The French Connection

Revolutionary France, 1st Republic 5 Francs Year 7 (1798 A)

There are quite a few varieties of this coin doing the rounds, but I’m just happy to have one, even in this fairly beaten up condition. I really like it! I saw more, similar but not the same for sale recently and was seriously tempted…!

It’s a coin with character – the “A” mintmark identifies it as having been made in Paris (like the Germans the French have quite a few different lettered mintmarks) and the first year of the Republic was deemed to be 1792.

A piece of specie

At that time the French government was having all sorts of trouble paying its bills so, being a silver piece, this coin would have been sought after – especially after money printing put paid to the various attempts at using paper money for currency (the King tried it first…several times…). Economic woe contributed to the circumstances both leading up to and during the French Revolutionary period – unserviceable government debt played its part as did war-mongering.


With scant attention being paid to it, this period of the 1790s – 1815 was a bit of a low point for the Navy but I’m not sure if the same applies to the French commercial fleet.

There was much swapping of territories between the colonial powers, so there were definitely French merchant vessels at least attempting to ply the seas. Presumably things picked up a bit during the 1820s and into the gold rush times…

French whalers

What we can say is that French sealers and whalers were active in Australian waters certainly by 1801 and that the industry was huge in the 1830s – 40s.

With such French involvement it’s reasonable to expect that coins like this found their way down under although it’s basically impossible to tell if this particular example did or not.


These are fun coins if you’re into looking for small differences.

The eyeglass brigade probably would say that this example features tight set lettering of “UNION ET” together with large leaf, no inner acorns (I’m indebted to numista for an understanding of those terms).

Happy Collecting!

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