It is extremely complex to trace the life course of a banknote, from the first moments of its conception until its arrival in a wallet, then its probable destruction at the end ... or by chance kept in the binder of a collector! A bit like an archaeologist who must reconstruct the puzzle of a story with the objects he has discovered, the documents (1) presented factually in this article are unpublished fragments which testify to a long creative process and enlighten us for a moment, on the genesis of a banknote and the relationship between its designer and its sponsor.



No truce for the creators ...

At the end of December 1937, between Christmas and New Year's Day, two letters were sent by the Banque de France to the artist Lucien Jonas (1880-1947) who worked on the design of a new banknote for the Bank of Indochina. This is undoubtedly the project for the 1000 francs Type 1938 below (2), the final model of which is adopted and approved on April 21, 1938 and put into circulation in 1940.

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First letter of December 24, 1937

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Translation of the letter: "Dear Sir, Please find enclosed a photographic print on paper and a photographic print on film, watermark which may possibly be used in the 500 / 1.000 Frs banknote which the Bank of Indochina has entrusted you with the study. Please accept, Dear Sir, the assurance of my most distinguished feelings. The Engineer-Director of Banknote Manufacturing".


Reading this short missive, we can first note with astonishment that the choice of the face value of the banknote does not seem to have been completely stopped, although we are only four months from the final approval of the project. The latter was initially requested by the Bank of Indochina, a private bank, but it is indeed the Bank of France which is Jonas privileged interlocutor (3). Finally, we learn that the note could have included a watermark of Mercury wearing his winged helmet with the two photographic prints attached to the mail by the Engineer-Director of banknotes manufacturing and probably sent to Jonas for consultation. The watermark finally selected for the 1000 francs Type 1938 will be the portrait of a young native seen from the front ...

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Second letter of December 30, 1937

courrier_301237_lettre_bdf.jpg

Translation of the letter: "Sir, I give you, enclosed, two proofs indicating the dimensions of numbers or letters which must be used for numbering the banknote of 1.000 Frs. "INDOCHINA" which you continue to study. I draw around the numbers the dimensions of the cartridge which it is necessary to reserve to obtain a correct numbering. It goes without saying that, on your double painting, these dimensions will have to be multiplied by two. Please accept, Sir, the assurance of my most distinguished feelings. The Engineer-Director of Banknote Manufacturing".


Upon reading this second letter, we obtain confirmation that it is indeed the draft of the 1000 francs Type 1938 "INDOCHINA". The author of the document attaches the technical information necessary to identify the numbering, the series and the date. We understand at this stage, that Jonas has reached a very advanced project and that the incorporation of the different details of the note has already started.

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Lucien Jonas, the forerunner of Postal Art?

To conclude, we cannot resist the pleasure of showing you the envelope dated December 24, 1937 ... This one, undoubtedly remained placed on the table of the artist's workshop, has become an improvised palette of color tests which certainly continued to exist in the final composition of this magnificent banknote ...

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The different types of known issues

The 1000 francs Type 1938, like many other BIC notes, was declined and personalized to circulate in almost all colonial territories. In order to allow you to identify this note more quickly, we have listed all the versions known and issued by Bank of Indochina. Here is the detailed list with the different specificities:

1) New Caledonia

1000 francs overprinted "NOUMÉA" in black with the values "1000" and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in dark blue (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B317, Pick: # 43, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 418 ).

variante_Noumea_1000F_1938.jpg


2) French Polynesia

1000 francs overprinted "PAPEETE" in black with the values "1000" and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in red. This is the only banknote in the series with the value in letters "THOUSAND FRANCS" printed in blue! (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B312, Pick: # 15, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 516).

variante_Papeete_1000F_1938.jpg


3) French Coast of Somalis

  • 1000 francs overprinted "DJIBOUTI" in black with the values "1000" in brown and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in blue. The value "1000" in Arabic and local language is printed in red below the initial number. (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B115, Pick: # 10, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 617).
variante1_Djibouti_1000F_1938.jpg

  • 1000 francs "with red frames" overprinted "DJIBOUTI" in red with the values "1000" and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in yellow on a red background! The value "1000" in Arabic and local language is printed in red below the initial number. (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B116, Pick: # 10A, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 618).
variante2_Djibouti_1000F_1938.jpg


4) New Hebrides

  • First type: 1000 francs overprinted "NOUMÉA" in black with the values "1000" and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in dark blue and the note is overprinted with an oval with a Polynesian landscape and the mention in red "NOUVELLES HÉBRIDES - FRANCE LIBRE" (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B210a, Pick: # 14A, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 705). See the detail sheet banknote in the Numizon catalog.
NHE_P14A_1000F.jpg

Second type: 1000 francs overprinted "NOUMÉA" in black with the values "1000" and the issuing institute "BANK OF INDOCHINA" in dark blue and the note is overprinted in horizontal front/back with the mention in red "NOUVELLES HÉBRIDES" (Catalog references: The Banknote Book # B210b, Pick: # 15, Kolsky-Muszynski: # 721). See the detail sheet banknote in the Numizon catalog.

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Notes

(1) The letters, photos and banknotes in this article come from the documentary collection of Numizon, except the 1000 francs Nouvelles-Hebrides note (Pick: # 14A) from the archives of cgb.fr.

(2) Specimen of the 1000 francs Type 1938 Papeete for French Polynesia, graded PCGS 67 Superb Gem UNC OPQ.

(3) The Bank of France is the only banking institution authorized to issue banknotes which are received as legal tender on the territory of mainland France.


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