A rare banknote from free France

The 20 francs Type 1943 Saint Pierre and Miquelon

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Historical context

On December 2, 1941, the French National Committee, government of Free France, created by ordinance the Central Bank of Free France, a public institution with the exclusive right to issue bearer notes having legal tender and unlimited discharge power in territories placed under the authority or mandate of Free France. René Pleven becomes Chairman of the Supervisory Board, André Diethelm Director General and the head office is located in premises close to the Bank of England in London. The objective of the Central Bank of Free France is "to allow a complete reorganization of accounting methods and to constitute the treasury, at the same time as we set up an issuing body, a foreign exchange office and an investment counter. The parity of the pound sterling is fixed at 176 F free. General de Gaulle pledges to sell at least half of his territories' gold production to the Bank of England. Free France will cover the civilian expenses of its territories with its own colonial resources (1)”.

From July 1942, the Central Bank of Free France was responsible for "issuing bearer notes and metal currencies with final discharge in the designated territories". She released a first series of banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 100, 1000 francs and 5000 francs Type 1941, but the 5000 francs will remain at the draft stage. The series is drawn by Edmund Dulac and printed by Bradbury and Wilkinson of London. The banknotes are first issued in French Equatorial Africa, then in Saint Pierre and Miquelon and after their rallying, in Martinique, Guadeloupe, French Guyana and Reunion.

On February 2, 1944, the Central Bank of Free France changed its name and became the Central Bank of Overseas France. The new institute prints a new series of banknotes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, 1000 francs Type 1943.

20 francs Type 1943 Saint Pierre and Miquelon

Less rare than the 1000 francs Type 1943 Saint Pierre and Miquelon, of which we will publish an article very soon, the 20 francs Type 1943 Saint Pierre and Miquelon (2) is identical to the 20 francs Type 1941 issued for the French Equatorial Africa. It does not have a watermark or issue date (probably put into circulation from January 20, 1943). Its dimensions are 135 x 75 mm. The banknote is printed predominantly dark green on a purple and yellow gradient security background made up of guilloche patterns and continuously repeated rosettes. On the front, the note is made out in the name of the “Caisse Centrale de la France Libre (Central Bank of Free France)” with the value “20” repeated on the left and on the right. The numbering is printed in red and repeated on the left and right at the top. Signatures, values ​​and labels are printed in dark green. In the center in a dark green oval, a portrait of Marianne (3) wearing a Phrygian cap in profile to the left. Two Lorraine cross marine anchors frame the figure (4). Two signatures: The Director General, André Diethelm and The Chairman of the Supervisory Board, René Pleven. Description of the back: guilloche shapes in the corners on a safety background in yellow and purple gradient and in the center in an oval rosette, article 139 of the Penal Code framed by the value "20" repeated on the left and on the right and the Ordinance of December 2, 1941.



A rare banknote?

All banknotes issued for French Equatorial Africa and other territories are strictly identical. The only way to tell them apart is their number range! Concerning the banknotes issued for Saint Pierre and Miquelon, the numbering goes from LA 000,001 to LA 030,000 or 30,000 copies! Note that the banknotes numbered LA 030,001 to LA 530,000, also intended to supplement the monetary supply of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, were lost at sea in March 1943.

Numizon's inventory currently includes 20 banknotes including 2 specimens. The smallest number LA 000,619 is in VF/XF grade and illustrates our article. The largest known number LA 029, 052 in VF grade, was sold for € 120 at Christoph Gärtner Auction in 2019. The note is totally unknown in grades above VF/XF! A copy in good quality would undoubtedly make an exceptional price at a sale ...

Discover now the inventory in detail in the table below:

NumberGradeDate of onsetKnown selling priceComments
LA 000,000-1980-Specimen w/o overprint
LA 000,001-LB 1,000,000UNC2016-Perforated SPÉCIMEN horizontaly
LA 000,619VF/XF2019€ 117Private Collection
LA 001,068VG2019-Private Collection
LA 002,933G2015$ 28Lyn Knight Auctions
LA 003,300F2006-Pictured in the Kolsky work 2006, page 218 (5)
LA 003,740VF/XF-€ 140cgb.fr
LA 006,455F+2003-Private Collection
LA 015,824VF2017€ 150cgb.fr
LA 016,956VG2019-Alpes Collections
LA 017,706---Pictured of the Banknote Museum website
LA 018,104VF2013$ 402Lyn Knight Auctions
LA 018,813VG2021€ 90Private Collection
LA 020,668VF--Private Collection
LA 022,536F+--Picture seen on PicClick website
LA 024,005F/VF2017€ 105cgb.fr
LA 025,600VF/XF2009$ 920Lyn Knight Auctions
LA 026,131VG--Bank of Canada Museum Collection
LA 028,388F-€ 75cgb.fr
LA 029,052VF2019€ 120Christoph Gärtner Auction


According to Maurice Kolsky, 10 copies were taken from the series to serve as a Specimen! No copy has been found to date. A second type of specimen is known numbered LA 000,000 and perforated with two cancellation holes above the signatures (6). A third Type of specimen numbered LA 000,001 to LB 1,000,000 is known in private collection. This also corresponds to the specimen of the French Equatorial Africa type, see below:


Warning: the copy LA 007,154 overprinted SPÉCIMEN in red diagonally illustrating page 192 of the first edition of the work by M. Kolsky (7) is actually a montage made for the needs of the book from another specimen from French Equatorial Africa, numbered LA 557,154, sold in VF grade for € 180 at cgb.fr in 2015 (lot # 4030270).

The Numizon rating for this note

The quotes shown are estimates calculated from sales observed in recent years. However, this note remains very rare and sales records could contradict these figures!

Series LA 000,001 to LA 030,000:

XF (PMG40)VF+ (30-35)VF (20-25)F+ (15)F (12)VG (8-10)G (4-6)
€ 300€ 200€ 150€ 100€ 80€ 60€ 45


XF (PMG40)VF+ (30-35)VF (20-25)F+ (15)F (12)VG (8-10)G (4-6)
€ 800€ 550€ 340----


(1) "The Financial History of Free France" by Jacques Bauche, Extract from the Revue of Free France, No. 232, 3rd quarter 1980.
(2) Main catalog references: WPM (Pick): # P.12, Kolsky: # K.603, The Banknote Book (TBB): # B403, Schwan & Boling: # 1953.
(3) Marianne's profile would be inspired by the face of Léa Rixens, artist and wife of Émile Rixens, a painter who studied at the School of Fine Arts in Toulouse with Dulac.
(4) The central composition evokes an open eye symbolizing a free France still very much alive!
(5) “The D.O.M-T.O.M Banknotes” by Maurice Kolsky, second edition. "History of French Paper Money" Collection, 2006.
(6) Pictured on page 27 of the book "World War II, Military Currency" by C. Frederick Schwan & Joseph E. Boling. BNR Press, 1980.
(7) “The D.O.M-T.O.M Banknotes” by Maurice Kolsky, first edition. Editions L'Auréus, 1986.

Our sources

  • « Le site du Collectionneur » by Jean-Luc Buathier (in French).
  • « World War II, Remembered » par C. Frederick Schwan & Joseph E. Boling. BNR Press, 1995. Voir page 157.

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