France 1855-D 20 francs

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Jean Elsen sale 122, lot 1001
France 1855D 20 francs rev JElsen 122-1001.jpg
This specimen was lot 1001 in Jean Elsen sale 122 (Brussels, September 2014), where it sold for €170 (about US$260 including buyer's fees). The catalog description[1] noted,
"FRANCE, Napoléon III (1852-1870), AV 20 francs, 1855 D, Lyon. Petit lion. Très Beau. (France, Napoleon III (1852-70), gold twenty francs of 1855, Lyon mint, privy mark: small lion; very fine.)"
This "bare head" type of Napoleon III was struck 1853-60 and 18 dates comprise the set. 146,000,000 were struck for the type, making it the most common gold coin of French history with the possible exception of the "rooster" (struck 1898-1914 and repeatedly restruck since). Typical XF-AU specimens trade for their bullion value but this is the only gold twenty francs from Lyon and is very rare better than XF. This issue has been counterfeited extensively but as most of the fakes contain the correct amount of gold, they trade for the same price as the genuine.

Recorded mintage: 362,711 (including large lion).

Specification: 21 mm diameter, 6.45 grams, .900 fine gold, edge lettered DIEU PROTEGE LA FRANCE.

Catalog reference: Gad-1061; Fr-575, F.531/7, KM 781.3.


  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 7th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2012.
  • Friedberg, Arthur L. and Ira S. Friedberg, Gold Coins of the World, From Ancient Times to the Present, 7th ed., Clifton, NJ: Coin and Currency Institute, 2003.
  • [1]Philippe Elsen et al., Vente Publique 122: Collection de monnaies chinoises, Brussels: Jean Elsen et ses Fils, S. A., 2014.
  • Gadoury, Victor, Monnaies Françaises, 1789-2011, 20me éd., Monaco: Éditions Victor Gadoury, 2011.
  • Prieur, Michel, and Laurent Schmitt, Le Franc 10: Les Monnaies, Paris: Éditions les Chevau-légers, 2014.

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