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

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Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 5
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: 518
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: 1156
@VieillePile Very interesting info, I never heard bout the 1907-14 restrikes of the Rooster before!
Une Franglaise; Warning: Contains high amounts of sarcasm
Lev99
Joined: 11-Feb-2018
Posts: 5
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: 518
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: 5
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: 518
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: 5
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: 1437
I like this topic!
halfdisme
Joined: 6-Oct-2017
Posts: 148
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: 148
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: 5
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: 148
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

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