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French Paper Money

Many people like to collect the monetary notes of European countries like France. Some are dedicated collectors. Others are travellers who want to commemorate their visit to a foreign country.

What are the historical French currencies?
  • From the time of Charlemagne until the French Revolution, the livre tournois was the standard unit of account in French currency. It was briefly replaced by the _cu from 1577-1602.
  • In the early modern period, a "franc" was a coin worth at least one livre tournois.
  • During the French Revolution, the bank in Paris printed paper assignats, which were similar to modern bonds.
  • The franc became the national currency and standard unit of account after the Revolution. The new currency was divided according to a decimal system. The small coins were called d_cimes and centimes.
  • In 1944, banks issued French Allied Military Currency.
  • In 1960, officials in Paris introduced the New Franc. The exchange rate was 100 Old Francs = 1 New Franc.
  • In 1999, France joined the Eurozone. The exchange rate was 6.55957 Francs = 1 Euro.

What does French paper money look like?

  • Banks issued historical notes in many designs. Some are elaborate and brightly coloured.
  • Notes issued by the modern Banque de France featured portraits of famous French people and landmarks from major cities like Paris.
  • French paper - especially in pre-WW2 notes - used high quality fiber.
How many denominations of paper banknotes were there?
  • In the 19th century, there were 5F, 20F, 50F, 100F, 200F, 500F, and 1000F notes.
  • During World War I, the 10F note was introduced. The 5000F note debuted in 1938.
  • In the 1950s, 500F, 1000F, 5000F, and 10,000F notes were in circulation.
  • After France's banks readjusted the currency in 1960, there were 5F, 10F, 50F, 100F, and 500F notes. The 5F and 10F were phased out, and the 20F paper note was added.
How much is a French franc worth in US dollars?

While the French franc is now an obsolete currency, it is still possible to exchange them. You may be able to do this at your bank, but you will probably have to use a specialized currency exchange. Currently, the exchange rate is 1 French franc = .18 U.S. dollars.

Are there quality grades for French paper money?

Collectors rely on grading scales that check for authenticity - you want to make sure the money you picked up in Paris isn't fake - and judge how much damage has been caused to the paper.

  • Some collectors use the PMG Grading Scale, which assigns a numerical score of 1-70. Uncirculated notes earn scores between 6-70. Some notes are eligible for special Star and Exceptional Paper Quality designations.
  • Other collectors rely on a scale with designations ranging from Poor (PR) to Uncirculated (UNC). One problem with this scale is that it is not standardized across countries.