Coins have been carried with lucky charms symbolizing national sovereignty since their birth, and thus become a symbol of a country, a proof of wealth, a sharp weapon for war, a financial tool, and a lever to promote trade and economic development. Therefore, we Chinese call it “quan currency”.
Among all kinds of works of art, only coins have the most special status. It not only has the intrinsic quality of real gold and silver, but also has a delicate and gorgeous artistic appearance. From early city-states to later countries, regions and economic communities, each coin has its own unique design style. Once coins enter the field of collection, they become rare works of art and cultural relics, and the older they are, the higher their status. The inscriptions and patterns engraved on coins are called metal documents, which are precious historical materials for the study of social history and culture, and are generally cherished by academic circles. For example, the Napoleon coin in the 19th century (“Napoleon coin” is the collective name for various coins issued during Napoleon’s reign) is one of the typical ones. Although many people in Europe hated Napoleon at that time (Napoleon in this article refers to Napoleon I), but when they saw the golden Napoleon gold coins, they couldn’t put it down.
Napoleon had his face engraved on coins
Engraving designs on coins has a long history. Early coins had images of beasts and birds of prey, gods and emperors on their faces, and later there were also relief pictures of heroes, rare animals and plants, or scenery of holy places. The patterns engraved on the early French coins are the gods in ancient Greek and Roman mythology. In 1498, King Louis XII of France sent troops to occupy the Kingdom of Milan in Italy and plundered a large number of gold coins. He was envious when he saw that the heads of the kings of the past were engraved on the Italian gold coins. After returning home, he engraved his own head in France On the coin, it is called “Dayston”, which means “head”. Since then, the front of French coins has the head portrait of Louis XII wearing a laurel crown. It is said that Julius Caesar was the first to wear a laurel wreath – he adorned his thinning hair with a wreath of laurel wreaths to conceal his premature baldness. Later Roman emperors worshiped Caesar and regarded wearing laurel crowns as a symbol of victory, glory, wisdom and bravery, so we saw many emperors wearing laurel crowns on ancient Roman coins.
From the beginning of the 16th century to the end of the 18th century, the heads on French coins have been controlled by the heads of the French kings. But after the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine, and the French king’s head on the coins was also removed. In the years since, the ancient gods have returned to French coins. After the establishment of the First French Republic on September 22, 1792, in order to sever the relationship with religion, the revolutionaries abolished the Gregorian calendar, which represented religious power and imperial power, and created a new revolutionary calendar, with the month of the birth of the Republic as the beginning of the year , is the first year of the Republic. During this period, the revolutionary government also issued some coins with small denominations, and the patterns engraved on the face of the coins were still gods. For example, the silver coins issued in the second year of the Republic (1793) were the image of a long-winged angel who was writing the constitution for France.
Silver coins issued during the French Revolution
Silver coin issued by the French Directorate
In April 1795, the French National Assembly decided to reform the currency system, replacing the decimal system with the decimal system, and replacing the livre (livre) with the French franc as the currency unit of France, bringing back to life the franc that had been abolished for more than 300 years. In the fourth year of the Republic (1795), the Directory formed by the Thermidorians issued a silver coin of 5 francs. Because the chairman of the government government is rotated by five governors, none of them dare to engrave their portraits on the silver coin, so the front of this silver coin is engraved with three gods in ancient Greek mythology: the sea of Hercules in the middle of the coin face Gris embraces the two goddesses with both arms. The Statue of Liberty on the right holds a wooden stick symbolizing power in her right hand. The top of the stick is covered with a Phrygian hat symbolizing freedom. The Statue of Equality on the left The left hand is holding a balance that symbolizes fairness, and the other hands that are free are held together.
During the French Revolution, society was out of order, and uprisings and coups occurred alternately. In just 10 years, the country successively emerged various regime forms such as constitutional monarchy, Girondins, Jacobins, Thermidorians, and the Directorate. The leaders in power were quickly turned over like scones in a hot pan. It was not until November 9, 1799 that Napoleon overthrew the Directorate through the Brumaire Coup and established the Consulate. This chaotic situation came to an end.
Loving money is a common problem among human beings. Napoleon also loved money when he was poor. He chewed and chewed the taste of coins, constantly savoring its bitterness and sweetness. The Napoleon family was originally a dilapidated nobleman in Italy. When Corsica was occupied by France, they became French. Napoleon’s father died when he was 16 years old. Forced to make ends meet, he had to drop out of school to serve as a soldier, and saved every coin to give to his mother to support the family. Napoleon, who became a soldier, dreamed of becoming a general and conquering the world like Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. During the turbulent years of the French Revolution, Napoleon saw the stage to realize his dreams. With his familiarity with history and the military skills he learned in the artillery school, he got ahead soon after enlisting in the army… When he was elected as the first consul of the French Republic At the time of the top spot, France was plagued by internal and external troubles, economic recession, inflation, and the people were in dire straits. The monarchs of European countries formed an anti-French alliance and rushed towards France from all sides. When Napoleon took office, he first grabbed the money bag and controlled the right to issue currency. He founded the Banque de France and adopted an active monetary policy to eliminate the depression caused by the Great Revolution, thus stabilizing social life. In 1803, the currency reform decree was promulgated, the weights and measures were unified, and the gold and silver double standard system was implemented. A batch of newly minted Napoleon coins came out, and the head of the young Napoleon began to appear on the French gold and silver coins.
Currency is an excellent medium of publicity. With the release of Napoleon coins, Napoleon quickly became a household name and a big man known to women and children. Just look at Napoleon on this gold coin: his nose is high, his eyes are deep, his chin is slightly retracted, and his forehead is covered in soft curls. Compared with the previous portraits of French kings wearing crowns and scarves, the portrait of Napoleon with bare head and neck appears unrestrained, natural and generous. The inscription on the outer ring of the gold coin indicates that the identity is BONAPARTE. PREMIER CONSUL (the first consul of Bonaparte); the back of the gold coin does not have the badge of the King of France, but is decorated with double olive branches; the rooster pattern on the left below is the chief consul. Marked by engraver Charles Pierre, the year is marked with the Roman numerals of the Revolutionary Calendar. ANXI. (Eleventh Year of the Republic, 1803) in the center, and the letter A on the right is the code name of the Central Mint of Paris. This established the general style of Napoleon coins.
Changes to the format of the Napoleonic coin
When Napoleon was the first consul, the coins he presided over were mainly small-denomination silver coins. After he proclaimed himself emperor, large-value coins increased, with 20 franc gold coins as the mainstream—according to statistics, in 1803-1815 In 13 years, nearly 20 million 20 franc gold coins were issued in France. The gold content of these gold coins is above 90%. They later became popular in the European market, and even formed a common appellation: “One Napoleon” refers to a 20-franc Napoleon gold coin; “Double Napoleon” refers to a 40-franc Napoleon gold coin. Those who could easily pull Napoleon gold coins from their pockets were considered rich. The Napoleon coin was not really withdrawn from circulation until after World War I.
Hugo once commented on Napoleon in “Les Miserables” and said: “The fallen Napoleon seems to be taller than the standing Napoleon.” It is more valuable than the Napoleon coins in circulation. Later coin collectors could not wait to dig three feet to collect all the coins issued in the Napoleon era. From the small denomination coins issued at the beginning to the large denomination precious metal coins issued later, from the coins issued in France to the coins issued by the dependent countries outside France, from the casting process to the pattern design, from the minting materials to the coin face The appearance, from the number of issued to the number of surviving, is gathered one by one, compared with each edition, and the price is weighed according to its rarity and quality. The selling price of some rare Napoleon coins can exceed the original face value by hundreds or thousands of times. It is not uncommon for a 1 franc Napoleon silver coin issued in the Republic era to sell for thousands of dollars.
In view of the increasing value of Napoleon coins, it has become a practical knowledge to study the format and circulation of Napoleon coins. But Napoleon was a man who was good at tossing, which made the format of Napoleon’s coins change rapidly and in various varieties. It is not easy to explain all these format changes clearly. In 1803, in order for the coins to reflect the spirit of the new government and play a better role in publicity, Napoleon asked to improve the design and engraving effect of coins and strengthen the anti-counterfeiting function. He specially appointed the Minister of Finance Godin to hold a coin design competition. . At that time, there were many coin designers participating in the competition. In addition to the French, there were also Swiss and Belgian engravers. Through this competition, a group of highly skilled coin designers were selected and became the backbone of the country’s currency production, thus ensuring the quantity and quality of the coins produced in the Napoleonic era, and at the same time having an exquisite appearance. Therefore, in the Napoleonic era, coins were made in many ways, and coins of various materials and denominations had different formats. Whenever Napoleon’s position changed (such as first consul, emperor of France, concurrently king of Italy, etc.), it would be reflected on the coins, even during the brief “Hundred Days Dynasty”, he also issued a hundred-day gold coin.
Napoleon Wearing Laurel Head Republic Edition Gold Coin Double Sided
Napoleon wearing a laurel head portrait Empire Edition gold coin double-sided
Napoleonic Empire Hundred Days Gold Coin Double Sided
Some researchers have found that only 20 franc gold coins have 8 formats and 72 versions, and each format has its own unique meaning and artistic characteristics. For example: Bonaparte’s first governing edition, this gold coin is also known as “Napoleon’s head without laurel crown revolution calendar edition”; the republic edition of Napoleon wearing a laurel head head, indicating that he has been crowned emperor of the French Empire by life-long ruling, the back of the gold coin The inscription of the coin also changed from the Republican year to the Gregorian calendar (that is, the Gregorian calendar); the Empire version of Napoleon wearing a laurel head, the key change of this version is that the country name on the back of the coin was changed from the French Republic to the French Empire. Especially precious is the hundred-day edition of Napoleon wearing the laurel crown, because it is the final edition of the Napoleon coin, which was born under particularly dangerous environmental conditions. In March 1815, Napoleon quietly returned to Paris from the island of Elba in exile, the restored Louis XVIII fled, and the imperial rule was reestablished. The old enemies of Europe immediately formed the Seventh Anti-French Coalition to attack France. Napoleon defeated Waterloo and the empire collapsed on June 22, so it was called the “Hundred Days Dynasty”. It is said that some of the coins produced at that time were sealed and recast before they had time to enter circulation. Because it is rare in today’s trading market, the price of each gold coin has been appreciated to 2,000-10,000 euros.
Although the layout of Napoleon coins varies, the most obvious features in terms of design style and content can be summed up in four points: one is that the head of Napoleon on the front of the coin transitions from no laurel wreath to wearing a laurel wreath; the other is that the inscription on the coin changes from “First Consul” (Bonaparte’s first ruling) transitioned to “Napoléon Empereur” (Emperor Napoleon); third, the chronology on coins was restored from the revolutionary Republican calendar to the Gregorian calendar (Gregorian calendar); fourth, the country title on coins was changed from “French “Republic” was changed to “French Empire”, and the lace decoration on the back of the coin changed from the olive branch symbolizing peace to the laurel branch of victory and glory. In addition, people will also see the secret mark on the coin, the signature of the engraver and the code name of the mint. Mints such as Napoleon, Genoa and Turin, Utrecht in the Netherlands, and Geneva in Switzerland have also produced Napoleon coins.
Critics believe that Napoleon coins are a symbol of Napoleon’s regime, and the changes reflected in these coin versions reveal Napoleon’s deep imperial complex. He started by actively overthrowing the French feudal autocratic system, but eventually he himself gradually slipped into the quagmire of autocratic monarchy and couldn’t extricate himself. Therefore, he is rated as a double-faced figure with both angels and devils.
Those past events engraved on Napoleon commemorative coins
When Napoleon became a historical figure and the protagonist of the story, those who loved him and those who hated him died with him and his era, and most of the later people became audiences who liked to watch historical stories. Perhaps the art and design masters who made Napoleon commemorative coins have understood people’s psychology. The Napoleon commemorative coins they designed contain rich cultural interest. If you can look at them one by one, you can understand many dramas in Napoleon’s life. story.
Let me talk about the commemorative coins celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Louvre Museum. After Napoleon came to power, he carried out a large-scale expansion of the Louvre in order to accommodate a large number of cultural relics and artworks that he plundered when he conquered European countries, which is said to be as many as several thousand tons. After the defeat of the Napoleonic Wars, many countries sought France for their cultural relics and works of art, but only more than 5,000 pieces were forced to return, and there are still a large number of treasures left behind, making the Louvre one of the four famous museums in the world. One of the museums, people who have visited this treasure house of art are all amazed by the richness of its collections. In order to commemorate Napoleon’s great contribution to the Louvre, the French specially issued a set of six 100-franc gold and silver commemorative coins by the Paris Mint on the occasion of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Louvre Museum in 1993, including Napoleon commemorative silver coins. The pattern on the front of the silver coin is based on part of David’s oil painting “Napoleon’s Coronation”, and the inscription on the outer ring is “Napoleon revered”. In order to more perfectly display the portraits of the characters, the text marking the sovereignty of the French Republic is abbreviated as RF. On the back of the commemorative coin is the building pattern of the Louvre Museum.
The second coin is the Bicentennial of the Louisiana Sale. Louisiana was originally a colony acquired by Spain in the New World in 1762, and was transferred to France through a secret treaty in 1800. In 1803, Napoleon sold nearly 30 million acres (more than 2.14 million square kilometers) of land to the United States at a price of 3 cents per acre. Although some people once regarded Napoleon’s land sale as an act of treason, those who understand the historical background believe that land sale was a major strategic choice for Napoleon to conquer Europe. Therefore, in 2003, the French government issued a commemorative silver coin of 1.5 euros to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s sale of Louisiana in North America to the United States. In the center of the coin face is a map of the land occupied by France in North America. Standing on the left of the map is US President Thomas Jefferson, and on the right is Napoleon, the French ruler. The reverse of the coin depicts a Louisiana trumpeter and sea and land scenes.
The third coin commemorates the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s promulgation of the “Civil Code” and Napoleon’s coronation. In 1804, Napoleon completed two major events: the first one was the “Civil Code” (also known as the “Napoleonic Code”, which is considered the source and pillar of the European civil law system) approved by him on March 21 of that year. Officially promulgated; the second major event is the coronation of the emperor. In view of the turmoil at home and abroad at that time, Napoleon decided to consolidate his regime by establishing an imperial system, so as to realize his dream of conquering the world, and held a coronation ceremony on December 2 of that year. In 2004, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s promulgation of the Civil Code and coronation, the Paris Mint issued this 1.5 euro commemorative silver coin. On the lower left of the obverse pattern of the silver coin is the eagle emblem symbolizing the Napoleonic dynasty, and on the right is the bound “Civil Code”. On the back of the silver coin is a portrait of Napoleon wearing a laurel wreath, and the background is the back of Napoleon when he was crowned in Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris at the end of 1804, which shows the historical and cultural content of a small coin.
The fourth coin is the 200th anniversary of the victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. December 2, 1805 was considered by Napoleon his own lucky day. On the first anniversary of his coronation, the 75,000 French troops led by him and the 87,000 coalition troops led by Tsar Alexander I and Austrian Emperor Franz II were in the village of Austerlitz in Bohemia (located in today’s Czech Republic), known as the “Battle of the Three Emperors” in history. At the critical moment of the fierce battle between the two sides, the red sun broke through the dark sky, and the French army became more and more courageous, and finally won by breaking through the middle. Napoleon believed that the victory of this battle was the best coronation anniversary celebration, which also earned him the reputation of winning more with less and the number one general in Europe. In 2005, to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz, the Paris Mint issued a 1.5 euro commemorative silver coin. The obverse of the silver coin depicts the radiant sun breaking through the clouds on the battlefield. Commander Napoleon is wearing a long robe, looking at the sky with his hands behind his back, showing a leisurely and contented look. The back of the silver coin depicts the combat scene of the French army taking advantage of the victory to pursue the remnant enemy.
The fifth is the “Josephine de Beauharnay” commemorative silver coin of the women’s series. Josephine de Beauharnay was Napoleon’s beloved ex-wife. Because she could not give birth to a son who would be Napoleon’s successor, and because she needed to ease the conflict with the Austrian Empire during the Napoleonic Wars, under the auspices of Austrian Prime Minister Metternich, Napoleon divorced Josephine and married the son of the Austrian Emperor Franz I. Princess Marie Louise as wife. However, the passionate French still like this Josephine who conquered Napoleon, thinking that she is a “good wife” who has done many good things for the French. In 2018, the Paris Mint selected Josephine as the character in the 10 euro commemorative silver coin in the women’s series issued by the Paris Mint. The obverse of the silver coin is engraved with Napoleon wearing a crown for his wife Josephine in David’s oil painting “Napoleon’s Coronation”. The image of Josephine is engraved on the back of the silver coin.
The sixth is the “Bud Moon Franc” commemorative silver coin of the Sower series. In Europe, the sower is deeply loved by artists with the meaning of “I sow and I become richer”, and there are sowers in various paintings and sculptures. At the end of the 19th century, when the sower was engraved on French coins by the French Art Nouveau sculptor Louis Rorty, this woman wearing a Phrygian Liberty hat sowing seeds in the sun became a symbol of French currency and often appeared in France. Coins, stamps and medals. The “Fruit Franc” was named after it was born on the 17th of the Eleventh Year of the Republic (April 7, 1803), which is based on the calendar of the French Revolution. As the legal tender created after Napoleon’s currency reform, it has a very important position in the history of French currency. As early as 2003, the French government had issued a set of gold and silver coins to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Bud Moon franc; in 2019, on the 250th anniversary of Napoleon’s birth, a set of precious metal commemorative coins of the Sower series was launched, and a total of 5 coins of different denominations were produced. And other varieties. The obverse pattern of this set of commemorative coins is the figure of the sower, the left half of the back is the bust of Napoleon, Napoleon’s bee family emblem and Napoleon’s generals, and the relief on the right is based on David’s oil painting “Wave across the St. Bernard Pass”. Naparta” as the original engraving. No matter which side you look at, the pattern is harmonious and beautiful.
One more thing to mention is the “Napoleon and Mary Walewska” Niue commemorative silver coin of the Love Story Series of Polish Celebrities. This series of silver coins commemorating romantic love was produced by the Polish Mint in 2014 for Niue (Niue, an island country in the Cook Islands in the south-central Pacific Ocean, with a population of just over 1,600 today). The silver coin is oval in appearance and has a denomination of 1 Niue dollar. There are five Polish celebrity couples in the series, each with a unique and poignant story, with Napoleon and his lover Walewska at the forefront.
Since Niue is an associate member of the Commonwealth of Nations and is protected by the United Kingdom, the obverse of this set of coins has a portrait of Queen Elizabeth II. On the back of the silver coin are the couple’s head portraits and names. On this commemorative coin of Napoleon and Walewska, in addition to the head of the Queen of England, there is also a majestic building on the front pattern – Walewice Palace (Walewice), which was once Napoleon’s residence in Poland and Walewska. Scar’s love nest. The double busts of Napoleon and Valewska on the back of the silver coin are made up of two oil paintings. The head is surrounded by twin flower branches, and precious crystals are inlaid between the flower knots. According to the researchers, the bust of Napoleon was taken from David’s oil painting “Napoleon in the Study”. It was cut and assembled on the silver coin by the artist’s skillful hand, just like a couple embracing side by side, which looks like a perfect match and a perfect fit.
The love story behind this silver coin could fill a novel. In 1807, Napoleon settled in Warsaw, Poland after defeating the Prussian-Austrian coalition forces in the Battle of Jena, and he planned to use this as a base to attack Russia. The Poles, who had been divided three times by Prussia, Austria, and Russia, saw the hope of restoring their country at this time, so they welcomed Napoleon as a savior and liberator, and expressed their condolences. It was against this background that Marie Walewska came to Napoleon’s side. Although she had just turned 20 at the time, she had become the wife of an old count and the mother of a son. Napoleon was moved by her beauty and kindness, and the two became lovers from then on. The Poles called her Napoleon’s Polish wife. Napoleon did not disappoint the Poles at that time. The army he led helped the Poles regain a lot of lost land and established the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. It is a pity that the Grand Duchy of Warsaw was re-partitioned by Prussia, Austria, and Russia following the defeat of the Napoleonic War, leaving only the love story of Napoleon and Valewski, which will be extolled by later generations.