World Coins

Rapp auction in May features rare 1928 Swiss 5-franc coin

A modern Swiss rarity, the 1928 silver 5 franc, is part of Rapp’s May 6 auction in Switzerland.

Images courtesy of Rapp Auctions

Switzerland’s transition to a lighter silver 5-franc coin in 1928, coinciding with the dissolution of the Latin Monetary Union, resulted in an important modern Swiss rarity.

What may be the finest example of this coin, according to auction house Rapp, highlights the firm’s May 6 auction.

Switzerland was a founding member of the Latin Monetary Union in 1865. Several nations committed to circulating coins across national lines, but to do so required a uniform coinage standard. The 5-franc coins then in use (since 1850) contained 0.7234 ounce actual silver weight (slightly less than a Morgan silver dollar).

In December 1925, the Belgian government informed the French government that Belgium would leave the monetary union on Jan. 1, 1927. Shortly before that date, the Swiss Federal Council announced that it considered the union to be dissolved due to Belgium’s withdrawal.

Once the Swiss, too, became untethered from the union, the country could determine how its coins should be made, including eventually reducing the amount of silver in the 5-franc coin (to 0.4027 ounce actual silver weight, which became the standard for the denomination until 1969, except for 1968-dated issues).

However, a law for the production of the new, lighter 5-franc pieces was not adopted until Sept. 9, 1931, although it was clear by the summer of 1928 that any new 5-franc pieces would have to contain much less silver.

While Switzerland produced 23,971 examples of the 1928 5-franc coin to the pre-dissolution union standard, most apparently were sent directly from the National Bank to the Mint to be melted and made into new, smaller 5-franc coins.

“And that’s why the 5 franc piece from 1928 is much rarer on the collector market than you would expect given its mintage number,” the firm said.

The auction house did not assign a grade in its catalog listing, but the coin has an estimate of 16,000 to 22,000 Swiss francs ($16,891 to $23,225 U.S.).

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