorra , also called the Principality of the Valleys of Andorra, , is a small landlocked country in southwestern Europe, located in the eastern Pyrenees mountains and bordered by Spain and France. It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe having an area of...

 (which had no national currency with legal tender). Between 1360 and 1641, it was the name of coins worth 1 livre tournois
Livre tournois
The livre tournois |pound]]) was:#one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and#a unit of account used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.-Circulating currency:...

 and it remained in common parlance as a term for this amount of money. It was re-introduced (in decimal form
French livre
The livre was the currency of France until 1795. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.-Etymology:...

) in 1795 and remained the national currency until the introduction of the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 in 1999 (for accounting purposes) and 2002 (coins and banknotes). It was a commonly held international reserve currency in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Before the French Revolution


The franc was introduced by King John II
John II of France
John II , called John the Good , was the King of France from 1350 until his death. He was the second sovereign of the House of Valois and is perhaps best remembered as the king who was vanquished at the Battle of Poitiers and taken as a captive to England.The son of Philip VI and Joan the Lame,...

 in 1360. Its name comes from the inscription, Johannes Dei Gratia Francorum Rex ("John by the grace of God King of the Franks"), and its value was set as one livre tournois
Livre tournois
The livre tournois |pound]]) was:#one of numerous currencies used in France in the Middle Ages; and#a unit of account used in France in the Middle Ages and the early modern period.-Circulating currency:...

 (a money of account). Francs were later minted under Charles V
Charles V of France
Charles V , called the Wise, was King of France from 1364 to his death in 1380 and a member of the House of Valois...

, Henry III
Henry III of France
Henry III was King of France from 1574 to 1589. As Henry of Valois, he was the first elected monarch of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth with the dual titles of King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1573 to 1575.-Childhood:Henry was born at the Royal Château de Fontainebleau,...

 and Henri IV
Henry IV of France
Henry IV , Henri-Quatre, was King of France from 1589 to 1610 and King of Navarre from 1572 to 1610. He was the first monarch of the Bourbon branch of the Capetian dynasty in France....

.

Louis XIII of France
Louis XIII of France
Louis XIII was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and of Navarre from 1610 to 1643.Louis was only eight years old when he succeeded his father. His mother, Marie de Medici, acted as regent during Louis' minority...

 stopped minting the franc in 1641 (replacing it with the Écu
Écu (coin)
The term écu may refer to one of several French coins. The first écu was a gold coin minted during the reign of Louis IX of France, in 1266. Ecu means shield, and the coin was so called because its design included a shield bearing a coat of arms. The word is related to scudo and escudo...

and Louis d'Or), but use of the name "franc" continued in accounting as a synonym for the livre tournois.

French Revolution


The decimal "franc" was established as the national currency by the French Revolutionary Convention in 1795 as a decimal unit (1 franc = 10 decimes = 100 centimes) of 4.5 g of fine silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

. This was slightly less than the livre
French livre
The livre was the currency of France until 1795. Several different livres existed, some concurrently. The livre was the name of both units of account and coins.-Etymology:...

 of 4.505 g, but the franc was set in 1796 at 1.0125 livres (1 livre, 3 deniers), reflecting in part the past minting of sub-standard coins.

The circulation of this metallic currency declined during the Republic: the old gold and silver coins were taken out of circulation and exchanged for printed assignat
Assignat
Assignat was the type of a monetary instrument used during the time of the French Revolution, and the French Revolutionary Wars.- France :...

s, initially issued as bonds
Bond (finance)
In finance, a bond is a debt security, in which the authorized issuer owes the holders a debt and, depending on the terms of the bond, is obliged to pay interest to use and/or to repay the principal at a later date, termed maturity...

 backed by the value of the confiscated goods of churches, but later declared as legal tender currency. The withdrawn gold and silver coins were used to finance wars and to import food, which was in short supply.

Too many assignats were put in circulation, exceeding the value of the "national properties", and the silver franc rarefied to pay foreign suppliers. With national government debt remaining unpaid, and a shortage of silver to mint coins, confidence in the new currency declined, leading to hyperinflation, more food riots, severe political instability and termination of the First French Republic (the political fall of the French Convention. There followed the economic failure of the Directoire
French Directory
The Directory was a body of five Directors that held executive power in France following the Convention and preceding the Consulate...

 that replaced it, then a coup d'état
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

that led to the Consulate
French Consulate
The Consulate was the government of France between the fall of the Directory in the coup of 18 Brumaire in 1799 until the start of the Napoleonic Empire in 1804...

. Under the Consulate, the First Consul progressively acquired sole legislative power at the expense of the other unstable and discredited consultative and legislative institutions.

French Empire and Restoration



In 1803, the "germinal franc" (named after the month Germinal in the revolutionary calendar
French Republican Calendar
The French Republican Calendar or French Revolutionary Calendar was a calendar created and implemented during the French Revolution, and used by the French government for about 12 years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871...

) was established, creating a gold franc containing 290.32 mg of fine gold. From this point, gold and silver-based units circulated interchangeably on the basis of a 1:15.5 ratio between the values of the two metals (bimetallism
Bimetallism
In economics, bimetallism is a monetary standard in which the value of the monetary unit is defined as equivalent both to a certain quantity of gold and to a certain quantity of silver; such a system establishes a fixed rate of exchange between the two metals...

). This system continued until 1864, when all silver coins except the 5 franc piece were debased
Debasement
Debasement is the practice of lowering the value of currency. It is particularly used in connection with commodity money such as gold or silver coins...

 from 90% to 83.5% silver without the weights changing.

The currency was retained during the Bourbon Restoration
Bourbon Restoration
The Bourbon Restoration is the name given to the period following the successive events of the French Revolution , the end of the First Republic , and then the forcible end of the First French Empire under Napoleon  – when a coalition of European powers restored by arms the monarchy to the...

.


Latin Monetary Union


France was a founding member of the Latin Monetary Union
Latin Monetary Union
The Latin Monetary Union was a 19th century attempt to unify several European currencies, at a time when most circulating coins were still made of gold and silver...

 (LMU) in 1865. The common currency was based on the franc germinal, with the name franc already being used in Switzerland and Belgium, whilst other countries used their own names for the currency. In 1873, the LMU went over to a purely gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 of 1 franc = 0.290322581 g gold.

World War I




The outbreak of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 caused France to leave the gold standard of the LMU. The war severely undermined the franc's strength: war expenditure, inflation and postwar reconstruction, financed partly by printing ever more money, reduced the franc's purchasing power by 70% between 1915 and 1920 and by a further 43% between 1922 and 1926. After a brief return to the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

 between 1928 and 1936, the currency was allowed to resume its slide, until in 1959 it was worth less than 2.5% of its 1934 value.

World War II


During the Nazi occupation of France (1940-44), the franc was a satellite currency of the German Reichsmark
German reichsmark
The Reichsmark was the currency in Germany from 1924 until June 20, 1948. The Reichsmark was subdivided into 100 Reichspfennig.-History:...

. The coins were changed, with the words Travail, Famille, Patrie (Work, Family, Fatherland) replacing the Republican triad Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) and the emblem of the Vichy regime added.

At the liberation, the US attempted to impose use of the US occupation franc
US occupation franc
The US Occupation franc was a currency issued by the United States for use in Allied-occupied France in the wake of the Battle of Normandy. With the swift take-over of sovereignty by General Charles de Gaulle, who considered the US occupation franc as “counterfeit money”, the currency rapidly...

, which was averted by General De Gaulle.

Post-War period


After World War II, France devalued its currency within the Bretton Woods system
Bretton Woods system
The Bretton Woods system of monetary management established the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states in the mid 20th century...

 on several occasions. Beginning in 1945 at a rate of 480 francs to the British pound
Pound sterling
The pound sterling , commonly called the pound, is the official currency of the United Kingdom, its Crown Dependencies and the British Overseas Territories of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, British Antarctic Territory and Tristan da Cunha. It is subdivided into 100 pence...

 (119.1 to the U.S. dollar
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....

), by 1949 the rate was 980 to the pound (350 to the dollar). This was reduced further in 1957 and 1958, reaching 1382.3 to the pound (493.7 to the dollar, equivalent to 1 franc = 1.8 mg pure gold).

New franc




In January 1960 the French franc was revalued at 100 existing francs. Old one- and two-franc pieces continued to circulate as centimes (no new centimes were minted for the first two years), 100 of them making a nouveau franc (the abbreviation NF was used on banknotes for some time). Inflation continued to erode the currency's value, but much more slowly than that of some other countries. The one-centime coin never circulated widely. Only one further major devaluation occurred (in August 1969) before the Bretton Woods system
Bretton Woods system
The Bretton Woods system of monetary management established the rules for commercial and financial relations among the world's major industrial states in the mid 20th century...

 was replaced by free-floating exchange rates. Nonetheless, when the Euro replaced the franc on 1 January 1999, the franc was worth less than an eighth of its original 1960 value.

The old franc pieces were gradually withdrawn. They ceased to be legal tender
Legal tender
Legal tender is a medium of payment allowed by law or recognized by a legal system to be valid for meeting a financial obligation. Paper currency is a common form of legal tender in many countries....

 in January 2002, upon the official adoption of the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

.

After revaluation and the introduction of the new franc, many French people continued to speak of old francs (anciens francs), to describe large sums. For example, lottery prizes were often advertised in amounts of centimes, equivalent to the old franc. Multiples of 10NF were occasionally referred to as "mille francs" (thousand francs) or "mille balles" ("balle" being a slang word for franc) in contexts where it was clear that the speaker did not mean 1000 new francs. The expression "heavy franc" (franc lourd) was also commonly used to designate the new franc.

Economic and Monetary Union


From 1 January 1999, the value exchange rate of the French franc against the euro
Euro
The euro is the official currency of the eurozone: 17 of the 27 member states of the European Union. It is also the currency used by the Institutions of the European Union. The eurozone consists of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg,...

 was set at a fixed parity of 1 EUR=6.55957 FRF. Euro coins and notes replaced the franc entirely between 1 January and 17 February 2002.

Before World War I


The third coins were issued in denominations of 1 and 5 centimes, 1 and 2 decimes (in copper), quarter, half, 1, 2, and 5 francs (in silver), and 20 and 40 francs (in gold). Copper coins were not issued between 1801 and 1848, leaving the quarter-franc as the smallest coin being minted. During this period, copper coins from the previous currency system circulated, with a one-sou coin being valued at 5 centimes.

Bronze coinage was introduced from 1848, and coins worth 1, 2, 5 and 10 centimes were issued from 1853. The quarter-franc was discontinued, with silver 20-centime coins issued between 1849 and 1868. The gold coinage also changed at this time, with 40- franc coins no longer produced and 5-, 10-, 50- and 100-franc coins introduced. The last gold 5-franc pieces were minted in 1869, and silver 5-franc coins were last minted in 1878. Nickel 25-centime coins were introduced in 1903.

World War I


The First World War brought substantial changes to the coinage. Gold coinage was suspended, and holed 5, 10 and 25 centimes minted in nickel or cupro-nickel were introduced. In 1920, production of bronze and silver coinage ceased, with aluminium-bronze 50-centime, and 1- and 2-franc coins introduced. Until 1929, these coins were issued by the Chambers of Commerce of France. During the same period, local Chambers of Commerce also issued small change coins. In 1929, silver coins were reintroduced in 10- and 20-franc denominations.

From World War II to the currency reform


The Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 also affected the coinage substantially. Zinc 10- and 20-centime pieces were introduced, along with aluminium coins of 50 centimes, and 1 and 2 francs. Following the war, rapid inflation caused denominations below 1 franc to be withdrawn and coin denominations of 5 in aluminium and aluminium-bronze, 10 in copper nickel then aluminium-bronze from 1950, along with a 20 and 50 franc also in aluminium-bronze, the copper-nickel 100 francs were introduced in 1954.

New franc


In 1960, the new franc was introduced, worth 100 of the old francs. Stainless steel 1- and 5-centime, aluminium-bronze 10-, 20- and 50-centime, nickel one-franc and silver 5-franc coins were introduced. Silver 10-franc pieces were introduced in 1965, followed by aluminium-bronze 5-centime and nickel half-franc coins in 1966.

Nickel-clad cupro-nickel 5-franc and nickel-brass 10-franc coins replaced their silver counterparts in 1970 and 1974, respectively. Nickel 2 francs were introduced in 1979, followed by bimetallic 10 and 20 francs in 1988 and 1992, respectively. The 20-franc coin was composed of two rings and a centre plug.
A nickel 10-franc piece was issued in 1986, but was quickly withdrawn and demonetized due to confusion with the half-franc and an unpopular design. The aluminium-bronze pieces continued to circulate until the bimetallic pieces were developed and additional aluminium-bronze coins were minted to replace those initially withdrawn. Once the bimetallic coins were circulating, the aluminium-bronze pieces were withdrawn and demonetized. A silver 50-franc piece was issued from 1974–1980, but was withdrawn and demonetized after the price of silver spiked in 1980. A 100-franc piece, in silver, was issued, and circulated to a small extent, until the introduction of the euro. All French franc coins were demonetized in 2005 and are no longer redeemable at the Banque de France
Banque de France
The Banque de France is the central bank of France; it is linked to the European Central Bank . Its main charge is to implement the interest rate policy of the European System of Central Banks...

.

At the time of the complete changeover to the euro on 1 January 2002, coins in circulation (some produced as recently as 2000) were:
  • 1 centime (~ 0.15 eurocents) stainless steel, rarely circulated (last production stopped around 1982 due to high production cost, and lack of demand due to its very low value).
  • 5 centimes (~ 0.76 eurocents) aluminium-bronze
  • 10 centimes (~ 1.5 eurocents) aluminium-bronze
  • 20 centimes (~ 3.05 eurocents) aluminium-bronze
  • ½ franc (~ 7.6 eurocents) nickel
  • 1 franc (~ 15.2 eurocents) nickel
  • 2 francs (~ 30.5 eurocents) nickel
  • 5 francs (~ 76 eurocents) nickel clad copper-nickel
  • 10 francs (~ €1.50) bimetallic
  • 20 francs (~ €3) trimetallic, rarer (produced for a short period before the euro, the banknote equivalent was much more frequently used)
  • 100 francs (~ €15) silver, rarely circulated (most often bought and offered as personal gifts, but rare in commercial transactions, now worth more than its face value).

Euro exchange


Coins were freely exchangeable until 17 February 2005 at Banque de France
Banque de France
The Banque de France is the central bank of France; it is linked to the European Central Bank . Its main charge is to implement the interest rate policy of the European System of Central Banks...

 only (some commercial banks also accepted the old coins but were not required to do so for free after the transition period in 2001), by converting their total value in francs to euros (rounded to the nearest eurocent) at the fixed rate of 6.55957 francs for 1 euro. Banknotes are officially convertible up to 17 February 2012.

Banknotes



The first franc paper money issues were made in 1795. They were assignat
Assignat
Assignat was the type of a monetary instrument used during the time of the French Revolution, and the French Revolutionary Wars.- France :...

s in denominations between 100 and 10,000 francs. These followed in 1796 by "territorial mandate promises" for 25 up to 500 francs. The treasury also issued notes that year for 25 up to 1000 francs.

In 1800, the Bank of France began issuing notes, first in denominations of 500 and 1000 francs. In the 1840s, 100- and 200-franc notes were added, while 5-, 20- and 50- francs were added in the 1860s and 70s, although the 200-franc note was discontinued.

The First World War saw the introduction of 10- and 5000-franc notes but, despite base metal 5-franc coins being introduced after the war, the banknotes were not removed.

In 1944, the liberating Allies introduced paper money in denominations between 2 and 1000 francs. Following the war, 10,000-franc notes were introduced, while 5-, 10- and 20-franc notes were replaced by coins, as were the 50- and 100-franc notes in the 1950s.

The first issue of the new franc consisted of 500-, 1000-, 5000- and 10,000-franc notes overprinted with their new denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100 new francs. This issue was followed by notes of the same design but with only the new denomination shown. 500-new franc notes were also introduced at this time. 5- and 10- franc notes were withdrawn in 1970 and 1979, respectively.

Banknote
Banknote
A banknote is a kind of negotiable instrument, a promissory note made by a bank payable to the bearer on demand, used as money, and in many jurisdictions is legal tender. In addition to coins, banknotes make up the cash or bearer forms of all modern fiat money...

s in circulation when the franc was replaced were:
  • 20 francs (€3.05) : Claude Debussy
    Claude Debussy
    Claude-Achille Debussy was a French composer. Along with Maurice Ravel, he was one of the most prominent figures working within the field of impressionist music, though he himself intensely disliked the term when applied to his compositions...

     Brown
  • 50 francs (€7.62) : Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    Antoine de Saint-Exupéry , officially Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint Exupéry , was a French writer, poet and pioneering aviator. He became a laureate of France's highest literary awards, and in 1939 was the winner of the U.S. National Book Award...

     Blue (introduced 20 October 1993, replacing Maurice Quentin de la Tour
    Maurice Quentin de La Tour
    Maurice Quentin de La Tour was a French Rococo portraitist who worked primarily with pastels. Among his most famous subjects were Voltaire, Rousseau, Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour.-Biography:...

    )
  • 100 francs (€15.24) : Paul Cézanne
    Paul Cézanne
    Paul Cézanne was a French artist and Post-Impressionist painter whose work laid the foundations of the transition from the 19th century conception of artistic endeavour to a new and radically different world of art in the 20th century. Cézanne can be said to form the bridge between late 19th...

     Orange (introduced 15 December 1997, replacing Eugène Delacroix
    Eugène Delacroix
    Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school...

    )
  • 200 francs (€30.49) : Gustave Eiffel
    Gustave Eiffel
    Alexandre Gustave Eiffel was a French structural engineer from the École Centrale Paris, an architect, an entrepreneur and a specialist of metallic structures...

     Red (introduced 29 October 1996, replacing Montesquieu)
  • 500 francs (€76.22) : Pierre
    Pierre Curie
    Pierre Curie was a French physicist, a pioneer in crystallography, magnetism, piezoelectricity and radioactivity, and Nobel laureate. He was the son of Dr. Eugène Curie and Sophie-Claire Depouilly Curie ...

     and Marie Curie
    Marie Curie
    Marie Skłodowska-Curie was a physicist and chemist famous for her pioneering research on radioactivity. She was the first person honored with two Nobel Prizes—in physics and chemistry...

     Green (introduced 22 March 1995, replacing Blaise Pascal
    Blaise Pascal
    Blaise Pascal , was a French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer and Catholic philosopher. He was a child prodigy who was educated by his father, a tax collector in Rouen...

    )

Banknotes of the current series as of euro changeover may be exchanged with the French central bank or services like GFC
GFC
GFC may refer to:In science:** Gell Filtration ChromatographyIn sport:* United Kingdom football clubs:** Gateshead F.C.** Gillingham F.C.** Glapwell F.C.** Glentoran F.C.** Gorleston F.C.** Gretna F.C.** Guernsey F.C....

until 17 February 2012. Most older series were exchangeable for 10 years from date of withdrawal. As the last banknote from the previous series had been withdrawn on 31 March 1998 (200 francs Montesquieu), the deadline for the exchange was on 31 March 2008. This means that from this day on, banknotes from older series can no longer be exchanged.

External links