World Coins

Silver jeton from France celebrates Corsican War

A 1769 silver jeton celebrates the French victory in the battle for the island of Corsica.

Coin images courtesy of Editions Victor Gadoury.

When France received the island of Corsica in the Treaty of Versailles in 1768, there was one little problem — the Corsicans refused to submit to new rulers.

So French forces invaded the island off the southeast coast of France and fought to gain governing power over the stronghold.

A jeton (like a medalet or counting token) issued to mark the victorious French efforts in 1769 is an affordable offering from Editions Victor Gadoury’s auction Dec. 2 in Monaco. 

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The Italian state of Genoa had claimed control over Corsica, but Corsicans had been allowed to run their show virtually untouched since 1755, when Pasquale (or Pascal) Paoli declared the Corsican Republic an independent nation, even drafting a local constitution.

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Paoli was named commander-in-chief, and he and his troops, composed of Corsicans and German or Swiss mercenaries, defended the island against the armies of the King of France, Louis XV. 

Initial French efforts in the fall of 1768 were met with strong resistance as the Corsicans were victorious in the Battle of Borgo that October.

France added more troops, and the May 9, 1769, Battle of Ponte-Novo (in Corsica, Ponte Novu) was the Corsicans’ final stand. Paoli, gathering troops nearby, was not present for the battle; he had entrusted his soldiers to his second in command.

Author Voltaire famously wrote about the fight at the bridge over the Golo River, noting the extreme bravery of the Corsicans 

“The principal weapon of the Corsicans was their courage. ... Bravery is found everywhere, but such actions aren’t seen except among free people,” he wrote. 

The island’s fall to French control was a foreign policy disaster for Great Britain, which had been allied with the island’s government for the strategic location it represented in the Mediterranean. Paoli took refuge in Great Britain, which later intervened in the island from 1794 to 1796, but then retreated, leaving the island for France to regain control. 

The silver jeton in the auction features the French King Louis XV on the obverse, with a chained warrior seated with weapons (and inscriptions regarding the 1769 battle for Corsica) on the reverse. 

The piece, graded as Fleur de Coin by the auction house, has an opening bid of €200 ($233 in U.S. funds). 

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