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The monetary unit of:

Franc: an obituary

Franc will die tonight, December 31, 2001, at midnight. It will still exist partially like a zombie until February 17, 2002, then it will completely join the Kingdom of Death.

Franc was one of the oldest currencies in the world. Many people loved franc. You could ask anyone in Paris: "Do you want 1000 francs?", and they would answer "yes" (or maybe "Désolé, je ne parle pas allemand"). The people never had enough francs, and sometimes they went on strike and walked down the streets waving banners that said: "We want more francs".

Franc was born on 5 December 1360 in France, during the Hundred Years war. The French created it to pay for the ransom of Jean le Bon, their king, who had been captured by the British. Hence the name of "franc", which meant "free". It consisted in gold coins on which they printed the image of the king riding a horse along with the following phrase: "Johannes Dei Gratia Francorum Rex" (John, King of the French by the Grace of God).

Kings Charles V and Henri III created other gold or silver coins named franc. After disappearing for a long time, franc was resurrected by the French Revolution. In 1795, on 28 thermidor of year III, franc became the official currency of France. In 1803, Napoleon created the Franc Germinal as part of a new monetary system created during the month of Germinal (see the French Revolutionary Calendar). The system existed until World War I.

The last major transformation of the franc occurred in 1960, when President De Gaulle created the new franc, which value was 100 ancient francs. Many people still count high prices in ancient francs and say "1 million" when they really mean "10,000 francs".

Franc's death is not violent. He has been preparing his own destruction for years. After suffering from many devaluations during the 80s, he decided to stick to other European currencies, particularly the healthy Deutsche Mark. Most of the currencies in the European Community felt an urge to unite together, to the point that they decided to merge into one new currency. So franc will not really die tonight. It will only be transformed into euro.

Oh, wait. Apparently franc will not disappear. It will survive in Switzerland under the name of Swiss Franc and in Africa under the name of Franc CFA. Switzerland adopted the French currency in 1850, and used it for several decades until they decided to have their own franc. The "franc CFA", used in former African French colonies, is worth 0.01 French franc. The Belgian and Luxembourgeois francs, which were created during the 19th century, will disappear at the same time as their French counterpart.

Franc (?), n. [F., fr. franc a Franc. See Frank, a.]

A silver coin of France, and since 1795 the unit of the French monetary system. It has been adopted by Belgium and Swizerland. It is equivalent to about nineteen cents, or ten pence, and is divided into 100 centimes.


© Webster 1913.

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