It was in the fall of 1939 that the Banque of France ordered this bill bearing the effigy of Colbert. The artist Lucien Jonas (1), from his village of La Flèche in the Sarthe, gets to work and very quickly presents his first models. The 500 francs Colbert Type 1943 (2) in its final version was validated in 1942. Its dimensions are: 175 W x 105 H mm. A first issue of 120 alphabets bearing the date of January 14, 1943 was printed in 3,000,000 copies between July 18, 1943 and May 20, 1944. But with the circumstances of the war and the occupation which ensued, the banknote is no longer relevant at all and the stock is kept in reserve. The banknote will ultimately never be put into circulation. In 1946, 1,000,000 copies will be overprinted "CINQ CENT Piastres" and "Trésorerie aux Armées" to be used for Indochina, but this issue will fail again!
Let's go back in time ...
We therefore suggest that you go back in time. The first time that a 500 francs Colbert was offered for sale was in May 1976. Jean-Paul Vannier publishes his sales catalog No. 2 with a "bomb" on the cover. The note, which comes from the collection of the engraver Jules Piel, is there before our eyes. It bears the alphabet N.4 and is numbered 922. The note is unfortunately stripped of its watermark. This is lot # 818, offered at 3,500 francs and accompanied by the following comment: "For security reasons, this note has been deprived of its watermark which has been cut out". In the same Vannier catalog, 2 other lots are also offered for sale. Lots # 815 and # 816 with the following comments: "artist's proof engraved in black, without inscription and numbering" and "workshop proof printed on fiduciary paper in gray-blue, without inscription and numbering, slightly crumpled". These two lots, displayed at the respective prices of 380 francs and 450 francs, are those that will be sold in June 2000, during the sale of the prestigious François Delamare collection (lots # 224 and # 225 illustrated on page 52 of the auction catalog ). The two lots will carry 7,000 and 8,000 francs respectively. For information, these are the only 2 known intaglio prints from the Jules Piel archives. It was then necessary to wait for the beginning of January 2003 to see a second specimen note on sale. This one is offered for the first time at cgb.fr, Auction "Paper money III, collection Albert Mattei", lot # 703. The copy, which illustrates at the time the cover of the catalog cgb.fr, is also cut off from its watermark. The bill will ultimately be sold at € 14,400. For information, the copy from the Mattei collection will be offered for sale a second time at Chayette & Cheval, on December 12, 2015 (Lot # 299) and will carry the price of € 11,000.
The proofs of 500 francs Colbert
In November 2008, the sales company Numiscollection offered the second color proof (3) with large front / back margins without watermark at the price of € 20,000 (lot # 46025). The proof (see below) is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Regarding these non-watermarked and unperforated proofs with large or small margins, we are aware in a private collection of the existence of 16 copies.
Only one copy is known watermarked and numbered "SPECIMEN N ° 0030". A "Specimen-proof" copy in UNC grade and amputated at the location of the watermark was sold for € 20,350 at cgb.fr, Papier-Monnaie catalog # 26 (lot # p26_0107). This copy as well as that of the Mattei collection, cut off from their watermark (4), cannot therefore be definitively classified as "Specimen" but rather in the category "proof" or "specimen-proof".
Following the transfer by Jonas' beneficiaries of part of the artist's archives in 2012, many documents have appeared like this study today in a private collection.
The watercolor below was sold for € 12,500 (+ fees) during the Beaussant-Lefèvre sale on October 15, 2014 (lot # 371) with the following comment: “Original watercolor from the front, large format. Signed in pencil, Jonas La Flèche October 1939”. Unique document for this exceptional banknote! 26.5 x 42 cm, margins included”. We also observed other preparatory studies on the "Pinterest.fr" website.
The rare final notes
We couldn't end this article without addressing the rare final notes that miraculously escaped destruction. To date, 8 copies are known (including one unconfirmed). There is therefore N.4 - N ° 922 of the Vannier catalog, but therefore without watermark. Then we have 5 extraordinary copies and all of the alphabet K.73. The first copy is K.73 - N ° 244 in UNC grade. The note is therefore complete with its watermark and was sold for 25,000 Swiss francs by Maison Palombo, Auction # 12 of December 6, 2013 in Geneva (lot # 462). The second copy is K.73 - N ° 257 in UNC grade and which illustrates the Numizon catalog card. The third copy is K.73 - N° 332 (5). The last two copies are also of the alphabet "K.73", but their numbers are still unknown to us. A single banknote has yet to be confirmed. This is the 500 francs Colbert A.1 - N ° 037, the photo of which illustrates an article entitled "Un Colbert en Réserve", written on October 23, 2009 by Roland Thévenet (alias Solko). The last copy of this series is simply extraordinary. This is part of the "find of Montpellier", whose history we briefly recall: on the evening of Saturday, January 13, 2018, 6 banknotes that could be described as "stratospheric" are offered on ebay France between € 300 and € 500! These were the following 6 denominations: a 1000 francs Flameng Type 1897 "Reserve", BdF canceled Bdf, A.1 N ° 007 and dated 1 = 7 = 98 (not referenced in the Fayette catalog 2007), the 500 francs Colbert Type 1943 “Reserve”, BdF canceled BdF, A.1 N ° 019 and dated AA.14-1-1943.AA (Ref: NE.1943.02.01c), a 100 francs Type 1892 “Reserve”, BdF canceled BdF, L.90 N ° 006 and dated 29 = 8 = 92 (Ref: F.A51.1), a 1000 francs Type 1842, dated April 5, 1860, Y.21 N ° 237 (Ref: F.A31.3 ), a 500 francs Type 1842, dated March 6, 1856, Y.51 N ° 712 (Ref: F.A17.12) and a 200 francs Type 1847, X.33 N ° 786 dated August 28, 1856 (Ref: F.A28.7). The 6 auctions have of course not reached their end, the seller having probably received a firm and substantial offer for the whole lot? The 500 francs Colbert Type 1943 “Reserve”, BdF canceled BdF, A.1 N ° 019 became the smallest number known to date!
“A Colbert in my collection? ". Can this dream finally come true? The probability of one day encountering one of the final notes being tiny for the majority of us, it must be recognized that the proof offered at € 18,000 for immediate purchase in the current "Numizon Sale # 3" (lot N ° 310314) is a rare opportunity to put this mythical note in your collection. The bonus ... our copy is ranked Top POP in the PMG Population report. Finally, to give you an estimate basis, cgb.fr has only offered 7 copies for sale since 1995 with final prices between € 14,400 and € 22,000!
(1) French painter from the first half of the 20th century. Trained at the National School of Fine Arts, Knight of the Legion of Honor and "Prix de Rome". Jonas began his collaboration with the Banque of France in the early 1930s. He designed a total of 7 banknotes for France: the 10 francs Mineur Type 1941, the 20 francs Pêcheur Type 1942, the 50 francs Jacques Coeur Type 1941, the 100 francs Sully Type 1939, the 100 francs Descartes Type 1942, the 500 francs Colbert Type 1943 and the 1000 francs Déesse Déméter Type 1942.
(2) Known references: Pick: # 101A, Fayette: # F.33! This last reference was renamed in the last catalog "La cote des billets", 2019 edition, page 502. The 500-franc Colbert is logically moved to the part concerning the so-called “Unissued” banknotes. The new reference is therefore declined as follows: NE.1943.02.01a (for the specimen with watermark), NE.1943.02.01b (for the proof without watermark) and NE.1943.02.01c (for the final note with watermark)!
(3) The first color proof was offered at 1,000 francs in Jean-Paul Vannier's sales catalog N ° 2 (lot # 817) with the following comment: "workshop proof on fiduciary paper, final colors on the front, without registration or numbering”.
(4) The watermark of the 500 francs Colbert represents the face of Louis XIV in the shape of a sun.
(5) Le billet de 500 francs Type 1943 « Colbert » non émis. Motivations et empêchements by Jean-Claude Camus, Bulletin de la Société Française de Numismatique (S.F.N), october 2020.
- A first version of this article was already published on October 26, 2018 on the blog of the author French Banknotes Of War (FBOW). Our news with the "Numizon Sale # 3" comprising a proof of 500 francs Colbert (lot N° 310314), was therefore an opportunity for us to shed the spotlight on this mythical banknote from the collection of banknotes from the Banque of France !
- "La cote des billets", 2019 edition by MM. Claude Fayette and Jean-Marc Dessal (cf. page 502).
- “Les billets de la Banque de France et du Trésor, 1800-2002”, 2007 edition by Mr. Claude Fayette (see pages 284 and 285).
- “Those banknotes you've never seen. Lucien Jonas: when an artist creates banknotes” by Véronique Lecomte. Numismatics & Change N ° 239 (text in french).
- “Lucien Jonas. Creator of banknotes”, text by Jacques Jonas. 2003 (Extracts from the catalog sent by Mr. Jean-Luc Aubert).
- Archives of cgb.fr, Numiscollection, Jean-Paul Vannier.