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Post World War 2 Europe - Swiss/French Francs bullion question

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Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
Hi I am new to this forum, but I had a question about Post World War 2 Europe bullion coins maybe someone can help with.

In the late 1940's, Switzerland minted millions of 20 Franc gold coins (1935-L, 1947, and 1949). Has anyone ever heard of just how these were distributed or maybe why they were struck? These 3 years are pretty common on ebay and were all minted 1945-1949.

Switzerland devalued their franc in the 1930's - which to me means that 20 Franc coins were no longer minted for circulation. Citizens couldn't get them through normal commerce. Minting was stopped in 1949, possibly after the Washington Plan obligations were met. (Washington Plan used German assets to repay European governments and reconstruct Europe. I am not sure if the money went directly to citizens, or how an average person has these coins now.)

It looks like in the 1950's(?), the French government under Pinay re-struck a lot of 20 Franc Marianne coins dated 1907 to 1914. Maybe it was for the same reason Switzerland did. I haven't found why France re-struck these, either. France left the gold standard in the 1920's or 1930's if I recall.

These are fairly specific questions, but I can't find much. Hoping someone else may know something.

Thanks in advance.
VieillePile Numista team, Moderator
Joined: 5-Mar-2016
Posts: 845
Hi Lev99,

When WW II broke out, many european governments sent their gold to the US; In 1944, (bretton woods), the US declared the USD as good as gold, meaning, "you have our bucks, we have your gold, keep quiet".
Pretty dissatisfying for General de Gaulle, who decided to get his gold back.

It took several years: in 1965 only, the french Navy rapatriated 150 tons.... In 1967, 91% of the french reserves were gold assets.

Antoine Pinay has been in charge of finance issues from 1952 to 1960 (at minister level). He decided to melt and restrike all reserves, using the old dies, engraved by Chaplain .
JC Chaplain "Marianne-Rooster" had been struck from 1898 to 1906 with the traditionnal motto on the ridge (Dieu Protège la France, God save France) and with the anti clerical one (or republican one) Liberté Égalité Fraternité from 1907 to 1914.

Pinay decided to use the republican pattern, these official restrikes are therefore dated from 1907 to 1914. You can easely recognize them: the restrikes are made out of red copper, while the original ones used yellow copper.
Vieille Pile
CassTaylor
Joined: 30-May-2014
Posts: 6494
@VieillePile Very interesting info, I never heard bout the 1907-14 restrikes of the Rooster before!
Une Franglaise; ♪ je brosse ma chevelure ♫
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
Thanks VieillePile. I originally thought Bretton Woods conference was more of a consensus meeting, but it doesn't sound like that anymore from what you're saying. I'll have to look at that some more.

After Pinay had the reserves re-struck into the 1907-1914 dated 20 Franc Marianne-Rooster coins, did you ever hear of a program in France to distribute or sell these as bullion or as anything else? From the 1950's through decades later, maybe as a sale to a large bullion company? I have never run across anything.
VieillePile Numista team, Moderator
Joined: 5-Mar-2016
Posts: 845
Welcome, Lev.

The point is that WWII shoved quite a lot of things....

Colonies started to struggle for their independance, Europe was destroyed and the US were the core of the universe. Much to do to reconstruct. But not enough financial means, since gold was the single standard (all currencies were expressed as a quantity of pure gold).

The solution was to decorelate currencies and gold, to be able to increase the quantity of money, to fuel the economy and avoid a crisis (soldiers coming back from the front staying unemployed because of the drop in the industrial needs: no more liberty ships to build, no more planes, no more cars and trucks, and all the women already occupying the positions...).

According to the classics, when you print a banknote, you have to backup it on gold (1 USD note means that you have the equivalent in metal in your safe). You may print more banknotes than you have gold, as long as you are sure that not all bearers will come for changing their notes into gold.

When you make business, your supplier delivers his goods and you pay him later. So you have 100 debt and 100 goods. You do your job, create value (50) and sell your production in cash to end-users. You have created 50 but there is no gold beyond.

If you stick th the classical approach, the value you create is worthless unless you find gold enough to cover the value created or part of it.

In order to avoid a crisis based on the unemployment of former soldiers, the consensus has been to accept the USD as "good as gold". Consequently, printing paper fed the economy.

The roosters have been widely marketed with the hidden hope of builing up a french national gold market, which operated from 1948 to 2004.

For more information (unfortunately in french)
https://tel.archives-ouvertes.fr/tel-00569210/document
Vieille Pile
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
That's a good link on the history of French finance on Paris gold market. The translation is less difficult than locating the documents themselves. Good to have it.

It sounds like the 20 Fr Marianne-Rooster coins may have been produced for Bretton Woods purposes and for possible banking money counting purposes/cash on hand. My original idea was the 20 Franc Marianne-Rooster was re-struck in the 1950's due strictly to reconstruction after WW2. (I read 1950's Germany had lots of gold coin counterfeiting problems and banks were having a rough time sorting them, so I assumed similar problems in France.)

French re-strikes of the 20 Fr Marianne-Rooster coins reminds me of a similar situation. In the 1950's Switzerland produced millions of 25 Franc and 50 Franc coins. The coins were never released nor sold, and except for a small amount, they were all melted into ingots in 2009. I always overlooked the Swiss coin series as they seemed pointless, but they may be related.

In speculation, France may have made a decision to sell their coins in reserve, while Switzerland may have just kept them and remelted them. Switzerland created new designs on new planchet sizes (and had lots of discussion and rejections), and went through several committees before final approval. France took a simpler approach and just re-used the last design they had and called it good enough.

I'm not entirely sure any of this is correct, but I'll run with this idea, and see where it leads. I was working on this question a while and got nowhere. Bretton Woods and European banking agreements may be a good spot to check. Thanks again!
VieillePile Numista team, Moderator
Joined: 5-Mar-2016
Posts: 845
Yes, I think the document is reliable. I cross-checked several facts and figures, checked the curricula of the jury members and did not find any discrepancy. Moreover, HAL is reputed database known for the quality of its scientific inputs.

The historical context shall be taken into consideration: pre-WWII standard was the sterling system, but Britain was destroyed, broken and the Empire collapsing.
- The idea was to replace an old system by a new one: but Breton woods just swaped from one reference (sterling) to an other, without changing the set of mind, without taking into account the new paradigm (worldwide growth).
- In that "good old times", international trade was still based on physical flows: receivables and payables were settled once in a while by physical transfer of gold.

During the imediate post WW II months / years, the US proved themselves rather dominant / invasive (see link below as an exemple). I guess that the coalition government decided to take some guarantees :-)

Regarding the fact that the coins have been issued to the public, I will have an other explanation: it is very expensive for a government to have reserves kept in a safe. Besides, citizens are keen on having the same reserves "under the matress"; therefore, it is a good management to "externalize" the cost of building up reserves, knowing that you can get them back when needed....



(" I am giving my life, give your gold", WW I campaign)













american 2 Francs coin: http://www.lefranc.net/monnaie,2-francs-france,271.html
Vieille Pile
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
Interesting war poster. I think in WW1 the US was requesting people buy Liberty Bonds. That was still back when the US gold standard was still in place.

I guess citizenry having bullion on hand does help with cheaper storage than vaults. The US confiscating gold in the 1930's didn't make many friends in later years though at least in the US. Heh, but that's a topic for another day.

Thanks for the information. If I ever run across any specific information I'll see if I can post it.
jokinen
Joined: 10-Feb-2013
Posts: 1646
I like this topic!
halfdisme
Joined: 6-Oct-2017
Posts: 615
There is a darker side to the story of the Swiss gold struck during and just after World War II (1935L-B, 1947B and 1949B):

Analysis of the alloy of the coins has proven that they contain a high percentage of gold reclaimed from dental uses.

Consider that, in the context of recent revelations of the close ties and trade between Switzerland and Nazi Germany. You know where Nazi Germany acquired dental gold....
halfdisme
Joined: 6-Oct-2017
Posts: 615
There was another economic reason for the restrikes of European and Mexican gold, using dates prior to 1933. Such dates were legal for ownership by U. S. citizens. "Legal gold" (as it was called in the 1960s) could be owned by U. S. citizens, even during the general ban on gold ownership.
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
I looked into the holocaust gold issue, and it sounds like most of that stuff actually went to other countries oddly enough. The 1935LB strikes used pre-war Swiss bars and some Russian stuff. The 1947 and 1949 strikes may have some of the ill-gotten victim gold, but hard to say how much. Most of the 1947 and 1949 coins appear to come from looted Belgian bars, if not other sources as well (Netherlands bars?, etc). Switzerland appears to wait on the "un-safe" stuff for Swiss coin uses after post-war negotiations settled the matter.

Germany re-melted Belgian bars to remove the actual origin stamps. They restamped with Prussian markings to make it look non-stolen and shipped it to Switzerland. When re-melting, it sounds like they threw in some holocaust-related gold, but it didn't sound like much in the grand scheme (maybe a few hundred pounds max? - I'll have to re-read.) Switzerland during the war also tried to get rid of the suspected Belgian/Prussian bars as fast as possible because they were worried about their origins themselves. A lot of the re-melted stuff went to various central banks in Europe during the war. There was a report that listed some serial numbers of the suspected "contaminated" bars, but I didn't check into the fate of those bars.

On the other hand; most of the gold from concentration camps went to the Reichsbank in raw form, and non-jewelry eventually went to the Merker's mine at the end of the war. I remember reading about 12 tons of holocaust gold were found in the mine. I think most of that went to the Tripartite Commission or related post-war funds. That gold got spread around all over the world. If it's not still in bar form, it's probably been rolled into in modern bullion coins.

The pre-dating of coins to make it "legal gold" is interesting; I hadn't thought of it that way. In the US, I remember reading about "hidden bags of Double Eagles" in Europe being discovered. Never thought about how the foreign coins were imported. Will have to look into that; good idea.

Jokinen and CassTaylor - glad you could make it. Always up for feedback on new ideas. :)
halfdisme
Joined: 6-Oct-2017
Posts: 615
A television show on the holocaust, broadcast on the History Channel in the USA, reported the dental gold content, based upon the trace metals that were in the alloy.

Regarding the dispersal of European gold into the U. S., you might want to contact Ken Ferguson in Austin, Texas. He has dealt in world gold coins since 1977 (I first met him in Houston shortly after he started), and he has talked about going through European gold holdings. This is the only contact info I have on him:

Kenneth R Ferguson Professional Numismatist
PO Box 2550
Austin, TX 78768-2550
United States
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
Halfdisme thanks for the follow up information.

I was always wondered where the dental gold content came from. Every time I heard about it, it seemed to be hearsay. I'll have to see what the History Channel put together.
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 7
Hi Everyone - I was able to figure out my answers using information given and wanted to post what I found. The French monetary policy document was a big help. I didn’t translate it all, but just enough to figure out a general answer. I’m not a financial expert, but I’ll try to explain the best I can.

I've put the main answers in bold, but the extra information is there as well. :)

For French Marianne y Coq 20 Franc coins:

1. French 20 Franch Marianne/rooster was restruck in the 1950s under Pinay because there was a big incentive to sell loans and encourage savings. They minted millions of 20 Franc coins in the 1950’s as part of a loan & savings program. The coin premiums over spot were used as the profit for these loans if I read correctly. The coins got into the public hands from the government in this way. It looks like there was a marketplace to buy and sell gold coins to/from the government. The market price was dictated from the gold price on the Paris Stock exchange.

2. Also, I *believe* I ran across the reason why the same Marianne y coq dies were re-used in the 1950s. The answer was that in 1919, France banned recasting gold into other coins (or coin designs) or other forms. Bretton woods came about for the same reason that recasting was made illegal.


Prior to WW1, the gold price and currency prices were generally stable. You could take a French franc or a German mark to the bank and generally knew what the value was between the currencies, and between the currencies and gold itself.

Enter WW1. Belligerent countries needed money (gold) badly for the war effort. France banned export of gold and also recalled it for the war. As is common with all wars, government runs up high debts and currency inflation. After the war, exchange rates were no longer stable either for currency or gold. Germany may have inflated their currency 1,000%, and France maybe only 250% (as example – not sure actual %). Additionally, the onerous terms of the WW1 agreements and debts encouraged most European countries to inflate the currency. Currency inflation and mismatching was a BIG problem in international debt repayment. People were using the differences in exchange rates, and leveraging the mismatch for a profit. The method of payment (gold, franc, mark, British pound, etc), made a difference on how much money you would make. Currency devaluation was affecting currencies unevenly.

European citizens were being hammered in the marketplace by the devaluations. Finance history called this “beggar-thy-neighbor” policies. Essentially government could repay loans by devaluing their currency to increase export sales. Citizens worked for the same pay, but the actual value of the money got less and less. This was common.

Citizens themselves needed stability and gold was that stability. But it could not leave the country. The result was melting of gold coins into jewelry. Gold jewelry was incredibly popular in France in the late 1910’s and early 1920’s. They were melting gold coins and turning it into jewelry to make it “legal” for export. French government needed the gold itself, so it banned this practice. I don’t know when the rule was repealed, presumably when Bretton Woods ended in the 1970s.

People don’t like Bretton Woods because of the politics, but it appears they did not want the currency instability to occur again after WW2 as it did after WW1.

---Switzerland 20 Fr Vreneli below---

1. 1935LB’s were struck in 1945-1947 to feed public demand. Some may have ended up on the black market prior to the end of the war.

2. 1947 and 1949 20 Franc coins were struck probably related to laws associated with the US Dollar Dual exchange rate that Switzerland introduced in early 1940’s.

3. 1947 and 1949 dated coins appear mostly made from looted Belgian and other country (and Netherlands?) looted assets. Some holocaust related gold may be incorporated, but it is not known how much was incorporated. It is likely small due to the distribution of gold bars to other European central banks. It is believed, but needs more re-checking of information, that the quantity of holocaust gold mixed with looted Belgian gold was less than a few hundred pounds. Germany did not have the capability to refine the gold impurities from what I read; just simple melting.

4. I looked for information on the History Channel’s work of mercury content in Swiss gold coins as related to dental filings and never could find anything. It would be good to see how their experiment worked. I don’t know if they had a control “clean” sample and what the readings showed, how much mercury might be in native gold, etc.


The minting of the Swiss 1935LB’s after WW2 actually has roots prior to WW2.

When Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, there was a run on the banks in Switzerland. Switzerland devalued franc in 1936, but you could still buy gold 20 Franc pieces from banks in 1939 and in the 1940s. Selling price for the coins was around 30 francs, from the Swiss central bank, rather than face value.

Switzerland during WW2 was a clearing house of all currency, similar to the SWIFT interbanking system in place today. They deal transactions from foreign countries and act as a big currency exchange for international trade.

A black market was created during WW2, where gold coins were brought into occupied France from Switzerland. The original source of the gold coins during the war was Germany, because Germany and Switzerland were trading partners. (Switzerland heavily relies on Germany for food and fuel imports.) The source of these gold coins was primarily looted Belgian reserves; 141 million francs in coins were taken from Belgium and sold to Switzerland by the Reichsbank. Black market demand for gold was so high early in the war that Swiss commercial banks were selling coins for 2x or 2.5x face value of a coin. Black market gold prices got to be so high that they threatened to undermine the Swiss Franc until the Swiss central bank put into place monetary policies to help stabilize black market gold prices.

Minting of the 1935LB coins began in February 1945 just as a ban on importation of German gold went into effect by agreement with Allied Powers. Switzerland had been put on notice for at least a year prior. Belgian gold had been looted and was believed to be in Switzerland’s hands, against international law. It appears that February 1945 was the timeframe when an agreement (Currie Mission) was reached and gold importation was essentially halted along with the distribution of Germany derived gold. Whether the two events are coincidence or related I’m not sure.

1935LB coins likely entered public hands thru the commercial banks that fed the public demand, and subsequently the black market system. Gold coins imported from Germany were used all through the early and mid war years, and it’s likely in my opinion, that to keep supply going and maintain agreements that 1935LB coins were used to maintain supply. The 1935LB coins appear to be created, not for a "new" post-war program, but as a continuation of a market that existed since 1939 that fed a black market. The only change was they were using Swiss minted coins instead of foreign/non-Swiss coins. Sale of gold coins to the public was a BIG cash-cow for commercial Swiss banks during the war; it was the primary way they covered operating costs and kept their doors open.

Origin of the gold for 1935LB coins was pre-war gold ingots until 1947 when supplies were exhausted and Russian ingots were used for a month or two, until the pre-dating of coins (striking 1935 dated coins in 1940's) was discontinued.

1947 and 1949 Swiss coins were minted using – apparently – melted down assets that were primarily Belgian or German origin. Germany had few gold assets prior to the war, so it is likely most of the stuff was Belgian bars and foreign coins melted down. People say that the Swiss coins come from holocaust derived sources, and some of the content might, but it does not appear to be significant. I’ve got some conflicting sources, but from what I read thus far, maybe a few hundred pounds at most. From what I have read Germany did not have the capability to refine gold, only melt. Some holocaust related gold was melted/mixed into some Belgian ingots when it was being relabeled to Prussian ingots. Additionally, it’s also very possible that the bars contaminated were distributed to other central banks outside of Switzerland.

Another question arises – why didn’t Switzerland end minting after the war stopped? Why were they minted until 1949?

The reason the 20 Franc coin was minted until 1949, rather than ending earlier, appears due to a US/Swiss Franc dual exchange rate enacted in 1941. When Switzerland began dealing with Germany after the US was in the war, the US got very mad at Switzerland “aiding the enemy”. The US proceeded to freeze 2/3’rds of Switzerland’s gold reserves (all [i]reserves just shipped to the US for protection!![/i]) inside the US. The US also blacklisted Swiss companies operating in the US.

Additionally, the US began purchasing of Swiss products (high precision instruments, bomb sights, etc). So, how do you deal with someone that just froze your assets and now wants to do business with you?
You make them pay more money.

The dual exchange rate began in 1941 or so and continued until 1947 when the split dollar exchange was terminated (but not the emergency law/gentleman’s agreement/etc) and a money market developed in the banking industry. In 1949 the entire law/agreement was terminated/allowed to expire as all the market barriers to accepting US dollars were removed.
Mr. Midnight
Joined: 10-Mar-2017
Posts: 598
Amazing history. thanks for sharing your research here.
"Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world." -Anne of Green Gables

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