France 1859-A 2 francs

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Sincona sale 25, lot 2023
This specimen was lot 2023 in Sincona sale 25 (Zurich, October 2015), where it sold for 27,500 CHF (about US$33,969 including buyer's fees). The catalog description[1] noted,
"II. Empire. Napoleon III., 1852-1870 2 Francs 1859. A, Paris Bearded head of the Emperor to l. Rev. Value and year in laurel wreath. Below the mintmark. Of highest rarity, only 894 specimens minted. Choice brilliant uncirculated. FDC (PCGS MS66). Perfect cabinet piece. The 2 Francs of 1859 counts among the very great rarities of French coins of the 19th century."
This specimen is one of a series struck 1853-59 during the reign of Napoleon III (1852-70). It was lot 2240 in CGB sale 24. The type is known as the two francs Napoléon III, téte nue, and is among the rarest French silver coins of the nineteenth century. Among the two francs, only the 1815A two francs of the "Hundred Days" brings a higher price as a type. Three mints are known for the type: Paris ("A"), Strasbourg ("BB", 1856 only) and Lyon {"D", 1856 only).

The subsequent type, the two francs Napoléon III téte laurée, struck 1866-70, was made in large numbers and a type coin is about a tenth of the cost. The laureate head type was only .835 fine, so it is likely stocks of the bare head type were melted, accounting for the scarcity. The bare head type was recalled in 1864 and demonetized in 1869.

Recorded mintage: 886 (the key date).

Specification: 27 mm diameter, 10 g, .900 fine silver, reeded edge, Designed by Jean-Jacques Barré, 1793-1855.

Catalog reference: Gadoury 523. F.262/11, KM 780.1.


  • 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, 2013.
  • Cuhaj, George S., and Thomas Michael, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900, 7th ed., Iola, WI: Krause Publications, 2012.
  • [1]Richter, Jürg, Ruedi Kunzmann and Arne Kirsch, Numismatic Rarities, Auction 25, Zurich: SINCONA AG, 2015.

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