Historical context

The 20 francs Type 1873 “Blue and Bistre” or more commonly called “20 francs Black” (Ref. Fayette-Dessal: # F.9 or Pick: # 61) is one of the most emblematic banknotes issued by the Bank of France. Its design and manufacture are undertaken between 1872 and 1874, because it is urgent to replace the 20 francs Type 1871 "Blue" issued during the Franco-German war of 1870-1871 and victim of multiple counterfeits encouraged by the poor quality of its design and the absence of watermark.

The 20 francs gold coin Génie having made its return in the purses of the French population at the end of the year 1874, the monetary institute finally decides to delay the putting into circulation of the 20 francs Type 1873 "Blue and Bistre" and the stock already printed is kept in the reserves of the Bank of France ... for 40 years! It was not until the imminence of the First World War and the fear of massive hoarding that the Bank of France finally decided to put the note into circulation, on July 30, 1914, that is to say 2 days after the official start of the conflict!

One of the rarest banknotes

The 20 francs Type 1873 “Blue and Bistre” is a rare and difficult to find note in good quality. The four years of issues available (1874, 1875, 1904 and 1905) are all sought after by collectors who wish to own a first "20 francs Black" or for the more advanced, complete the missing years. The year 1905 is ranked among the rarest of the 20th century. The inventory currently only records 11 copies (1). But all the years remain rare because the banknote frequency index is the lowest of all the denominations of the Bank of France collection with 0.7% (Calculation carried out by Kajacques Numismatique from a database of 550,889 banknotes).

The 20 francs that we are pleased to present to you below is not yet listed in the inventory. This copy is numbered O.105-062, dated November 7, 1874 and is in remarkable quality (between XF+ and AU). It is undoubtedly part of a small find of consecutive banknotes since the numbers O.105-64, O.105-65, O.105-67 and O.105-68 are already listed. This note therefore becomes the 159th known copy for 1874.




Enlarged detail of the back with a portrait of Mercury in a medallion on the right and a portrait of Ceres in a medallion on the left.


(1) Fayette / Kajacques inventory to consult on the Kajacques Numismatique blog (in french).

Our sources (in french)