Swiss Silver Francs

Posted by on October 18, 2012

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Swiss Half Franc
(1875-1967)
2.5 83.5% silver, 16.5% copper

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Swiss Franc
(1875-1967)
5.0 83.5% silver, 16.5% copper

Coin Weight (g) Composition Silver Melt Value Full Melt Value
Swiss TwoFranc
(1875-1967)
10.0 83.5% silver, 16.5% copper
SC SWZ 1767 Solothurn 10 Silver Batzen Swiss Silver Francs

1767 Solothurn 10 Silver Batzen - obverse

Switzerland’s first coin to be called a “Swiss Franc” is the “10 Batzen” silver coin.  These were first minted in 1757 and worth 100 rappen.  The 10 batzen coin is 30 millimeters in diameter, with a total weight of 7.69 grams of 86.8% silver and contains 6.75 grams of silver, this made it worth 1 ½ French silver francs.  Napoleon’s forces conquered Switzerland in 1798.  This ended the Swiss Confederation for the time being.

SC SWZ 1799 B 4 Silver Franken obverse Republic 297x300 Swiss Silver Francs

1799 B 4 Silver Franken - obverse - Republic

Not only did Napoleon established himself as ruler over the Swiss Republic but he their coinage with his own coinage.  The Swiss Republic’s silver coins consisted of; 10, 20, and 40 batzens.  The 40 batzen coin was labeled as “4 Franken” which have a total weight of 29.34g of 86.8% fine silver and a diameter of 40mm.  In 1803 the Swiss forced Napoleon’s troops to withdraw and the Swiss (Helvetia) Confederation was restored.

SC SWZ 1812 Aargau 1 Silver Frank 300x144 Swiss Silver Francs

1812 Aargau 1 Silver Frank

In 1803 almost all of Switzerland stopped minting silver franc coins except for some independent regions including the canton of Aargua.  For example the 4 Franc coin of Aargau contains 29.26 grams of silver.  In 1847 a civil war broke out and the Protestant army defeated the separatist Catholic Canton league.  The Swiss formed a confederate central government which granted various concessions for Cantonal autonomy.  The new Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 stipulated that it was the sole authority allowed to mint money.  In 1849 new standards for Swiss currency were set; 100 Rappen = 10 Batzen = 1 Schweizer Franken.  Switzerland had also decided to adopt the Silver Standard for all of its currency.

SC SWZ 1839 B 5 Franc obverse 300x300 Swiss Silver Francs

1839 B 5 Franc - obverse

On May 7, 1850 the Federal Assembly established the Schweizer Franken (the Swiss Franc) to be set at a value 1 ½ of the French and Belgian Francs.  The 1850 Swiss franc was also set as equal to ¾ of an Aargau frank.  In 1850 the Helvetic Confederation introduced and minted 5, 10, and 20 rappen containing 5% to 15% silver which is referred to as "billion".  Then there are the 90.0% fine silver francs.

SC SWZ 1861 Swiss 1 Silver Franc obverse Swiss Silver Francs

1861 Swiss 1 Silver Franc - obverse

The half franc coins are 18.2 millimeters in diameter, weight 2.5 grams (0.08 troy ounces), and made of 83.5% fine silver , thus contains 0.07 troy ounces of silver.  The one franc coin has a 23.2 millimeter diameter, is 5 grams (0.16 troy ounces) and being made of 83.5% fine silver contains 0.13 troy ounces of silver.  The two franc started out having a diameter of 27.4 millimeters with a weight of 10 grams (0.32 troy ounce) and containing 83.5% fine silver are made up of a total of 0.27 troy ounces of silver.

SC SWZ 1861 Swiss 1 Silver Franc reverse Swiss Silver Francs

1861 Swiss 1 Silver Franc - reverse

The silver content of all Swiss francs was reduced to 80.0% in 1860 and then brought up to the French standard of 83.5% fine silver in 1875.  The Swiss maintained the 83.5% silver content through 1967 after which silver was no longer used in Switzerland's circulating coins.  The billion (5-15% silver) coins were dropped for the smaller denominations in 1875 and replaced with base metal coins. However the 5 franc coins remained at of 90.0% silver until 1932 when they were reduced 83.5% fine silver.  They were also resized from 38 to 31 millimeters in diameter and the weigh was reduced from 25 grams to 15 grams (0.48 troy ounces and 0.40 actual silver troy ounces).

SC SWZ 1908 B 1 Franc robverse 300x225 Swiss Silver Francs

1908 B 1 Franc - obverse

These first Confederation silver coins were minted in Paris as well as in Strassbourg and designed by the famous engraver of Geneva, Antoine Bovy.  Cantonal coins were exchanged with the new Confederate coin.  Since many people were discontent with Bovy’s design many other coins were tolerated including those from French and Belgian coins as well as coins from Sardinia and Parma.  In 1860 Switzerland adopted a bimetallism standard and allowed both French and Belgian gold coins to be used as legal tender.  Other gold coins could be used against their gold value.  In 1865 Switzerland entered into the Latin Monetary Union with France, Belgium, and Italy.  They all agreed to set their nation’s currencies standard to 4.5 grams of silver and/or 0.290322 grams of gold.

SC SWZ 1939 B 5 Franc reverse 300x300 Swiss Silver Francs

1939 B 5 Franc - reverse

The Latin Monetary Union started gaining more nations as members and created currency exchange treaties with the countries that were major trading partners that refrained from joining.  The beginning of World War I marked the decline of Latin Monetary Union however it was not officially dissolve until 1927.

Switzerland continued minting the silver half, one, two, and five franc coins for circulation until 1967.  However in 1969 there were 8,637,000 five franc silver coins minted instead of the copper/nickel alloy that began in 1968.  In 1991 the Swiss mint did begin striking a silver 20 franc coin for collectors which has a silver content of 0.5369 troy ounces.  These are usually 33 millimeters in diameter and weigh 20 grams of 83.5% fine silver.

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