In December 1865, Belgium, France, Switzerland and Italy came together to form the Latin Monetary Union (LMU). The four countries agreed to produce coins of equal gold weight (.1867 ounces gold), modeled after the Napoleon I 20 Franc, to facilitate trade across borders. It was essentially an early version of the modern-day Euro currency.
Our December offer features coinage from each of these four original members, plus rarer issues such as the Tunisian 20 Franc, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the items in our 'Choose One' category, compiled into ten-coin sets. Together, they comprise one of the more 'complete' LMU collections possible and collectively represent over a century of European history.
And with gold lower, and these groups priced in line (on a per ounce basis) with modern 1/10 ounce coins and common historic US $20 gold pieces, this month’s offer represents a great accumulation opportunity to boot.
Please see below for a brief commentary on each individual coin.
Minted: Various Years 1802-1930
Actual Gold Content: .1867 troy ounce
The First Five - The ‘Elite’:
Tunisian 20 Franc - Almost Uncirculated/Uncirculated
A first time offer here at USAGOLD, the Tunisian 20 Francs represent the only 20 Franc variety minted on the continent of Africa, and were minted in the late 1800s and early 1900s when Tunisia was under French occupation. Just over 2 million coins were minted made total, making them one of the rarest 20 Franc coins in the market.
French Ceres 20 Franc - Almost Uncirculated
Minted during the Second French Republic, the Ceres is one of the first European coins not to feature a monarch on it’s obverse. They were only minted for three years, from 1848-1851. Their production was ended when Napoleon III seized control of the government and proclaimed himself emperor.
Italy 20 Lira Vittorio Emmanuel II - Uncirculated
The rarer of the Italian 20 Lira, Vittoria Emmanuel coins were minted from 1861-1874, and are rarely located in uncirculated condition. At roughly 150 years old, these represent some of the oldest coins that can be obtained in uncirculated condition at reasonable premiums.
French Napoleon I 20 Franc Very Fine/Extra Fine
This is the coin that set the standard for the LMU. Napoleon Bonaparte is, without a doubt, one of history’s most famous monarchs. It should come as no surprise that coins bearing his visage represent some of the rarest and most sought after historic European coins, period. Minted from 1802-1814, these coins are a whopping 200 years old or more.
We couldn’t compile 75 of any one of the following true rarities, so we’re offering a mixed bag to finish off your set:
(Choose 1 of the following per ten coin set):
(35) Swiss Confederatio 20 Franc Minted 1886-1896 - Almost Uncirculated/Uncirculated
By far the rarer of the two Swiss 20 Franc types, a very limited mintage of only 1.5 million coins were struck in total. The Confederatio was Switzerland’s first gold coins produced to LMU specifications, and was struck from 1886-1896.
(20) Sardinian Albertus 20 Lira Minted 1831-49 - Extra Fine
Minted from 1831-1849, the Sardinian Albertus is the second oldest offering available here, and saw a total mintage of only 1.5 million pieces.
(20) Sardinian Vittorio Emmanuel II Minted 1850-60 - Extra Fine
Bearing a similar visage to the 20 Lira mentioned above, the Sardinian Lira is much scarcer with only 2.8 million pieces struck total. Vittorio was the last named King of Sardinia and these were the last coins minted o the Mediterranean island.
The Second Five - The ‘Core’:
Belgian 20 Franc Leopold II - Brilliant Uncirculated
One of Europe’s dark players, Leopold is most notorious for his colonization of the Congo in Africa. Leopold 20 Francs are on the rarer side and seldom seen in Brilliant Uncirculated condition, but are considered one of the better struck coins of the era, maintaining excellent original detail and luster. Leopolds were minted from 1867-1882.
French Angel 20 Franc - Brilliant Uncirculated
Representing the ‘Spirit of France’, the French Angel characterized the ideals of the French Revolution. Owning one has long been thought of as good luck, and are enormously popular portfolio inclusions. The coins offered here are in superb Brilliant Uncirculated condition. French Angels were minted from 1871-1906.
French 20 Franc Napoleon III - Uncirculated
Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Napoleon III originally came to power as the elected president of the Second French Republic, but upon news that he would not be allowed to assume the presidency for a second term, abolished the republic and declared himself Emperor. Minted from 1852-1866, the Napoleon III 20 Francs are not in and of themselves terribly rare, but are extremely scarce in the uncirculated condition offered here.
Swiss 20 Franc Helvetia - Brilliant Uncirculated
Of the LMU coins, the Swiss 20 Franc is arguably the most universally recognized and internationally liquid of the group. Typically in a high state of preservation, and highly coveted in bulk historic fractional bullion positions, the Swiss Francs were minted from 1897-1930, making them the last gold 20 Franc produced to the specifications of the LMU.
Italy 20 Lira Umberto I - Brilliant Uncirculated
Featuring a proof-like finish, the Umberto 20 Lira is widely considered to be one of the more striking of the LMU coins. Despite their older pre-1900 mintage (1880-1897), they are typically remarkably well preserved, and this BU grouping in no different. As an interesting historical footnote, Umberto was the only modern King of Italy to die by assassination.