French 20 Franc Piece – A Good Way To Get a Little Bit of Gold



Yesterday I posted Investing in Silver 101 and I mentioned that one advantage of silver over gold is that it’s a lot more practical to deal with small amounts of silver than it is with gold.   If I wanted to trade somebody metals for something currently worth around $30, I can do that with an ounce of silver.   $30 worth of gold would more or less be a tiny flake and very impractical for barter.  Silver dimes, quarters and half dollars make barter with silver a lot more flexible.

You can get gold in increments smaller than an ounce and the French 20 Franc coin is one way to do it.   Each coin is 90% gold and contains .1867% of an ounce of gold.  I believe the other 10% is copper, which makes the coin more durable for the wear-and-tear of exchange.   The size of the coin is similar to a US nickel.     The coins with Napoleon were minted in the middle part of the 19th Century and the ones with the rooster (national emblem of France) came from the beginning of the 20th Century.   At today’s (8/22/12) prices, you can expect to pay somewhere in the neighborhood of $350 for one of these coins.

With gold at over $1600 an ounce, buying it might be a little intimidating for the average person but the 20 Franc piece lowers the entry point into the world of gold.   I think it’s also interesting to note that this is an example of a currency vanishing but the coin still retaining its’ value based on the metal content.   What do you think a 20 franc note is worth these days?  Absolument rien, mes amis!

I’ll give my gut feeling on what one of those coins would be worth in an agrarian barter economy:   My guess is that hundreds of years ago this amount of gold would have been able to get something like a day’s work from a skilled craftsman, a sword, maybe some kind of livestock or a month’s rent in someplace fairly modest.



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  • Rottenclam

    I love these coins. I have 2 of the Rooster coins, and 2 of the “Lucky Angel” 20 Franc coins.

    Additionally, I have some of the Swiss Helvetica Francs, and some other European smaller gold coins. Their size and price is what appeals to me. Actually, I like the aesthetics too. I’m not big on having monarchs and the likes on my coins, so I usually go with ones that dont have kings and queens.

    The exception I made was buying a full-size Krugerrand. Now dont get me wrong – if that coin is good for barter, we’re in some deep shit. It is huge (and it was expensive), so I grabbed it as a larger investment piece.

    My intention as I buy precious metal coins is to keep my smaller silver and gold coins for barter, while my larger purchases are meant as investment vehicles in this current system (i.e. – once they become valuable enough – I’d like to sell them or exchange them for real estate).

  • Ryan

    The aesthetics on these coins are cool – I’d rather look at five Francs in my hand than a ounce ounce bar with some text stamped into it. I have five of these with various Napoleon busts.

    I started buying silver a few years ago by picking up junk silver here and there and then switched to 1 oz coins. I figure the junk silver is for potential barter (or if things go well, they’ll be a nice legacy kind of thing when I die) and the bullion is more of an investment vehicle.

    I’m still picking up a few bits of junk silver here and there, but I think I’m going to hold my ground on metals and paper assets for now and focus on trying to get some land and/or investment property. So many good deals out there right now.

  • Rottenclam

    Yeah – I mean, at a certain point, I just felt like “I have enough” junk silver. I dont need bags and bags of it (though a few ammo cans would be nice, heheh). But after consistently buying metals for 2 years, I feel like I’ve reached a comfortable point.

    My next goal is to get with real estate (even though I’m still a year or three away from an actual purchase), so to that end, I’m building up cash reserves.

    Back to the point at hand, I love these gold coins. They’re some of the most common gold coins of all time, so I feel like they’ll stay very liquid forever. I have a few small Pamp Suisse gold bars (in gram sizes) and although I think they’re cool, there is not nearly the sense of history (or pride of ownership) with them that i get from these older European gold coins. Happy stackin’.

  • Ryan

    It is kind of cool that a coin that’s 150-ish years old is still around and still just as valuable as it was when it was first minted. The guy I buy from started selling the gram bars, haven’t picked any up yet. Did you ever read Ferfal’s book where he talks about having gold chains to barter links at a time?

    Another reason I like to keep metals is that (and I’ve hinted to this before) the more I think about it, I’m not sure if the United States (and thus the dollar) will exist as we know it over the next few decades. Yeah, it sounds a little into the tinfoil hat realm, but just based on the political, demographic and economic divisions in the country I can see things happening like states splitting apart (California is the obvious one – maybe Illinois or Michigan too?) and possibly succession of states from the Union. Having metals gives me a savings regardless of what happens – except if a silver or gold asteroid soft lands on earth.

  • Rottenclam

    I’ve heard Ferfal talk about people using the chain links in their gold necklaces for currency, but I’ve never read his book. Something about him rubs me the wrong way. I’m not exactly sure what it is….but I dunno, there is a lot of his stuff that I dismiss (and yes, I know he did live through an actual currency collapse…but my spider sense just tingles when that guy talks).

    Puttin’ on the foil – I definitely think that the US (and the dollar) will not exist as we know them 20-30 years from now. I do think a few states will break apart and/or I think a few states will group together into mini-unions (with no bloodshed), and I definitely think some kind of “commerce zones” will be created across a few states that will make up these mini-unions.

    As a safe backdrop for whatever happens, I think old coins of gold, silver, and copper will have their place. We might not see Wal-Mart accepting these old coins, but it would not surprise me to see the coins of bygone ears accepted at flea markets, farmers markets, food stalls, and by independent tradesmen.

    I especially think that we’ll see a rise in this kind of ‘barter’ culture if taxes get too out of control.

  • Ryan

    I get the same feeling about some of the stuff he puts out as well but I know there are places in BA I wouldn’t want to go under the best circumstances, let alone when all hell is breaking loose. I do like the way he shoots down a lot of popular preparedness ideas like relying on having a gun and a ton of ammo to acquire everything, moving out the country, etc.

    When I was down there I talked to a few people about the economic situation. They talked about how being middle class meant that they have an apartment, take public transportation and be able to do some things. They complained about how their apartment cost $52,000USD and how they were saving up to someday be able to visit Sao Paulo. They were better educated than me and otherwise not much different but there I was, a 20-something blue collar American guy with enough money to just go down there randomly on vacation. They were impressed that I could afford to stay in a hotel and not a hostel and that I owned a house with a yard. I’ve seen third world squalor, but it feels a little different to acknowledge that kind of difference in standard of living between people who really feel like your equals. I might write about that soon, but I have a few irons in the fire right now.

    I also want to write more about the possibility of succession as it’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. I can also see Canada doing the same thing – in fact, I think the Bloc Quebecois (or at least another separatist party) just won a big election in Quebec. I can see Ontario going one way, Western Canada going another, Quebec going one way and maybe British Columbia going another. A Midwest/Rockies/Northwest/Prairie Provences superstate would rule though. Eventually there’s going to be a state (or states) that get fed up with paying in more than they get back and being drowned out of representation. Maybe North Dakota? Texas? Who knows…

    On the subject of barter, I picked up some tobacco seeds a couple weeks ago and I’m going to try to grow it next year. If I can pull that off, I’ll have a GREAT barter item.

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