French West Africa

Discover the banknotes issued between 1853 and 1960!

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The Second Colonial Empire

Since the end of the 18th century, the French colonial Empire has been in decline. France successively lost important territories, including Louisiana in 1803 and Saint-Domingue (Haiti) in 1804. It was not until the Second Empire that this colonial expansion took a second breath and then a meteoric rise. First under the leadership of Napoleon III and his Minister of the Navy and the Colonies, then with the "colonizer" Louis Faidherbe, the French overseas territories tripled in surface area between 1852 and 1870! The Second French colonial space was born (1).


French West Africa is the main geographic area, about seven times the size of the France. Its capital is Saint-Louis (Senegal) until 1902, then Dakar (Senegal). This vast region administered by France includes the territories of Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (Mali), Guinea, Ivory Coast, Niger, Upper Volta (Burkina Faso), Togo and Dahomey (now Benin).
Banknotes from French West Africa will circulate in this immense region called "franc zone" for more than a century. The 71 notes which illustrate the Numizon catalog cover the period between 1853 and 1960, ie until decolonization and the Evian agreements of March 18, 1962, which mark the end of French sovereignty in Africa (excluding Djibouti).

A century of magnificent banknotes

Banknotes from French West Africa are without doubt among the most beautiful banknotes in the world. One of the reasons for this success is due in part to the fact that the French artists who collaborated in the production of these notes benefited from greater creative freedom than for metropolitan denominations. Less surveillance, less constraints, probably more exoticism. And the French artist Henri Bellery-Desfontaines is a perfect example with his formidable homogeneous series of six banknotes “Art Nouveau” style, designed for the five cities of Dakar, Saint-Louis, Conakry, Grand-Bassam and Porto-Novo ...

The jewels of the catalog

This catalog begins with the extremely rare banknotes from the Bank of Senegal founded in Saint-Louis by a decree of December 1853. Among these banknotes, the 500 francs Type 1874 of which we have the immense pleasure of presenting you the only known issued note! This magnificent banknote is a creation dating from 1827 by Jacques-Jean Barre on behalf of two colonial private banks (2). Note that the banknote numbering is still handwritten.



The second jewel in this catalog concerns a very rare banknote from the Bank of West Africa with the only known copy of the 100 francs Type 1905 for the city of Saint-Louis (Senegal).



Now you only have ... 69 banknotes from the catalog of French West Africa to discover! Good visit...


(1) wikipedia: "The Second French Colonial Empire".
(2) PM Magazine, bulletin N° 49 of December 2019 (AFEP): "The first notes of the Colonies" by Alain Dailly, pages 15 to 22 (text in french).

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