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French Pretender Coinage

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 Posted 09/27/2020  11:31 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
A reference to an almost complete set of the 1816 series of Napoleon II coins, missing the 5, 3, and 1 (and perhaps 10) centime pieces:




This documents that at least the higher value coins were all being minted by at least 1862.

I hope I'm not boring anyone with all of these posts. My enthusiasm is perhaps carrying me away.
Edited by cjh5801
09/27/2020 11:33 pm
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 Posted 09/29/2020  01:23 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The August 2015 issue of Coinage Magazine has an article about "pretender coins" with some interesting information. The Napoleon II coins are not mentioned, but the article does briefly describe the Henri V coins and the Napoleon IV coins.

What caught my eye about the Napoleon IV coins was that the engraver's signature, "C de F", is supposedly intended to mean Chaux de Fonds, which might lead one to believe the coins were struck in Switzerland. However, the article notes that since the bronze 10 centime piece has a privy mark of a face, which was used by Brichaut-Veyrat-Wurden of Brussels, the coins were more likely struck at that mint.

That conclusion seems a bit sketchy to me. In addition to the face privy mark, the 10 centime coin also has an E. What's that supposed to mean? The Edinburgh mint? And what of the other Napoleon IV coins. The smaller denominations don't have any privy or mint marks, but the 5 franc piece has a five-pointed star and a fleur-de-lis privy marks, which were marks used in the Netherlands. The 2 franc piece has a bee, also used in the Netherlands, and another fleur-de-lis (pointed in the opposite direction). The 1 franc coin has a Catholic cross (I think that's what it is, I'm not a religious person) and another fleur-de-lis (oriented like the one on the 2 franc piece) as mintmarks. The Catholic cross privy mark looks similar to the one that The Royal Mint used on Polish coins.

The point is that whoever engraved the dies for the Napoleon IV coin used a variety of privy/mint marks, so why make the assumption that the engraver was from Brussels based on just one of them? Maybe the variety of marks were meant simply to hide the true origin of the coins. Maybe the coins were struck in Brussels, as has been assumed, but maybe they were struck in England, as reported in the newspapers in 1874. Napoleon III and his family had been exiled to England after he had been deposed, so perhaps Napoleon IV or his mother (both devout Catholics) had a hand in having the coins struck. Unlike Napoleon II, Napoleon IV actually had pretensions to the French throne.
Edited by cjh5801
09/29/2020 01:28 am
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 Posted 10/01/2020  04:18 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Although I'm not quite ready to close the book on this, I'd like to summarize what I think are the pertinent points regarding the Napoleon II "1816" series of coins.

1. Coins of Napoleon II, most likely from the 1816 series, were struck in France in the late summer of 1815 ("most likely" because no examples with the date 1815 have been found and because of evidence that coins from the 1816 series were struck well before the 1870s--see below). According to the testimony of Gruner, the set of coins issued in 1815 included denominations of one demi-franc and one franc. According to the account in The Bury and Norwich Post, coins of "one or two franc" denominations were seen in Paris in the fall of 1815. I'm not sure if there's any significance to that "or" between the account of one and two franc coins, but the mere fact that multiple coins were being referred to makes it at least possible that there were examples of both denominations. If true, this would mean that Napoleon II coins in at least three denominations were struck in 1815. Other official reports from late 1815 state that "vast numbers" of these coins were being circulated in southern France and Switzerland.

2. The dies for the Napoleon II coins were kept in the possession of Bonapartists and the coins were re-struck when it was felt advantageous to stir up public support for the Bonapartist cause. Restrikes are pretty much proven by evidence of deteriorating dies. This is shown by the fact that there are examples of the "1816" 3-centime piece with clearly struck stars appearing in the lower part on the reverse side of the coin, and examples where the area of the coin where the leftmost star appears shows signs that the die has rusted (the coin that I recently added to my collection was apparently struck from the eroded die, which would make it a later restrike). Another example that this is true is the fact that a replacement die was used for the reverse side of the 2 franc coin in the 1870s (I initially thought that a replacement die was also used for the obverse side of that coin, but now I'm not so sure--the differences between it and the earlier strike may be due to erosion of the obverse die). Other evidence of later restrikes is the presence of ridges along the edges of some of the reissues of various denominations of the coins. This would be caused by rusting of the outer portions of the images of the coins on the dies.

3. The continued re-issue of the Napoleon II coins is also demonstrated by the later official reports made by the police and other officials that the coins were showing up in various parts of France in the 1820s, the 1830s, possibly the 1860s, and the 1870s. Note that the account of Napoleon II coins issued after Napoleon's death in 1821 are a bit confusing in that it is reported that these coins bear the inscription "The Hope of France," which does not appear on any coins from the 1816 series. Adding to the confusion is a report from April 1821, prior to Napoleon's death, that Napoleon II coins were circulated on the Anniversary of Saint Napoleon's day, which was on August 15th. Does this mean that the coins reported in April had been circulating since August 1820, or that they had been issued in April 1821 in anticipation of Saint Napoleon's day on August 1821? In any event, there are apparently no surviving examples of coins of Napoleon II bearing the inscription "The Hope of France," so it may be that the report of this inscription was mistaken.

4. A published example of the 1816 5-franc Napoleon II coin shows that the coin was circulated at least by 1861, and there is a description of a set of 1816 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, demi, and quarter franc pieces in existence as early as 1862. Since all of the 1816 coins were apparently engraved by the same hand, and there is evidence that the dies for the smaller denomination coins have deteriorated in addition to the larger denomination coins, I now think it likely that the original dies for the entire series probably date from 1815.

Sorry for another lengthy post. If anyone has anything to add or any contrary suggestions I hope they'll post it here.
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 Posted 10/03/2020  06:24 am  Show Profile   Check NumisRob's eBay Listings Bookmark this reply Add NumisRob to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
In addition to the face privy mark, the 10 centime coin also has an E.

The Monnaie de Paris in the 19th century sometimes used a letter 'E' instead of the regular 'A' to indicate 'ESSAI'. So maybe whoever struck these coins was also indicating that they were trial issues not intended for circulation, perhaps to avoid a charge of forgery if they were caught with the coins?
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 Posted 10/03/2020  2:08 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
So maybe whoever struck these coins was also indicating that they were trial issues not intended for circulation, perhaps to avoid a charge of forgery if they were caught with the coins?

In the case of the Napoleon IV coins, this is quite possibly true. In the case of the Napoleon II coins I'm not sure.

If the Napoleon II coins were originally struck in 1815, the fact that they had been struck at all would have been a criminal offense carrying severe penalties, as was the circulation and possession of the coins. Adding the word ESSAI to the Napoleon II coinage would seem to have been done for a reason other than to avoid prosecution. I ordered a book that I hope may provide an additional clue on this, though it may turn out to be a false lead.

By the 1870s, it would not have been illegal to have items mentioning Napoleon or his family, so adding ESSAI on the obverse and the "E" to the reverse may indeed have been an attempt to avoid charges of forgery.
Edited by cjh5801
10/03/2020 2:11 pm
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 Posted 10/11/2020  02:01 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
In "King of Rome" by Andre Castelot, the author gives the following account of a session of the Chamber of Peers in late June, 1815:

"To shouts of 'Long live Napoleon II!' the appointment of a 'government commission' was unanimously agreed to, and it was decided that a whole new series of coins--from five centimes to five francs--should be minted at once, bearing the inscription of 'Napoleon II, Emperor of the French.' However, Napoleon II had not really been proclaimed Emperor, but merely recognized as the de facto monarch. What is more, it was not a Regency which was to reign in the meantime, but a government commission."

Of course, the Chamber soon changed it's mind and Napoleon's son ceased being considered an official candidate for monarch, so we can assume that the coins were never minted by the government. However, the exchange in the Chamber of Peers would have been reported in Le Moniteur and/or the Journal de l'Empire (aka Le Journal des debáts), both are cited in the endnotes for chapter eight, where this passage occurs.

Perhaps Bonapartists, reading of the proposed coinage in the newspaper, decided to make the coins a reality, which would explain why they showed up in the summer of 1815. It might also explain the "ESSAI" marking on the coins if the Bonapartists had wanted to give the impression that the coins were minted by the government in response to the announced decision by the Chamber of Peers.
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 Posted 10/14/2020  06:10 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CAM68 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
I have a few Henri V issues - will try to attach pics

The first is a 1/2 franc piece, dated 1833:

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 Posted 10/14/2020  06:17 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CAM68 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
The second is a 1 franc dated 1831 - like the 1/2 franc, it appears to have been struck in silver:



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 Posted 10/14/2020  06:20 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add CAM68 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thirdly, an undenominated piece the size of a 5 franc coin, probably medallic in nature, bearing a date on the reverse of 2 August 1830 and struck in a silver metal:



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 Posted 10/14/2020  1:10 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
You're probably right about that last one being a medal. As you probably already know, August 2, 1830 was the date Henry V supposedly became king.
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 Posted 10/20/2020  5:58 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ColonialCoinsUK to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
As someone who has an interest in Napoleonic coinage this thread has been fascinating, particularly regarding the Napoleon II essai's!

Below are scans of the pages from my copy of Histoire Monetaire et Numismatique Contemporaine by Jean Mazard. This would suggest that at least the silver 5 francs was struck later, 1860.



In the upcoming sale at Editions Gadoury Manoaco 2020 on 30-31 October lot 640 is the silver set (5, 2, 1, 1/2 and 1/4F) and lot 641 is a complete copper (or bronze?) set (5, 2, 1, 1/2, 1/4F and 10, 5, 3 and 1 centimes) - in what appears to be a contemporary case.

https://www.gadoury.com/en/auction



Edited by ColonialCoinsUK
10/20/2020 6:00 pm
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 Posted 10/20/2020  9:43 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
Thanks for the post. It would appear the Histoire Monetaire et Numismatique Contemporaine by Jean Mazard is operating under the presumption that the Napoleon II coins were minted under Napoleon III in 1860. As mentioned in one of the posts above, this probably isn't likely since the coins are so poorly engraved (especially note how uneven the lettering is on the reverse of most of the coins, note the misplaced "A" in FRANCS on the 5-franc piece, and the bizarre tilt to the word "ESSAI" in the 1-centime piece, though there are examples of poor lettering on virtually every piece). It doesn't seem likely that coins made at the instigation of Napoleon III would have such poor quality control. Also, there are all the published references to the coins made prior to the 1860s.

And thanks for the link to the ASTA-2020 catalog. Some more fine examples here, on pages 121 and 122. Wish I had the money for the complete set in copper. Some observations of the two sets based on what we've learned so far in this thread:

Silver partial set: The 5-franc piece looks to have been made from a later die state. Note the signs of corrosion to the NW of the left most star in the lower part on the reverse side. The 2-franc piece is using the later reverse die (no stars), so it may well date from 1860 or later. It's hard to tell with the low resolution picture, but the "ESSAI" on the demi-franc piece seems a bit light. If so, this may also be a sign of a deteriorating die. The "ESSAI" is quite clear on the other examples I've seen.

Copper complete set: No sign of corrosion on the 5-franc piece, so perhaps evidence of an earlier die state. Again, the 2-franc piece is from the later die (no stars). The 3-centime piece has a very clear left star at the lower left on the reverse, so this is clearly from an earlier die state.
Edited by cjh5801
10/20/2020 9:54 pm
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 Posted 10/21/2020  01:09 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
In an attempt to document the subject of the Napoleon II pretender coins to death, I'm planning to post a series of posts that will demonstrate the deterioration of the dies used to strike the coins. Since I've found a number of examples, I'll post these on a per denomination basis. I'm assuming that the deterioration is due to rust that has eaten away at portions of the dies over time and has been brushed away upon the occasion of subsequent re-strikes, but welcome any other suggested explanations. The first example is the 1-centime piece, with deterioration increasing from top to bottom.








Note the progression of the ridging between about 1 o'clock and 3 o'clock on the reverse side. I think this may show that rust had built up in this area over time and had been cleaned away before each re-issue of the coin, which could explain the growing ridging obscuring the tick marks around the rim.
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 Posted 10/21/2020  05:49 am  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add ColonialCoinsUK to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply
'Thanks for the post. It would appear the Histoire Monetaire et Numismatique Contemporaine by Jean Mazard is operating under the presumption that the Napoleon II coins were minted under Napoleon III in 1860.'

I think the Mazard entry is saying these are contemporary issues - that's how I interpreted it but then I do not speak French!? The info is in the correct part of the book (with the Anvers coinage) and it is just the silver 5 francs which was struck later? The Napoleon III issues are in the second volume.

The same 'restrike' issue arises with a lot of Napoleonic medals with more examples restruck from the same dies during the 1840's, again in the 1860's/1870's and another lot restruck in the 1970's. Fortunately these are usually distinguished by colour and there are usually incuse marks on the edge - although most auction lots do not always show the edge or specify which striking it is and go just by the date on the medal if there is one!
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 Posted 10/21/2020  1:17 pm  Show Profile   Bookmark this reply Add cjh5801 to your friends list Get a Link to this Reply

Quote:
I think the Mazard entry is saying these are contemporary issues - that's how I interpreted it but then I do not speak French!? The info is in the correct part of the book (with the Anvers coinage) and it is just the silver 5 francs which was struck later? The Napoleon III issues are in the second volume.


I don't speak French either, but running the image through Yandex Translate, and cross-checking with Google Translate, shows that the Mazard entry is simply describing the obverse of the 5-franc coin as:

"NAPOLEON II EMPEROR. Childish effigy to the left. unsigned"

The reverse is described as:

"FRENCH EMPIRE. In a crown of foliage 5/FRANCS./ESSAI at the bottom *1816*"

Below that, it says:

"smooth posterior strike (circa 1860)"

"Circa 1860" means that they don't know the exact year it was struck, but assume it was around 1860. I believe that they were mistaken or misinformed about the year it was struck (unless purely by chance it's an example of a re-strike from the 1860s).

Although the first mention of a Napoleon II 5-franc piece in a Numismatic publication that I can find on the Internet dates from 1861, police and other public officials in France were aware of Napoleon II coins of various denominations circulating in France and Switzerland as far back as 1815. Unfortunately, numismatists in the 19th century apparently did not have ready access to these French police reports.

I note that the Mazard book was published in 1965, so there doesn't appear to be any reason to believe that they had first-hand knowledge of when (or how often) the Napoleon II coins were actually struck. It looks to me like they were simply repeating what numismatists believed at the time.

And welcome to the board, if a fellow newbie may be so bold.
Edited by cjh5801
10/21/2020 10:44 pm
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