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Q: French currency in 1789 ( Answered,   0 Comments )
Subject: French currency in 1789
Category: Reference, Education and News > Teaching and Research
Asked by: katie1212-ga
List Price: $5.00
Posted: 24 Jan 2005 13:53 PST
Expires: 23 Feb 2005 13:53 PST
Question ID: 462631
What online resource could give me color pictures of French currency in 1789.

Request for Question Clarification by leli-ga on 25 Jan 2005 06:00 PST
Dear Katie

Do you need pictures of the short-lived banknotes of 1788 and 1789?

I found plenty of photographs of coins in circulation in 1789. There
are also two images online of high value paper bills issued in 1789.

However, if you're looking for pictures of the full range of paper
money introduced in June 1788, I don't think you'll find this online.
In December 1789, laws were passed introducing a new system, and I
guess a lot of "worthless" paper disappeared during the Revolution. I
found no pictures of paper money from 1788 or 1789 apart from the two
bills I mentioned. One dealer's website says these are rare.

There is a detailed list of what was issued in 1788, if that's any help.

Just let me know if what I've found would be any use to you.

Thanks - Leli

Clarification of Question by katie1212-ga on 25 Jan 2005 11:50 PST
I'm sure you see all kinds of interesting requests in the name of
research; this request of a picture of currency is for a show. Sanford
School, Hockessin, Delaware, is putting on a production of the musical
"Les Mis" (school version) and at one point in the show money is
passed around. We thought we might make some counterfeit money by
copying the picture (making it the same on both front and back)in
color. We try to be as accurate as possible and as true to the period
as we can. I figure we can fake the coins easily enough, but not the
currency. By the way, were the coins gold or silver, or some other
Subject: Re: French currency in 1789
Answered By: leli-ga on 26 Jan 2005 07:34 PST
Yes, we enjoy "interesting requests in the name of research". It's fun
working on questions about period settings.

In 1789 there were copper sous (also called sols), silver écus and
gold louis. There was also a very small coin called the liard.

In 1795 silver francs were introduced. Soon there was a range of
silver half-francs and quarter-francs, along with gold 20-franc
pieces. The franc was divided into 100 centimes. The sou continued as
a coin worth 5 centimes, and there were other small bronze and copper
coins, e.g. half-sou, 10 centimes etc..

I'm not sure where in "Les Mis" your money scene belongs, but the book
talks of francs and sous when it concerns the early decades of the
19th century.

I hope the following links will supply all you need, but do let me
know if you have a query about any of the material. For obvious
reasons, I have had to include some pages written in French and I
would be happy to help with translation, if that would be useful.

Coins typical of 1789

This website specialises in money from Louis XVI's reign:
If you click on the links to the left, you'll reach pictures with information.
Click again for an enlargement.

This webpage has a useful summary of currency in the 1770s and 1780s,
with pictures of silver and copper coins:

"Revolution coins struck under the name of Louis XVI"

Coins typical of 1830

Coins of the time of Charles X

Coins minted between 1824 and 1830

Silver and bronze coins
(Click for enlargements)

Sou in bronzed tin:

A half-sou in copper

More links to small coins of the period:

Further information found while searching:

"In Victor Hugo's novel, Les Misérables, he places his story of love,
honor, and struggle among the French revolutions of 1830, 1832, and

You may want to use the rough automatic translations available here:

Or the dictionary here:
(Avoid the spyware "warning" notice.)

As I said earlier, I would be very happy to help with French
translation. Please just ask for "clarification".

Good luck with the show! I hope you, your team and your audience all
have a great time.

Best wishes - Leli

Search strategy:

I started with background research to find out about French currency
during the 1789 and later revolutions, then looked for sites with
photographs of money.

Search terms used:

monnaie monnayage
louis sols écus livres 
francs sous 
"Louis XVI" "Charles X"  
révolution 1789 1830
billets de banque
Les Misérables
school edition
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