|50 centimes / centiemen|
|Measurements and composition|
Royal Crown of Belgium, state title, value, year
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The 50 centime/centiem coin is a former circulation piece of the Kingdom of Belgium. The most recent type of this denomination, colloquially known as the Miner type (Dutch: Mijnwerkerstype; French: type Mineur) for its depiction of a coal miner, was produced almost annually from 1952 to 2001. Because of its nearly 50-year production run and distinct design, it is one of Belgium's most recognizable pre-euro coins. It was issued by the National Bank of Belgium and struck at the Royal Belgian Mint in Brussels.
Prior to its demonetization on December 10, 2001, the coin circulated for a legal tender face value of 0.50 Belgian francs in its country of origin. It was also used in neighboring Luxembourg, which entered into a currency union with Belgium in 1944, for a value of 0.50 Luxembourgish francs before being withdrawn in 2001.
History[edit | edit source]
During the German occupation of Belgium in World War II, a series of zinc 5, 10, and 25 centime and 1 and 5 franc coins was released by the German administration. An additional 2 franc piece was then issued by the National Bank of Belgium in exile in 1944, after the start of Belgium's liberation.
After the German occupation of Belgium ended, the newly liberated country faced a shortage of common coin metals such as bronze, nickel, and silver. For this reason, the zinc coins introduced during the occupation continued to be manufactured. The Belgian economy had also been negatively impacted by the war, further delaying the introduction of a new post-war Belgian coin series.
By 1947, the terrible condition and counterfeiting of the zinc coins in circulation prompted the Royal Belgian Mint to create a new series of Belgian currency. On May 17 of that year, Georges Verlinde, the director of the mint, commissioned Belgian sculptors Armand Bonnetain (1883–1973) and Marcel Rau (1886–1966) to produce designs for new 10 and 20 centime and 1 and 5 franc pieces. Bonnetain and Rau, both renowned engravers, had previous experience with currency design. Bonnetain was responsible for a variety of Belgian coins struck under King Albert I (1875–1934), including the "Wounded Belgium" series introduced from 1922 to 1923, while Rau was remembered for pieces he designed during Leopold III's reign, particularly those featuring the king's likeness.
Verlinde did not initially specify any design requirements, thereby giving both sculptors the artistic freedom to design what they wanted. In spite of their renown, however, Bonnetain's and Rau's first submissions were deemed too unoriginal and were rejected by the mint. For this reason, officials at the Royal Belgian Mint gave the two sculptors a list of specific expectations for the obverses of the new coin series and asked them for redesigned submissions. The 10 and 20 centime coins were to feature a miner, which would represent industry, while the 1 and 5 franc pieces were to include an image of a woman, which would symbolize agriculture. In addition, the Roman god Mercury (or goddess Minerva) was to be displayed on newly requested 20 and 50 franc coins as a symbol of commerce. At the proposal of the Director General of the Treasury, a 100 franc piece representing the Belgian monarchy was also commissioned.
The reverses of the series were required to be relatively uniform, containing the coin's face value, the name of Belgium in Dutch and French, the Gregorian year of minting, and the Royal Crown of Belgium. Optional design elements included the Leo Belgicus, or Belgian lion, and the coat of arms of Belgium.
After a few months of work on the project, Bonnetain and Rau submitted their designs to the Royal Belgian Mint. Rau presented plaster models for all four design commissions, whereas Bonnetain, choosing not to make any designs for the 100 franc piece, only submitted engravings for three of the requests. After producing a series of trial strikes for each sculptor's works, officials at the Royal Belgian Mint ultimately selected Rau's designs over Bonnetain's. For their participation, both men were awarded 30,000 Belgian francs for each design they submitted.
On behalf of Deputy Minister of Finance Gaston Eyskens (1905–1988), Prince Charles (1903–1983), serving as prince regent in place of the exiled King Leopold III (1901–1983), signed a decree calling for the production of a new series of Belgian 10 and 20 centime and 1, 5, 20, 50, and 100 franc coins on October 15, 1948. This decree was later amended by King Baudouin (1930–1993) on October 16, 1951, at the recommendation of Minister of Finance Jean Van Houtte (1907–1991). Citing rising metal prices and the demand for coins in circulation, Baudouin's amendment justified the creation of a 50 centime piece bearing the same design as the 10 and 20 centime coins. The plan to introduce a 10 centime piece, however, never came to fruition and no trial strikes of the denomination were even manufactured.
The 5, 50, and 100 franc coins were released in 1948, followed by the 20 franc piece in 1949, 1 franc coin in 1950, 50 centime piece in 1952, and 20 centime coin in 1953.
Rau's inspiration[edit | edit source]
The source of inspiration for Rau's miner on the 20 and 50 centime pieces is uncertain. Some individuals, including René Kumps, a specialist in Belgian numismatics and personal friend of Rau's, believed the image was based on sculptures of miners by Constantin Meunier (1831–1905). This theory is the most widely accepted, but is contested by some authorities and individuals.
Others believe Rau was inspired by a 1937 etching by French painter Gustave Pierre (1875–1939), which appeared on the front page of a book for the Henses-Pommerœul mine. In this illustration, a left-facing coal miner wearing a beret is depicted with a Davy lamp displayed to the right. The man who modeled for the etching, Louis Delplancq, insisted that Rau's miner was based on Gustave Pierre's work, and claimed this throughout the 1960s.
Raymond Glorie, one of Rau's nephews, contested Delplancq's claims and offered a differing account of his uncle's inspirations. He suggested the man on the coin was modeled after a coal miner named Bouillon, whom Rau had supposedly met during his time at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. According to Glorie, his uncle was also inspired by the 15th-century terracotta bust of Niccolò da Uzzano (1359–1431), a work often attributed to Italian Renaissance artist Donatello (1386–1466).
Bonnetain's unused design[edit | edit source]
In 1948, Bonnetain's 20 centime design, which would have likely been used for the 50 centime piece if Rau's submissions had not been selected, was used as the basis for a copper trial strike.
Bonnetain's obverse features a right-facing portrait of a male coal miner in its center. In this illustration, the man's hairline is visible below his leather helmet, and his upper torso and neck are also noticeable. Printed clockwise along the rim to the left is the Dutch name of Belgium, erroneously rendered as "BELGÏE" with a diaeresis over the "I" and without the diaeresis in the second "E". Its French equivalent, "BELGIQUE", appears in the same direction at the coin's right periphery. Both translations of the name "Belgium" are flanked on both sides by small circular points. Engraved below the miner in small print are the "A B" initials of the artist, and on trial strikes, the word "ESSAI" is inscribed in a small font to the lower right of Bonnetain's miner.
Following Bonnetain's design, the face value "50c", shortened for the Dutch 50 centiemen and French 50 centimes, would have appeared in the middle of the 50 centime coin's reverse. An illustration of the Royal Crown of Belgium with lappets would have been displayed above at the top of the piece, and two small olive branches would have been engraved at the lower left and lower right rims. Printed counterclockwise at the bottom rim would be the Gregorian date of minting, and written in small print below that would be the "A B" initials of the designer.
Description[edit | edit source]
The 50 centime piece is composed of a bronze alloy and measures 2.75 grams in mass, 19 millimeters in diameter, and 1.21 millimeters in thickness. Most examples have coin alignment, as is common of most pre-euro Belgian coins, although some pieces use medallic alignment instead. All examples have a plain edge and raised, undecorated rims, and are round in shape.
The left-facing portrait of a coal miner wearing a leather helmet on his head appears in the center of the obverse. For unknown reasons, this illustration is smaller on coins minted from 1955 to 2001 than on pieces struck from 1952 to 1955. A Davy lamp, a type of safety lamp often used in coal mines, appears to the right along with the artist's signature, "RAU". In addition, on some French coins dated 1959 and Dutch pieces dated 1980, a small triangle appears below the miner's chin.
The face value "50 CENTIMES" is displayed horizontally in the middle of the reverse, underneath an illustration of the Royal Crown of Belgium. In the value, the numeral "50" appears on its own line in a large, outlined font while the following word is displayed on a separate line in smaller print below. Printed clockwise along the rim above is the local name of Belgium, rendered in Dutch as "BELGIE" (without the diaeresis in the second "E") or French as "BELGIQUE". The Gregorian date of minting appears in small print at the bottom center of the coin, its first two digits separated from the last two by the piece's face value. According to Numista, the size of the crown and lettering on the reverse vary from coin to coin.
Trials and restrikes[edit | edit source]
Silver trial strikes and restrikes of the coin are known to exist. Both are dated 1952, but the trial strikes can be distinguished by the number and word "ESSAI" below the miner's chin on the obverse. Bronze, copper, cupronickel, lead, and nickel-plated steel trial strikes were also reportedly produced.
Mintages[edit | edit source]
A total of 350,185,000 Dutch coins and 350,665,000 French pieces were manufactured. Of these, about 780,000 uncirculated specimens minted from 1989 to 2001 (60,000 for each year) were sold in mint sets and all 15,000 proofs struck from 1999 to 2001 (5,000 for each year) were distributed in proof sets.
References[edit | edit source]
- Numista – 50 Centimes (Dutch; 1952–1954) • 50 Centimes (French; 1952–1955) • 50 Centimes (Dutch; 1956–2001) • 50 Centimes (French; 1955–2001) (English) (French)
- iBelgica – 50 Centiem (Dutch; 1952–2001) • 50 Centimes (French; 1952–2001) (French)
- Museum of the National Bank of Belgium – The last half-franc coin (Dutch) (English) (French) (German)
- Belgian patterns: some examples
- Eurpees Genootschap voor Munt- en Penningkunde – De Munten van den Hand van Armand Bonnetain • De Vernieuwing van de Belgische Munten na de Tweede Wereldoorlog (Dutch)
- Pièces de monnaie en franc belge on the French (français) Wikipedia
|Coins||1 c. • 2 c. • 5 c. • 10 c. • 20 c. • 25 c. • ¼ fr. • 50 c. • ½ fr. • 1 fr. • 2 fr. • 2½ fr. • 5 fr. • 10 fr. • 20 fr. • 25 fr. • 40 fr. • 50 fr. • 100 fr. • 200 fr. • 250 fr. • 500 fr. • 1000 fr. • 5000 fr.|
|Banknotes||1 fr. • 2 fr. • 5 fr. • 20 fr. • 25 fr. • 50 fr. • 100 fr. • 250 fr. • 500 fr. • 1000 fr. • 2000 fr. • 5000 fr. • 10,000 fr.|
|Miscellaneous||Belga • Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union • Latin Monetary Union • Linguistics • Luxembourgish franc • National Bank of Belgium • Royal Mint of Belgium|