French Somaliland

Banknotes issued between 1905 and 1952

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Historical context

In the second part of the 19th century, France intensified its colonial presence on the east coast of Africa in order to counter the growing British influence in the region. In 1862, Napoleon III signed a trade treaty with Madagascar where he set up a French consulate. On the road which leads to "the red island" is the small territory of Obock, located near the city of Djibouti on the gulf of Tadjourah and whose geostrategic position at the crossroads of three continents, excites the envy of the big western powers.

On May 20, 1896, a decree of the President of the French Republic (1) merges the “territory of Obock” with the protectorates of Tadjourah to form the “Protectorate of the French Coast of Somali”. This first French anchor point in the region is intended to secure and facilitate the movement of French interests between the Suez Canal and the colonies located in the Far East.

The first banknotes

The first notes are made available to the Somali colony by the Bank of Indo-China (BIC) and the 1905-1919 Issue with a 5 francs type 1905, a 20 francs type 1909 and a 100 francs type 1909 that several types of these banknotes issued between 1905 and 1952 will also be used in the 27 other Bank of Indo-China branches and agencies around the world.

In 1919, the difficulties and shortages of divisional currencies, linked to the duration of the First World War, prompted the Djibouti Chamber of Commerce, founded in 1907, to urgently issue 4 small rather rudimentary denominations in the form of cardboard notes: 5 centimes, 10 centimes (First Issue), 50 centimes and 1 franc (Second Issue). The two smallest values ​​are printed single-sided and in monochrome color. The two large values ​​are more elaborate with a back, a security background and an ornamental frame. Five variants of his two banknotes are known with the signature of 5 different treasurers (2).

In 1920, the Bank of Indo-China took matters into its own hands with a provisional 100 franc type 1920. The 1920-1923 Issue reproduced identically the three values ​​of the 1905-1919 Issue with however a notable change since these notes no longer include the decrees of January 21, 1875, February 20, 1888, May 16, 1900 and April 3, 1901 above the place and date of issue:


Above: front of 5 francs type 1905 (with decrees) and front of 5 francs type 1923 (without decrees).

From Indo-China to Indochina!

Between 1927 and 1941, the BIC will issue a series of new banknotes of 5, 20, 100, 500 and 1,000 francs. It is from this issue that the name of the "Bank of Indo-China" changes to "Bank of Indochina":


Above: front of 5 francs Walhain type 1927 (w/ Indo-China) and front of 20 francs "au paon" type I (1936) (w/ Indochina).

1943 Overprinted notes

Following the monetary reform of February 1943, all the banknotes issued for Djibouti between 1927 and 1941 are overprinted ... This is the 1943 Provisional Issue. A first overprint is applied to the 20, 100, 500 and 1,000 francs notes. This overprint is identifiable by a black rectangle filled with small rosettes in repetition, two mentions "French Coast of Somalis" and the mention "B.I.C. DJIBOUTI”. In December 1942, the territory fell into “Free France” and to mark its participation in the war effort, a second symbolic overprint was applied to the 5, 20, 100, 500 and 1,000 francs notes. This second overprint is made up of the letters "F. C." (for France Combattante) with below, the date "January 1st, 1943" and a gazelle's head in a pentagon. On the sides, two crosses of Lorraine and two signatures (unidentified):


The Palestine Banknotes!

The banknotes overprinted in 1943 were quickly withdrawn in February 1945. The intensification of the Second World War made the supply of banknotes from Europe completely uncertain and forced the authorities to find urgent local solutions. The 1943 banknotes are then replaced by a series of 5 banknotes of 5, 20, 100, 500 and 1,000 francs type 1945 printed in ... Palestine. Unfortunately, these banknotes do not meet all the usual security conditions required by the Bank of France and their entry into circulation will remain anecdotal.


Above: front of 1,000 francs Palestine type 1945 (Pick: # 18a). Dimensions: 204 x 115 mm. 64,000 banknotes delivered in 1944. Very rare.

The last notes

The three banknotes of 10, 100 and 1,000 francs issued between 1946 and 1948 mark the end of the privilege of issuing banknotes in the French Somaliland by the Bank of Indochina and the monetary reform of March 20, 1949 confirms it definitely. The Public Treasury then takes over in the monetary affairs of the colonies. In 1952, a series of 5 banknotes of 50, 100, 500, 1,000 and 5,000 francs was put into circulation.

In June 1960, Somalia was definitively freed from the British Empire. In order to avoid any reference to this new neighbor, the French administration is therefore obliged to change the name “French Coast of Somalis”. Between 1967 and 1977, the colony was called the French Territory of Afars and Issas. Then on June 27, 1977, independence was proclaimed and the former French territory officially became the Republic of Djibouti.


Above: front of 1,000 francs type 1952 (Pick: # 28a). Dimensions: 162 x 102 mm.


(1) Bulletin des colonies, 1896, N ° 5, page 281. Source: Wikipedia.
(2) “Billets et tickets d'outre-mer” by Georges Bayle, 2018 Edition (see pages 91 to 98).

Our sources

  • "Les billets de la Banque de l'Indochine" by Maurice Kolsky and Maurice Musynski. Editions Gadoury 1996 (in French).
  • "Djibouti" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1368-1960, 12e édition (pages 538 à 541).
  • "French Somaliland" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • Bank Note Museum: "French Somaliland".
  • Photos archive by and Numizon.

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