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
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
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:
louis sols écus livres
"Louis XVI" "Charles X"
révolution 1789 1830
billets de banque