Almost everyone knows the story of the Fall of France, the collapse of French defenses and subsequent occupation by Germany during the Second World War. What some people do not realize is that not all of France was occupied by the Germans. As the German army advanced in the summer of 1940, the French government fled Paris. The military situation was dire, and the French government chose to seek an armistice with the Germans. Prime Minister Paul Reynaud resigned and Marshal Philippe Petain, hero of Verdun in the Great War, replaced him. Petain sought an armistice with Germany, and the Third French Republic was formally dissolved on the 10th of July with Petain given dictatorial powers over the successor state. The Germans occupied the northern portion of France as a military buffer against invasion from Britain, with the Southern part being administered from Vichy and retaining de jure independence. In reality, Vichy France collaborated quite closely with the Nazi occupiers, and both Petain and new head of government Pierre Laval were tried after the war as war criminals.
Vichy France continued minting coins during the occupation period, with some notable differences from the prewar period. Gone was the Republican motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité that had symbolized the aspirations of France for so long. In its stead were the words Travail, famille, patrie; in English: work, family, and fatherland. The portrait of Marianne was replaced by the axe head; and compositions were changed to preserve scarce metals for the war effort. Perhaps the most famous issue from this period is the 5 Francs of 1941 featuring a bust of Petain on the obverse. Produced out of pure nickel, the mintage was cut from a planned amount of 200,000,000 to 13,782,000 to save nickel. Stored in Castelarian for three years, these pieces were never circulated and were to be transported back to Germany for melting. The boat transporting them across the Sambre River in Belgium was attacked by allied aircraft and was sunk. Allegedly only a few bags were saved. An example of this type is available in our June CCO Auction, graded MS-64 by NGC. A true survivor of the Second World War, and a piece with an important history.
This lot, along with over 2,000 other World and Ancient coins, is available for viewing and bidding at Stacksbowers.com. We are always seeking world and ancient coins, medals, and paper money for our auctions, and are currently accepting consignments for our August 2022 Global Showcase Auction and our October Collectors Choice Online (CCO) sale. If you would like to learn more about consigning, whether a singular item or an entire collection, please contact a consignment director or email [email protected] today and we will assist you in achieving the best possible return on your material.