From the early 1980s to date, France has issued a plethora of beautiful commemorative coinage. The first wave ended in 2001. These coins were issued in denominations ranging from one Franc to 500 Francs. There were two periods which had double denominations engraved on the coins. The Ecu/Francs were issued from 1990 to 1995. And, in 1996 and 1997, the denominations were listed as both Euro and Francs. France, one of the founders of the European Union, issued its first commemorative Euro coin in 2002.
A collector has a number of choices. He can assemble coins by denomination, by metal content, by period and by subject matter. If someone decides to collect them all, the number of coins is upwards of 950, and that's just one coin per date and type. Many of the issues were struck in both circulation strike and proof.
Reform Coinage Commemoratives 1982-2001
These coins can be found in nickel, silver, gold, platinum, and bi-metals. Subjects are both national and international. American soldiers storming Omaha Beach, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Hercules, Jules Verne, the World Cup, Treasures of the Nile, the Little Prince, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Olympics are just a few of the subjects commemorated.
The European Currency Unit (ECU) was a precursor to the Euro. The ECU was an electronic unit of account of the various currencies of the European Community member states. The ECU did not have any official coins or notes. However, a number of European countries, including France, issued commemoratives bearing both the ECU unit value and the country’s current currency. For example, the 100 Francs was equal to 15 ECUs. 500 Francs equaled 70 ECUs. France issued these commemoratives from 1990 to 1995 in silver, gold and platinum.
Euros/Francs Commemoratives 1996-1997
For two years, prior to the transition to the Euro in 1999, France issued commemoratives which had both the Euro value and the Franc value on the coin. Again, silver, gold and platinum were the metals used. These coins would make an interesting subset in a collector’s collection as the subjects vary greatly.
Euro Commemoratives 2002 to date
It seems that with the Euro came even larger numbers of commemoratives. France is one of the most active producers. Commemoratives can be found in denominations beginning with the ¼ Euro Aluminum-Bronze issues to the 5000 Euro in gold. The rectangular shape was introduced and also an irregular shaped 10 Euro in silver to commemorate Clovis, Charlemagne and Charles II.
A recurring theme in all denominations is the beautiful Sower (La Semeuse). This coin was designed by Oscar Roty in 1897 and is a good example of art nouveau. This design may have been the inspiration for the U.S. Walking Liberty half dollar and the Saint-Gauden’s $20.
In the PCCG Set Registry® the French commemorative sets are organized by date and metal content under the Modern Republics Reform Coinage and the Euro Coinage.