Enclosed are copies of two pieces of French currency that I have
not been able to find any information about, so I am hoping you can
Your color copies are of the face and back of 1-franc and
50-centime emergency notes issued by the Chamber of Commerce of Nancy, France.
This town is located in the northeastern part of the country in
the Lorraine region, about an hour and a half north of Paris by train.
French emergency notes of this kind and era were first issued by
the Chamber of Commerce of Paris in August 1914, at the start of World
At the time, the French government had suspended the use of gold
coins. French citizens were hoarding their gold and silver coins and
thus merchants couldn’t make change for their customers.
The Chamber of Commerce in Paris requested permission from the
government to authorize small bearer bonds in of 5- and 25-centime and
1- and 2-franc denominations, according to the website www.frenchbanknotes.com. The
small notes “would be legal tender among the Paris merchants that
agreed to accept them.” The Paris Chamber of Commerce placed an
equivalent amount of cash in the Banque de France to cover the notes.
Soon, other chambers around the country were seeking permission to
use the same system in their towns.
According to Dave Mills, who owns the website www.frenchbanknotes.com, the
definitive catalog, Les Billets des Chambres de Commerce, by Jean
Pirot, shows 13 notes issued just in 1918 in Nancy. The catalog is
printed in French and is available from some online booksellers.
Mills said all the notes are watermarked with images of bees,
representing hard work.
In Uncirculated condition these notes “are priced between $12 and
$50, lower of course in lesser condition. None are particularly rare
of course, as shown by the pricing,” Mills said.
Emergency money is not known only to France. German notgeld issued
in Germany after World War I may be the best known. But other European
countries also issued items like this to help with the shortage of
small change during and after the war.
During the 1930s in America, many privately produced emergency
paper scrip notes were distributed by cities in an effort to stimulate
But emergency scrip wasn’t just paper; examples of wooden money
were also issued, in Washington state in 1932.
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