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Ever since I purchased my 1913 20 Franc French Rooster last year, I’ve been wondering why the French government would have made a coin that so prominently featured this bird. My curiosity was peaked further when I saw the older Winged Freedom design and saw that it also had a rooster on it, although, in that case, the rooster was much smaller and was not a dominant design feature. As it turns out, the answer is pretty easy to find online, but It’s just taken me a year to invest the effort into reading about it. The Gallic Rooster is a national emblem of France and, today, is regarded as representing the people of France. This has its roots in a play on words that dates back to ancient Rome. Suetonius, in The Twelve Caesars, noticed that, in Latin, rooster (gallus) and Gauls (Gallus) were homonyms. However, the Gauls at the time did not associate themselves with a rooster. The association seems to have developed more fully in the middle ages, sometimes because enemies of the French wanted to make fun of them by associating them with a not-terribly-frightening bird. The association between the rooster and the French was further developed by the kings of France because the Rooster is also a strong Christian symbol. According to the bible, prior to being arrested, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed on the following morning. At the rooster's crowing, Peter remembered Jesus' words. Its crowing at the dawning of each new morning made it a symbol of the daily victory of light over darkness and the triumph of good over evil. It is also an emblem of the Christian attitude of watchfulness and readiness for the sudden return of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment of humankind. That is why, during the Renaissance, the rooster became a symbol of France as a Catholic state and became a popular Christian image on weather vanes, also known as weathercocks. Roosters also appeared at the tops of watch towers and sentry posts around this time as a general symbol of vigilance and watchfulness. It’s not clear to me whether the association with watchfulness and vigilance or the association with Christianity came first. The popularity of the Gallic rooster as a national personification faded over time but had a resurgence during the French Revolution (1789). While it was a minor emblem at the time these landmarks were built, the Gallic Rooster is found at both the Louvre and Versailles. The French Revolution completely re-wrote the traditional perception of the origins of France. Until then, the royals dated the origins of France back to the baptism of Clovis I in 496, the "first Christian king of France". The rejected this royalist and Christian origin of the country and traced the origins of France back to the ancient Gaul. Although purely apocryphal, it was at this point the rooster became the personification of the early Gauls. The rooster was an important revolutionary symbol and it became an official emblem under the July Monarchy and the Second Republic, when it was seen on the pole of regiments’ flags. In 1830, the Gallic Rooster replaced the fleur-de-lis as the national emblem for a time, but it was later discarded again by Napoleon III - He didn’t like the rooster because, unlike the eagle, which he temporarily replaced it with, the rooster is not a “powerful” bird - thus, why enemies continued to use it to make fun of the French. The Gallic rooster, sometimes named or referred to as “Chanteclair,” has been a national emblem off and on ever since, especially during the Third Republic (which ran from 1870 to 1940), when these coins were produced. So, all of this has some very interesting implications for what I wrote in my earlier post about the 20 Franc design with the Winged Figure. Having learned all this, I couldn’t blame someone familiar with the Catholic kings of France and the Rooster’s symbolism in Christianity for seeing the winged figure as an angel and seeing the rooster, if anything, as a confirmation of the coin’s / image’s Christian intent. However, when the coin is viewed properly, in the context of the time period in which the design was produced (1790s) and later revived (1870s), the Rooster is symbol of the people of France and the government, not of Christianity, and the Winged Figure is an allegorical depiction of liberty, not an angel. Given everything I’ve learned from reading about this, I feel like this coin could be a case study in and of itself in bad communication and confused symbolism. It easily lends itself to and seemingly confirms an interpretation of the image / artwork that runs very counter to the artists’ original intent, in part because the creators were very proactively trying to redefine the meanings of those symbols and re-write the history of the nation at the time.
As I’m sure many of are aware, there’s a series of French 20 Franc coins that were made from 1871 to 1898 that feature a winged figure writing on a tablet. In the US, I’m assuming because we’re a Christian majority country, most of us see a winged figure and think “angel.” As a result, these coins are usually called French Angels or something similar and even the name of the Registry Category references these coins as Angels. But the man that designed the coin probably wasn’t trying to depict an angel or any kind of Christian or religious image when he made the design based on what I can find. The design was originally made by Augustin Dupre, an artist who was principally inspired by the neoclassical school and its themes law, freedom (including “Freedom” personified as a winged person), scales, Greek mythology and Hellenistic beauty standards. (I’ve always found it interesting that, when depicted allegorically, “Liberty” is a woman and “Freedom” is a man.) The design by Dupre depicts a “Génie ailé” (“Winged genius”) and it first appeared on French coinage in 1792, during the heart of the French Revolution. Dupre was named the Graveur général des monnaies (Chief Engraver of Coins) by the national assembly in July 1791. In the original versions of the coin the figure is writing the word Loi (Law) on a tablet. Some versions of the coin include the motto “Le Règne de la Loi” (“The Reign of the Law”). In the post revolution period the coins might read something like “An III de la liberté” (“Year three of the liberty”). In some later uses of the design the figure is writing “Constitution.” The coin design was revived in the 1870s, long after Dupre passed away in 1833, and placed on these 20 Franc and 100 Franc coins. Saying that these later versions were designed by Dupre is therefore a bit inaccurate, but they do feature his art. If you want another hint that the design might not be Christian in origin or inspiration, the 20 Franc coins simply say “Republique Francaise” (French Republic) on the obverse. The reverse side just says, “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” (“Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood”). There’s nothing on the coin that references “God,” gods, or divine favor. By contrast, a US silver dollar from this period (1878 and later) would have proudly stated “In God We Trust.” For another example, 10 Gulden coins made in the Netherlands during this same period were inscribed with “God Zij Met Ons” (“God be with us”). I thought it was an angel too because it looked like one and because that’s what everyone else was calling it. But I just couldn’t help but wonder why they would have made a design like that and what would have inspired / instigated that in the post-revolutionary period. Why an angel on coins in France in the late 19th century? Now I know: It’s not post-revolutionary. it’s revolutionary. It’s not really an angel. The recurring theme of this coin / design is “freedom,” not religion, faith or God. This is not a religious image - it’s a post-enlightenment image. Apparently, there’s a legend whereby Dupre was headed for the guillotine but he was somehow saved by his “lucky angel.” This seems unlikely to be true. Dupre wasn’t a wealthy noble; he was appointed to his position by the national assembly; he wasn’t a counter-revolutionary. There’s no obvious reason why his “lucky angel” would have needed to intervene and save his neck. He held his official position until 1803, well after the Reign of Terror ended in the mid-1790s. Now I just have to figure out… “Why the rooster?” (More on this when I get around to it in a later post) I still haven’t bought / ordered one of these yet. It’s probably coming in the next few weeks though.
I picked this up in late 2017 but we were focused on the holidays and an upcoming move so I never go to log-on here and post about picking this up, or even add it to my registry. Back in December my wife gave me the okay to pick up a small gold coin. The original idea I had in mind was to pick up an 1877 for my Netherlands 10G set. The 1877 is the last of the more common dates that I still don't own for that set and at the time leading up to her giving me the okay there was an MS66 on sale for a good price. Unfortunately, for me, that coin sold about 4 days before I got to buy something. The joys of life and timing sometimes I suppose. I wasn't too broken up about it. Unlike the 1888 that would pop up for sale 2 months later the 1877 comes up for sale pretty regularly in MS65 or MS66. I'll just have to be patient on that front for a while. In the mean time, I'm never one to waste the wife saying it's okay for me to buy something golden, so I started looking around and saw a bunch of Swiss and French 20 Franc coins going for prices and grades that I was okay paying. I thought about it for a while. The Swiss 20 has been on my list for a while because it would form a nice pair with my 1922 Swiss 10 Franc, but I've thought it would be fun to have a Rooster for a while too. I ultimately decided on the rooster, picking up this MS64 from 1913 - the year before the start of WWI. Many European countries were putting out small gold coins with an AGW of about 0.19-0.20 troy ounces at the time. The fact that they're all about the same size and from the same time period makes them interesting to look at together and cross-compare. I'm going to be a bit more relaxed on grades with this set/project. I'll mostly be looking for MS65 or higher when I can find it for a nice price but I'm generally happy with MS64s, especially on 100+ year old coins. I'm trying to be more particular with the 10Gs but that's a very special set for me. I've been wanting to build up a collection of European gold type coins from the late Victorian era (late 19th century) and early 20th century. The years I'm wanting to target for this range roughly from 1875 (the year the Netherlands 10G set starts) to 1913 (the start of WWI). I picked up the Swiss 10 Franc from 1922 years ago mostly on a whim because it looked interesting and was going for a nice price, but I'm wanting to keep this project, as and if I get it off the ground, to mostly pre-WWI coins because the world was a very different place during and after that War than it was prior to it. I will have some deviations from this. I want to pick up some British Sovereigns from the George VI and early Elizabeth II period and I want to get at least one Netherlands 10G coin from during the reign of Wilhelm II (father Wilhelm III, ruling from about 1840-1849, short reign). I will also be looking for a 1920s Swiss 20 Franc to pair with the 10 Franc at some point too, just because I like the Swiss cross design on that coin. I'll be excited to see in person is the French "Lucky Angel" design from the late 19th century, and it'll be fun to add some Italian gold because my wife lived there for several years as a child and Italy holds a special place in her heart. Of course, that's quite a list, and I'm getting ahead of myself because it'll take me a while to get through that and beyond. I'm expecting this to be my next major project as the Netherlands 10G set winds down for a while. Since those coins come up for sale so rarely I can't just buy more for the set whenever I want, so I'll need something else that's more flexible to play with while I wait.
Hello guys, I have a couple of newbie questions regarding my 20 Francs French Rooster 1906 but I guess it relevant to any coin. *please find pictures of my coin in the end of the post A. I noticed there are different grades to a coin quality - how do I determinate what is my coin's grade? B. I have checked different website and resources for the coin's value and each one of them showed different value (from $250 to $2000). How can I tell what is the expected coin's value? Thanks