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French Pretender Coinage

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 Posted 09/25/2020  3:12 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
By the way, erafjel, thanks for responding to my posts. I've learned a lot and it has helped focus my thoughts on the issue. And I'll add the page from the Bulletin Numismatique nr 53 to my meager collection of reference material.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  4:29 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks, jbuck. I appreciate it.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  5:26 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add erafjel to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
perhaps the Napoleon II coins struck in the summer of 1815 were dated 1816 and marked ESSAI in order to give the impression that they were from an official mint set.

It was common practice at the time to make trial coins, often as part of a competition with different designs from several engravers. Apart from the Napoleon II coins, the earliest coins I find marked with just ESSAI and a year are from 1817. Trial coins before that were marked in other, different ways (ESSAI but no year, marked PIÈCE D'ESSAI or some other text indicating a trial coin, no special marking but made in a different material like tin, etc). So I guess your idea is a possibility, although I haven't seen anything indicating that trial coins were dated with another year than the year they were actually made.

This may remain a mystery ...

Thanks for sharing the page from the biography, that is interesting reading!
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 Posted 09/25/2020  5:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
This may remain a mystery ...


Perhaps, and I don't have a problem with that. There are a lot of questions in history that must remain unsolved. But I've only been researching this issue for three days now, so I'm not quite ready to give up. I'd still like to see any other firsthand documentation or examples from other members that might help shed some light on this, and I'll probably keep digging for awhile myself.

Again, thanks for your insight and analysis.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  6:45 pm  Show Profile   Check NumisRob's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add NumisRob to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Fascinating!

The Napoleon II, Henri V and Napoleon IV coins are listed in my 30-year-old French Victor Gadoury catalogue, but up until now I'd never actually seen one. Unfortunately the catalogue doesn't say when or where these coins were struck.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  8:17 pm  Show Profile   Check alganbagerap's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add alganbagerap to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Despite being a hairy, wine swilling coin and medal freak, I 've had a side gig for the last 50+/- years as an academic.

The research level and subject comprehension in this thread is rarely met in most of the papers I have to review.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  9:11 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
To cjh581 :
Thankyou for your interest and research efforts.
I have read all that you have written with close attention,
and my curiousity on this subject greatly increased.

I have a specialist numismatic auctioneer acquaintance, who has a very extensive numismatic reference library. I will inquire further and will post some references if I am able to provide these.
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 Posted 09/25/2020  9:30 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Here's an interesting observation I've made regarding the Napoleon II overstrike sample described and depicted in the Bulletin Numismatique nr 53 (at least I've found it to be so).

I'm posting 6 images of two separate Napoleon II 2-franc pieces. O1 and R1 are the obverse and reverse of the overstruck coin pictured and described on page 11 of the Bulletin. O2 and R2 are the obverse and reverse of a Napoleon II 2-franc piece taken from the Heritage Auction website. O3 and R3 are obverse and reverse overlays of these two coins.








I hope my formatting here hasn't messed up anyone's browser display.

My observation is simply that these two coins were struck from different dies. Note the two stars on either side of "1816" in the lower legend region of R2. They're missing from the lower legend region of R1. I've also tried to line the two coins up in the overlaid images O3 and R3. First I resized the images so that the coins were the same size. For the obverse I tried to match the two portraits, but note the details I've starred. At the top, you can see that the upper outline of the head doesn't quite match. At the leftmost star, the curl of the hair at the temples doesn't match. At the lower middle star, the top of the ears don't match. And at the rightmost star the upper right legend doesn't line up. In fact, the typography looks different.

I didn't bother to mark the differences between R1 and R2. In R3, I matched the size of the coins, then tried to line up the "2" above the word FRANCS. In addition to the missing two stars, hardly anything matches between the two coins, either in shape or position.

I did a search for Napoleon II 2-franc coins at the Heritage Auction website, and got 4 matches from past auctions. Two of the matches had the stars on the reverse side, and two did not.

Since the two coins were obviously made from different dies, I don't think we can draw any general conclusions from the fact that coin 1 has been shown to be an overstrike. That coin could have been struck at any time relative to coin 2, including 56 years later.
Edited by cjh5801
09/26/2020 01:51 am
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 Posted 09/25/2020  9:35 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for your comments, NumisRob, alganbagerap, and sel_69l.

I'm retired, but during my working years I was often called upon to do extensive research and analysis. I'm glad that what I learned during those years is still of some use.
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 Posted 09/26/2020  01:33 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add sel_69l to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A search on Google Images brings up a lot of pictures of the Henri V coins, and a few of Napoleon 11.
Follow up research on these pictures, and perhaps add some more info, seems to be appropriate for this thread.

Haven't found any good information on mintage numbers, but COIN QUEST does provide some info on values for coins of Henri V
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 Posted 09/26/2020  05:37 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A bit of contemporary information on the Napoleon IV issues of 1874, a paragraph from Every Saturday: A Journal of Choice Reading, published in Massachusetts, the issue for June 20, 1874:


If this is true, we have contemporary evidence that the Napoleon IV pretender coins were minted in England in 1874, which coincides with the date on the coins. Perhaps adding some credence to this is the fact that the artist of the portrait bust on these coins has signed them as "C de F". Although the use of initials borders on anonymity, it's still a bit surprising to see an engraver sign a pretender coin. I'd think that most engravers would be hesitant to sign such coins for fear of retribution should their identities become known. However, if these coins were struck in England, the engraver would have little to fear from any potentially offended French officials.


I'd also suggest that perhaps this information also reduces the chance that the Napoleon II pretender coins were originally struck in the 1870s as support for Napoleon IV's pretensions to the throne. If it had been felt necessary to bolster Napoleon IV's claim by simultaneously issuing coins in the name of Napoleon II, we might expect to find some mention of their issue in contemporary news accounts as well.
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 Posted 09/26/2020  08:43 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add erafjel to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
My observation is simply that these two coins were struck from different dies

Now it is getting really interesting. No doubt you have identified two different dies. Looking at Napoleon II 2 francs coins that have been on sale by CGB (cgb.fr), I see examples of both dies (the one with stars also has a point above E in ESSAI which recurs on all such examples at CGB). This variation does not show for ½, 1 and 5 francs coins that I can find on the Internet - all ½ francs are without stars, all 1 and 5 francs are with stars.


Quote:
A bit of contemporary information on the Napoleon IV issues of 1874
...
perhaps this information also reduces the chance that the Napoleon II pretender coins were originally struck in the 1870s as support for Napoleon IV's pretensions to the throne

Very interesting! (How do you find all this information?!) The Napoleon IV coins are generally believed to have been struck in Brussels, Belgium, so this is an interesting piece of information.

I agree with your conclusion. I think the presence vs absence of engraver initials is also a strong suggestion that the Napoleon IV and Napoleon II coins have different origins. The style of the reverse is another difference - 2nd empire vs 1st empire coins - but that of course can be attributed to the different eras for the two pretenders.
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 Posted 09/26/2020  11:21 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add erafjel to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I found a note about Napoleon II coins in the Belgian Numismatic Review from 1861, which may add some information to the background of these coins.

Source: Web site of Société Royale de Numismatique de Belgique (numisbel.be).


In translation:
"The trial coin, the imprint of which we show here, is obviously just an attempt to speculate on the credulity of amateurs. If it had been done by order of the French government, as a protest against the permanence and imprescriptibility of the Empire - æternitas imperii, - the engraving would be less bad, since then there would be no shortage of financing. Then, too, the date 1816 is a revealing detail that an official manufacture would not let pass. Everybody knows, in fact, that the proclamation of Napoleon II took place in 1815, a few days after the Battle of Waterloo, and that his ephemeral and purely nominal reign lasted only a few days. It is therefore 1815 that should have been placed on this posthumous restitution."

Obviusly the coins were around in 1861, so any connection with the 1874 Napoleon IV coins is clearly out of the question. The author here seems to believe that it is a matter of fooling amateur coin collectors to buy falsified coins.

That this text is written in 1861 could of course be a sign that that was the year these coins started to show up. Is the date 1816 just a reversal of 1861?

Still confusing with the information about Napoleon II coins circulating in the 1820s though.
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 Posted 09/26/2020  12:16 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Great find, erafjel. Like so much of the limited information available on these coins it reads like mere speculation. The main point of interest is the evidence that the coin was in existence in 1861. It's a bit amusing that the author's speculations center on the coin being struck to fool the collector, apparently without giving any thought to any actual political propaganda purposes the coin might have had.

I keep going back to the report by Gruner in the summer of 1815. Of all we've seen, it seems one of the most reliable pieces of evidence. If the coins were struck for seditious propaganda purposes, as he appeared to suspect, then perhaps dating the coins for 1816 was intended to have an impact on public perception. Suggesting that the accession of Napoleon II to the throne was a foregone conclusion and his reign would be stable enough to extend into the future. Just speculation, of course.
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