- This article is about the current circulation coin of Switzerland. For more Swiss coins denominated at 2 francs or franken, see Swiss 2 franc coin (disambiguation).
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The 2 franc/Franken/franco coin, colloquially known in German as the Zweifrankenstück, Zweifränkler, and rarely the Zwöiliber, is a current circulation piece of the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) that has been issued in two primary types since 1850. In 1850, two years after the establishment of the current Swiss Confederation, the first 2 franc coin of the country was introduced. It was produced again in 1857, and then followed by a slightly modified variant struck from 1860 to 1863. A redesigned second type then débuted in 1874, and remained unchanged for over ninety years, until 1967. It was succeeded the following year, in 1968, by a modified version, which would be produced annually until 1981. The 2 franc coin was then slightly changed for 1982, and then altered again in 1983. The piece introduced in 1983 has been struck annually since.
Two franc coins minted from 1968 to the present currently hold a legal tender face value equivalent to 2.00 Swiss francs, and continue to circulate in the locations that use the currency, namely Switzerland, Liechtenstein, the Italian exclave of Campione d'Italia, and the German town of Büsingen am Hochrhein. The initial pieces made in 1850 and 1857 were demonetized on January 1, 1869, and those struck from 1860 to 1863 were later demonetized in December 31, 1877. Examples dated 1874 to 1967 were valid until April 1, 1971. The patterns, having never circulated, never carried the status of legal tender. All 2 franc pieces made since 1907 have been distributed by the Swiss National Bank (SNB). The Monnaie de Paris in France was responsible for the production of the coin in 1850 and 1894, and the Royal Mint was tasked with producing some examples in 1968; during the remaining years the piece was struck exclusively at the Swissmint in Bern.
Coins[edit | edit source]
Coins of the initial design (1850–1863)[edit | edit source]
The current Swiss Confederation was established in 1848, following the conclusion of the Sonderbund War (1847) and the ratification of the first Swiss Federal Constitution. Prior to 1848, most of the Swiss cantons produced their own coinage, but with the introduction of the new constitution, the prerogative to issue currency was transferred exclusively to the federal government. In 1850, because Switzerland had not yet established a national mint, the government commissioned the Monnaie de Paris in France to produce the first series of Swiss circulation coins, which consisted of denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 rappen, and ½, 1, 2, and 5 francs. The four higher-valued coins were all made with the same design. The 2 franc piece was subsequently produced again in limited quantities in 1857, but at the newly functioning Swissmint in Bern instead of in Paris. In addition, an unissued pattern of the same denomination was struck in 1850. Friedrich Fisch, a Swiss artist hailing from Aarau, produced the initial design for the 2 franc coin, and Antoine Bovy (1795–1877), a sculptor from Geneva, engraved the original dies. However, the engraving was slightly altered by German artist Ferdinand Korn (1825–1866) for 1857. In 1860 a variant of the 2 franc piece was minted at Bern with an altered composition, and was later produced in 1862 and 1863. The depictions on the coin were unchanged, and continued to utilize Fisch's and Korn's handiwork.
Pieces struck in 1850 and 1857 are composed of .900 fine silver, while those made from 1860 to 1863 are made of a slightly less pure .800 fineness. Also, the handful of patterns dated 1850 are composed of tin. Examples of both silver compositions share a mass of 10 grams, a diameter of 27 millimeters, and a thickness of 2.15 millimeters. They have coin alignment and reeded edges, and are round in shape. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are raised, and decorated with a dentillated border.
Displayed in the center of the obverse on both varieties is a left-facing illustration of a laureate seated Helvetia. The female personification of Switzerland, Helvetia is shown resting on a plow and grains, holding a shield bearing the Swiss cross inside of an oval with her left hand and extending her right arm toward the left side of the obverse. Such a design was considered unattractive by the Swiss public during the time of the coin's issue, and was met with popular discontent and dissatisfaction. The caption "HELVETIA" appears above the depiction, inscribed in a clockwise direction along the upper periphery of the piece in a serifed font. An exergue is included below the image of Helvetia, its contents depending on the year of minting. Pieces from 1850 display two privy marks: a hand representing the Monnaie de Paris, and the head of a dog, identifying Jean-Jacques Barre (1793–1855), the Graveur général des monnaies at Paris at the time of minting. Later pieces solely include the engraver's name, "KORN", which is written horizontally in small print. "A.BOVY", Antoine Bovy's signature, is present on the 1850 pieces only, engraved in a small font in a counterclockwise direction along the left rim. Switzerland, a multilingual nation, initially adopted three official languages – French, German, and Italian – and would later come to adopt Romansh as well. However, the word "franc" in each language is different, with French and Romansh translating as franc, German as Franken, and Italian as franco. In order to maintain language neutrality on the 2 franc piece, the value is simply abbreviated as "2 Fr." in the center of the reverse, since each local version of "franc", as well as the Latin francus, begins with those two letters. Printed horizontally below in a smaller font is the Gregorian date of the coin's minting. Such items are engraved in the center of a wreath, which extends along the entire outer periphery of the coin. This wreath consists of the branch of an oak (Quercus) at the left and one of an alpine rose (Rhododendron ferrugineum) at the right, both tied together by a small ribbon. Written below in small print, by the rim, is the mark of the producing mint, an "A" for Paris on pieces dated 1850, or a "B" for Bern on coins made from 1857 to 1863.
A total of approximately 6,001,382 examples of the first 2 franc coins were produced, including around 2,500,622 of the .900 silver and 3,500,760 of the .800 silver pieces. In addition to the business strikes, an unissued pattern was struck in 1850 and a small amount of specimen coins were made during each year of production.
Marc-Louis Bovy essais (1854)[edit | edit source]
In 1854, during the run of the first series of the Swiss 2 franc piece, a variety of essais were struck in the same denomination. While the essais carry no indication of an intended face value, many works, including the HMZ Catalog, Paul Hofer's Das Münzwesen der Schweiz seit 1850, and an early version of the Numismatic Circular, assign the value due to them being the same size as the circulated 2 franc coin. Currently, none of the 1854 coins are listed in Krause's Standard Catalog of World Coins. The pieces were engraved by Marc-Louis Bovy (c. 1805–1890), a Swiss artist from Geneva and one of Antoine Bovy's younger brothers. They were evidently never made for circulation, but instead to test a coining press. Eventually, many of the examples were sold to collectors.
Two-franc essais from 1854 are known in a variety of compositions, including silver and brass. Some silver piedforts are known to exist. All examples measure 27 millimeters in diameter, but due to the use of different metals, they do not share the same mass. Brass specimens tend to weigh between 8.6 and 9.1 grams, normal-sized silver examples around 10 grams, and piedfort silver pieces from around 18.3 to 19.9 grams. The 1854 essais are known to have either reeded or plain edges, and all are round in shape. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are raised, and decorated with a dentillated border.
A left-facing bust of a laureate young woman's head, referred to as Helvetia in some works, is displayed in the center of the obverse on all 1854 essais. A single five-pointed star is engraved above, and the Gregorian date "1854" is inscribed horizontally in small print below the truncation of the central image. Written in a clockwise direction along the coin's rim is the French name of the Swiss Confederation, "CONFEDERATION SUISSE", with the two words separated by the woman and the star. Confédération, printed on the piece as "CONFEDERATION" without the acutes above the two "E"s, appears along the left periphery of the obverse, while "SUISSE", whose letters "U", "I", and the first "S" are partially covered by the woman's hair, is written along the coin's right boundary. Engraved on three lines in the center of the reverse is the text "ESSAI DE PRESSE MONET.RE", an abbreviation for Essai de press monétaire, which translates as "Test for the coining press". The first "E" in the shortened form of monétaire, like the two letters in confédération on the obverse, does not include the acute. In the text, "ESSAI" appears on the first line, the next two words are inscribed on the second, and the fourth word is written on the third. Marc-Louis Bovy's initials, "M.L.B.", are displayed below the word "MONET.RE", and the two items are separated by a decorative divider. Encircling the aforementioned reverse elements is a wreath consisting of an alpine rose and oak branch, tied together by a ribbon at the bottom of the piece. The former extends along the left rim of the piece, whereas the latter is engraved along the right.
The total mintage of the 1854 essais is currently unknown. All metal variants are considered rare by Hess-Divo, a Swiss coin auctioning company, so not many specimens are known to exist. Silver specimens tend to command higher prices, followed by brass examples. They were produced in Uncirculated condition.
"Swiss Cross" pattern (1860)[edit | edit source]
In 1860, the second subtype of the first Swiss 2 franc coin was introduced, bearing virtually the same design as the first subtype. However, around the introduction of this newer subtype in 1860, the Swiss government began experimenting with new designs for the 2 franc piece. As a result, a 2 franc pattern coin, whose dies were engraved by Antoine Bovy, was struck in 1860 at Bern. Such a coin was not approved for circulation though, and was never issued as official currency. Instead, the handful of struck examples were subsequently sold to collectors. Over the past few centuries, this 1860 coin has been cited in various numismatic publications and sold several times at auction.
The coin has the same composition and dimensions as the circulated Swiss 2 franc coins made from 1860 to 1863. It is made of .800 fine silver, weighs approximately 10 grams, and measures 27 millimeters in diameter and 2.15 millimeters in thickness. The piece has coin alignment and a reeded edge, and is round in shape. The rims of both the obverse and reverse are raised, and decorated with a dentillated border.
Featured in the middle of the obverse is a Swiss cross inside of a stylized quatrefoil. Such an illustration is encircled by 22 five-pointed stars, each representing one of the cantons of Switzerland. At the time of the coin's minting there were six half-cantons in the Swiss Confederation: Obwalden and Nidwalden, which previously formed Unterwalden; Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt, which once made up Basel; and Appenzell Ausserrhoden and Appenzell Innerrhoden, which formerly constituted Appenzell. Collectively, these six represent only three stars on the piece, while the remaining 19 cantons each represent a full star. Inscribed in small print at the bottom of the piece, in a counterclockwise direction between the rim and the lower two stars, is the "A.BOVY" signature of the engraver. Displayed on two lines in the center of the reverse is the value "2 FRANCS", the numeral slightly larger than the following word. Below, in a smaller font, is the Gregorian date of minting, "1860". Encircling these aforementioned reverse elements is a wreath consisting of two joined alpine rose branches, which is engraved along the entire periphery of the reverse. Unlike on the circulation 2 franc coins of the period, a mint mark is not present.
The total mintage of the 1860 pattern is currently unknown. It is considered rare in various auction catalogs, including those of Fritz Rudolf Künker, Hess-Divo, and Sincona, so not many examples are known to exist. It was produced solely in an Uncirculated grade.
Coins of the current design (1874–present)[edit | edit source]
In 1874 the Swiss government unveiled a redesigned 2 franc coin for circulation, which eventually replaced the earlier "Seated Helvetia" pieces. The new imagery for the obverse, illustrated by Bernese artist Albert Walch and engraved by the Genevan Antoine Bovy, was eventually incorporated onto the ½ and 1 franc coins as well during 1875. The Helvetia from the 1850 series remained on the 5 franc piece until 1884, when it was replaced by a newer likeness. Fisch's original design for the reverse of the 2 franc piece continued to be used. After a nearly one hundred year run without any modifications, in 1967 the 2 franc coin was finally replaced by cheaper metal alternative. After that, another slight alteration was made to the alignment of the piece in 1982, and a slight design change was then introduced in 1983. Two-franc coins have been struck annually with the 1983 dies since, with updated years of minting. During almost every year from 1874 to the present, the mint in Bern has been responsible for the entire mintages of the Swiss 2 franc piece. In 1894, however, many Italian coins circulating in Switzerland at the time were returned to their country of origin, and new Swiss coins were needed to replace them. Because the mint in Bern was not fast enough to produce very many coins at short notice, Switzerland commissioned the Monnaie de Paris to strike its coins that year. Similarly, in 1968, in order to combat a crisis in which coins were being hoarded and not circulated in Switzerland, the Royal Mint in London was called upon to produce some of that year's 2 franc pieces.
Coins made from 1874 to 1967 conform to the standards of the Latin Monetary Union, a former union of countries, including Switzerland, that aimed to unify various currencies into a single currency. As such, pieces of those dates are composed of .835 fine silver, weigh 10 grams, and measure 27.4 millimeters in diameter and 2.1 millimeters in thickness. Examples of later dates are made of a cupronickel alloy of 75 percent copper and 25 percent nickel and weigh about 8.8 grams. These base metal pieces have the same measurements as the original silver coins, measuring 27.4 millimeters in diameter and 2.1 millimeters in thickness. All 2 franc coins struck from 1874 to 1981 have coin alignment. However, to better the appearance of 2 franc coins in coin sets, the alignment was changed to medallic in 1982, and continues to be incorporated on the pieces to this day. Every 2 franc coin produced since 1874 has a reeded edge and is round in shape. The rims of the obverse and reverse are raised, and decorated with a beaded border.
Helvetia is featured in the center of the obverse on the second circulation 2 franc coin, but not in the same form and position as on the first design. She is illustrated standing on a platform, her head facing to the left side of the piece. In her right hand (at the left), she holds a lance, and with her left (at the right), she props up a Swiss shield. Written horizontally below the platform on which Helvetia stands is the caption "HELVETIA". On all coins made from 1874 to 1982, 22 five-pointed stars are included along the rim of the piece, stretching clockwise from the lower left to lower right boundaries of the obverse. These represent the 19 full Swiss cantons of the time and the six half-cantons, which are collectively represented by the three remaining stars. However, when the Canton of Jura broke away from Bern in 1979, the number of stars was no longer accurate. As a result, a new star was added to the right of Helvetia's likeness in 1983, and has been included on all 2 franc pieces since. On examples of all dates, the tip of Helvetia's lance extends to the rim and separates the ninth and tenth stars in the sequence. Nine of the stars are engraved up to the lance, two between the lance and Helvetia's face, and 11 or 12 to the right of the central allegorical figure, depending on the year of issue. "A.BOVY INCT.", an abbreviation for the Latin Antoine Bovy incidit, meaning "engraved by Antoine Bovy", is included along the bottom periphery of the coin, displayed counterclockwise in small print. "A.BOVY" appears to the left of the "H" in "HELVETIA", while "INCT." is shown to the right of the "A". The reverse of the piece is nearly unchanged from Friedrich Fisch's original design. The language-neutral face value "2 Fr." is engraved in the middle of the reverse, with the Gregorian date of minting printed below in a smaller font. Both items are surrounded by a wreath consisting of tied alpine rose and oak branches. Pieces minted from 1874 to 1886, 1896 to 1969, and 1986 to the present feature the "B" mint mark of Bern below the wreath, at the bottom of the piece. Examples dated 1894 instead show the "A" mark of the Monnaie de Paris, and some from 1968 do not include a mint mark at all, indicating production at the British Royal Mint. Coins from 1970 to 1985 do not feature a mint mark either, but these coins were struck at Bern.
From 1874 to 2015, a total of approximately 467,890,830 2 franc coins were produced, including around 73,949,770 silver examples; 156,974,560 cupronickel pieces with coin alignment; 6,012,000 cupronickel coins with medallic alignment and 22 stars; and 230,954,500 cupronickel examples with medallic alignment and 23 stars. Unissued specimen coins were produced alongside business strikes for nearly every year during the silver coin's run, except in 1896, when only specimens were struck. Business strikes were exclusively coined from 1968 to 1973, and proofs and business strikes have been made annually from 1974 to the present.
Non-circulated pattern coins (1894–1941)[edit | edit source]
In addition to the 2 franc pieces made from 1874 to the present for circulation or numismatic purposes, a number of non-circulated patterns of similar designs, but different compositions, are known to exist as well.
The first pattern of the second design was struck in 1894 by the Monnaie de Paris. Such a piece, reportedly minted alongside similar coins denominated at ½ and 1 franc, has the same composition and measurements as the corresponding circulating 2 franc coin of the time, being made of .835 fine silver, measuring 10 grams in mass, 27.4 millimeters in diameter, and 2.1 millimeters in thickness. It has coin alignment and a reeded edge, and is round in shape. Considered by some authorities, such as numismatic authors Jacques Dreifuss and Paul Hofer, to possibly be unique, the 2 franc pattern was submitted to the Swiss Federal Council for approval before the corresponding circulation piece was minted at Paris in 1894. The only difference is the placement of the "A" mint mark inside the wreath and below the date, as opposed to under the wreath near the rim. Additionally, it is flanked to the left by the cornucopia privy mark of the Monnaie de Paris and to the right by the fasces mark of Jean Lagrange (1831–1908), the Graveur général des monnaies at Paris during the coin's minting.
In 1928 another pattern was struck at Bern. Such a piece is composed primarily of nickel (99.5% nickel, 0.5% iron), weighs 9.05 grams, and measures 27.4 millimeters in diameter and 2.1 millimeters in thickness. It has coin alignment and a reeded edge, and is round in shape. Some examples have been sold at auction since 2009 for between US$5,000 to US$7,000.
Cupronickel patterns were made at Bern in 1937 and 1938, and followed by silver-zinc examples in 1941.
References[edit | edit source]
- Numismatic Guaranty Corporation website
- Numista (English) (French)
- Coins of the Swiss franc on the English Wikipedia
- Zweifrankenstück on the German (Deutsch) Wikipedia
- Swissmint – Frequently asked questions
- Swissmint – Official mintage figures (German)
- Numismatik World Coins – A Brief History of Switzerland and Its Coins
- Dreifuss, Jacques. "Unedierte Proben der Eidgenossenschaft" ("Unedited Patterns of the Confederation"). Gazette numismatique suisse (2.1950). p. 24 (German)
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