Owing to its central geographic location among the great powers of Europe, Switzerland has been a commercial and banking center for centuries. It is famous for its role in the gold market where "the gnomes of Zurich" are said to hold much sway. The "gnomes" made their first splash in the gold market when they convinced South Africa that Swiss bankers would be a better market for its gold than the London variety. Russian gold business quickly followed the South African lead. Noted gold authority Timothy Green once said that, "Gold is as much a part of Switzerland as the Alps and skiing."
Many individuals in Europe and elsewhere who do not trust their own governments and financial systems trust the Swiss to handle their money. As a result, much of the world's privately held gold is stored secretly in Swiss vaults. For centuries, Swiss bankers and money men have recommended gold coins and bullion as standard portfolio inclusion.
The Swiss 20 Franc gold coins reflect Switzerland's commitment to both gold and republican principles. The 'Confederatio' commemorates the assemblage of the twenty-five Swiss cantons into the modern federal state. Lady Liberty graces the obverse and the Swiss cross the reverse.
In 1865, in response to the growing influence over trade and commerce of the Zollverein (the union of the German States), Switzerland, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain and Finland entered into what became known as the Latin Monetary Union. The purpose of the union was to establish a uniform decimal weight system for all coinage, modeled after the 20 Franc in use at the time in France, to facilitate free trade. All coins, though not necessarily denominated in francs, were to contain the specific weight of .1867 oz pure gold per 20 units of currency. The Latin Monetay Union remained intact until 1922, coming to an end in the aftermath of World War I. Despite its dissolution, several countries continued to mint coinage by this specific weight into the modern era. The Confederatio offered here represents the first of two coins minted by Switzerland under the Latin Monetary Union.