In the aftermath of the French Revolution, in 1795, France instituted a decimal monetary system in which the value of the franc was set at 100 centimes. Gold francs of the early 1800s featured the bust of Napoleon, who ruled for a decade until 1814. Other coins of the 19th century included copper, bronze, and silver centimes, as well as silver and gold francs. Of particular interest to coin collectors are the 50-franc coins from the 1860s, which featured a bust of Napoleon III, his head crowned with a wreath.

Gold was no longer used for circulating French coins by the end of World War I, replaced by metals such as nickel, cupro-nickel, nickel and bronze, and aluminum and bronze. Coins in five-, 10-, and 25-centimes denominations were holed, and during World War II, the occupied Vichy government minted coins out of zinc and aluminum.


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