France 1789-M ecu

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Goldberg sale 34, lot 2574
photo courtesy Ira & Larry Goldberg
Jean Elsen sale 104, lot 790
France 1789M ecu rev JElsen 104-790.jpg
from the Mountain Groan Collection
France 1789M ecu rev DSLR.jpg
This specimen is an écu au buste habillé struck at the Toulouse mint, one of a type struck there 1775-92. 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 buste habillé is the most popular coin of Louis XVI among collectors. The 1789-M is listed[1] about 40% higher than the most common date (1789-A) but it is a common date. The first specimen was lot 2574 in Goldberg sale 34 (Beverly Hills, February 2006), where it sold for $575. The catalog description[3] noted,
"France. Ecu, 1789-M (Toulose). Louis XVI. Well struck for issue, fully lustrous and nicely toned. Very attractive for the type. NGC graded MS-62."
The second specimen was lot 790 in Jean Elsen sale 104 (Brussels, March 2010). The catalog description noted,
"FRANCE ROYALE, Louis XVI (1774-1793), AR écu aux rameaux d'olivier, 1789 M, Toulouse. Droit : B. habillé à gauche, les cheveux noués par un ruban. Revers : Ecu de France couronné, entre deux rameaux d'olivier. Nettoyé. presque Superbe (a. EF) (France, Louis XVI (1774-93), silver écu with olive branches, 1789, Toulouse mint; obverse: dressed bust to left, hair tied in a ribbon; reverse: crowned arms of France between two olive branches. Cleaned, about extremely fine)."

Mints and Mintmarks.

Most of the mints were in small towns, operated to provide patronage for local politicians. In silver, Bayonne, Paris and Pau 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.


  • A Paris
  • AA Metz
  • B Rouen
  • BB Strasbourg
  • D Lyon
  • H La Rochelle
  • I Limoges
  • K Bordeaux
  • L Bayonne
  • M Toulouse
  • MA Marseilles (opened 1787 to replace the Aix mint)
  • N Montpellier
  • Q Perpignan
  • R Orléans
  • T Nantes
  • W Lille
  • & Aix (closed 1786)
  • cow Pau

Specifications for the Écu au bandeau:

  • Obverse: LUD.XVI.D.G.FR ET NAV. REX. (for Pau, NA.RE. BD), king’s uniformed bust 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 Benjamin Duvivier. The Jean Elsen specimen is 29,08 g.

Recorded mintage: 1,244,849[1], 1,205,000[2].

Catalog reference: Dr/4 no. 883, Dr/2 no. 616, Dav-1333, KM 564.10, Dupl-1708; Ci-2187; Gad-356.


  • [1]Droulers, Frédéric, Répertoire General des Monnaies de Louis XIII à Louis XVI (1610-1792), 2nd édition. Paris: AFPN, 1998.
  • Duplessy, Jean, Les Monnaies Françaises Royales de Hugues Capet à Louis XVI (987-1793), Tome II, 2e édition, Paris: Maison Platt, 1999.
  • [2]Krause, Chester L, and Clifford Mishler, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1701-1800, 3rd ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2002.
  • [3]Goldberg, Ira, and Larry Goldberg, Goldberg Sale 34: the pre-Long Beach sale, Beverly Hills, CA: Ira and Larry Goldberg Auctioneers, 2006.

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