France 1743-N ecu

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from the Mountain Groan Collection
France 1743N ecu rev DSLR.jpg

This specimen is an écu au bandeau of Louis XV struck in 1743 at the Montpellier mint.

Après nous, le déluge.—Louis XV (1710-1774).

According to legend, Louis is alleged to have quipped, “After us, the flood,” predicting the collapse of the regime after his death. He was more likely expressing despair at his many defeats at the hands of Frederick the Great.

The long reign of Louis XV (1715-74) saw many coin types come and go. The first part of the reign, while Louis was a child, was a period of monetary confusion and manipulation. The reforms of Cardinal Fleury (1726) stabilized the fiscal situation until the total collapse at the eve of the Revolution. Numismatically, this period can be divided into three epochs, marked by the écu aux branches d’olivier (1726-40), the écu au bandeau (1740-72) and the écu à la vielle tête (1770-74). This specimen belongs to the middle period.

The écu au bandeau.

The iconic coin of the period is the écu, struck in large numbers at twenty-nine mints. Clairand[2] estimates 195 million were struck 1726-74, a number which must rival the production of pesos in Spanish American mints. Its divisions were the ½, 1/5, 1/10 and 1/20 écu, struck in modest quantities. The écu was worth $1.10 in the USA before the Civil War.

The écu au bandeau is the most popular coin of the ancien regime among collectors. Alhéritière and Deswelle[1] reported 575 dates for this type in 2004; three more have been published since. An additional 215 dates may exist; records show they were minted but no one has found one. Four dates are known which the archives state should not exist. Of these only two dozen or so are classed as common (20 or more examples known), while 481 dates are known from five or fewer examples. The 1743N is listed therein as unique; as the present specimen is unlikely to be the one reported, there must be more than one, but probably less than ten.

The gold louis d’or.

Gold coinage was dominated by the louis d’or, of which 25 million were minted 1726-74. The double louis d’or, last struck 1724, reappeared in 1742 and was minted in significant quantities to pay soldiers and war contractors during the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-48) and the Seven Years’ War (1757-63). The demi-louis was issued in trifling quantities and is very rare today.

Double louis d’or au bandeau. Obverse: LUD.XV.D.G. FR ET NAV. REX. (for Pau, NA.RE. BD), king’s head left, hair tied with a ribbon; reverse: CHR.REGN.VINC. IMPE (date), two oval shields (France and Navarre), crown above, mintmark below. Specification: gold, 22 karat (.917 fine), 15 pieces to the mark (16.316 g), reeded edge, 28 mm diameter; face value: 48 livres tournois. Engraved by Joseph-Charles Roéttiers.

louis d’or. As above, except weight (8.158 g) and value (24 livres), 24 mm diameter.

demi-louis d’or. As above, except weight (4.079 g) and value (12 livres), 20 mm diameter.

Mints and Mintmarks.

Most of the mints were in small towns, operated to provide patronage for local politicians. In gold, Paris, Strasbourg, Lille and Pau were the most important; in silver, Bayonne, Paris, Pau, Aix and Rennes predominated. France has little bullion ore within its boundaries, so most of the silver came from melted foreign coin, especially Spanish. The gold to silver ratio in France was 14.5:1, favoring silver.

Mintmarks:

  • A Paris
  • AA Metz
  • B Rouen
  • BB Strasbourg
  • C Caen
  • CC Besancon
  • D Lyon
  • E Tours
  • G Poitiers
  • H La Rochelle
  • I Limoges
  • K Bordeaux
  • L Bayonne
  • M Toulouse
  • N Montpellier
  • O Riom
  • P Dijon
  • Q Perpignan
  • R Orléans
  • S Reims
  • T Nantes
  • V Troyes
  • W Lille
  • X Amiens
  • Y Bourges
  • Z Grenoble
  • 9 Rennes
  • & Aix
  • cow Pau

A cow as a mintmark?

As a remnant of its former position as the capital of the kingdom of Navarre, the Pau mint was permitted to use a slightly different obverse legend than the other mints. Hence its product is catalogued today as a separate subtype. Its écus and louis d’or are common, other denominations very rare.

The Silver Minors.

The issue of silver minors was much less than that of the écu. Merchants preferred the larger coin and local mint officials may have found the production of silver jetons more profitable. The demi-écu and dixième (1/10) d’écu are the most available but none are common. They are little studied and rare issues bring little premium over other dates.

  • demi-écu. As the écu, except weight (14.744 g) and value (3 livres), 33 mm diameter.
  • cinquième d’écu . As above, except weight (5.897 g) and value (24 sols); reeded edge, 26 mm diameter. The fifth écu is the scarcest denomination; there are no common dates.
  • dixième d’écu. As above, except weight (2.948 g) and value (12 sols), 22 mm diameter. The tenth écu is slightly more available than the fifth écu.
  • vingtième d’écu. As above, except weight (1.474 g) and value (6 sols), 18 mm diameter.

Specifications for the Écu au bandeau.

  • Obverse: LUD.XV.D.G.FR ET NAV. REX. (for Pau, NA.RE. BD), king’s head left, hair tied with a ribbon;
  • reverse: SIT NOMEN DOMINI BENEDICTUM (date), oval shield of France, crowned, between two olive branches tied with ribbon, mintmark below; edge lettered DOMINE SALVUM FAC REGEM.
  • composition: silver, 11 deniers (.917 fine), 8.3 pieces to the mark (29.488 g), face value 6 livres, 39 mm diameter. Engraved by Joseph-Charles Roéttiers.

Recorded mintage: 11,181.

Catalog reference: Dr/4 no. 820, Dr/2 no. 584, Dav-1331, KM 512.14.

Sources:

  • [1]Alhéritière, Edouard, and Ludovic Deswelle, "Les écus de Louis XV de bandeau: point de situation," Numismatique et Change, No. 349 [Mai 2004], pp. 61-63.
  • [2]Clairand, Armand, Monnaies de Louis XV, Le temps de la Stabilité Monetaire, 1726-1774, Paris: Maison Platt, 1996.
  • Droulers, Frédéric, Répertoire General des Monnaies de Louis XIII à Louis XVI (1610-1792), 4e édition. Paris: AFPN, 2009.
  • Duplessy, Jean, Les Monnaies Françaises Royales de Hugues Capet à Louis XVI (987-1793), Tome II, 2e édition, Paris: Maison Platt, 1999.
  • Michael, Thomas, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800, 7th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2016.
  • Davenport, John S., European Crowns, 1700-1800, 2nd Ed., London: Spink & Son, 1964.

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