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.