Do You Remember

photo: bar a huitres, bd st germain

Blazing February sun - spotlights the Bar à Huitres,
near the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

The Franc?

Paris:- Monday, 18. February 2002:- This morning at 00:01 the French franc ceased 641 years of loyal service, to be replaced by the new European currency with the highly imaginative name of 'euro.'

This is pronounced in French as 'uhro' because 'e's are generally unpronounceable in France. Thus, at the marché five slices of tasty jambon may be quoted as costing 'cinq uhro quarante-trois,' which is the same as 5.43euro 3 sign, which is also how it would be written.

Sometimes euro sounds like 'oro' or a small inadvertent belch, so you have to listen carefully and just try to separate the more familiar number sounds from unfamiliar euro-sounds.

Last night, at the Bercy ministry of finance, Laurent Fabius shared some Champagne donated by taxpayers with Prime Minister Lionel Jospin and 600 finance ministry workers andphoto: metro cite other dignitaries as replica-franc flags were dipped for the first and last time while stiff-like-boards replica-euro flags were hoisted for the first time - and possibly the last time, if they are not intended as a permanent display.

The entry to métro station Cité - right where Paris began.

TV-news has presented a number of video-clips showing the vast operation of collection and bundling of old and now useless francs. Paper notes have holes punched in them and are counted and bundled and packed in shrink-wrap, while coins are weighed into standard-weight heavy-duty plastic sacks.

These are being assembled at various points around France, and then they are being shipped by train to huge collection centres, guarded by the army. The paper will be turned into confetti and recycled, and the metal will be melted and recycled. Goodbye francs.

According to a poll done for Le Parisien, the French do not particularly regret the disappearance of the franc. Okay, 49 percent regret it at least a bit, 35 percent not at all, and nobody has 'no opinion.' The missing 16 percent will only say they 'don't really' regret anything, so these should be added to the 35 percent.

A Franc History

The franc is recorded as first appearing on Friday, 5. December 1360 in Compiègne. It was coined during one of Europe's '100 years' wars in order to pay a ransom for the release of Jean Le Bon.

Charles V, son of Jean Le Bon II, introduced a new model franc and this was accepted 'throughout the kingdom,' which was not nearly as big as France is today.

Some time later, in 1641, Louis XIII wanted to get control - a habit of all the Louis' - of all the money so he minted three coins - 'les Louis' - and banned francs. The French, as is their custom, used the 'louis' but went on calling them 'francs.'

The franc came back on Saturday, 15 August 1795, when it was introduced by the Law of Thermidor, Year II, to replace the 'livre,' which roughly means 'pound.' This new franc was decimal, unlike the cross-channel 'livre.'

Under Napoléon, a 'franc germinal' was introduced by the 'Law of 7. Germinal, Year XI' whichphoto: resto el sol y el luna corresponded to Monday, 28. March 1803. The one- franc piece was silver. The Banque de France, created three years earlier, was also instructed to put paper money into circulation.

More sun, on the Latino restaurant 'El Sol y el Luna' in the Rue Saint-Jacques.

'Sous' disappeared under Louis Napoléon after 1850 and were replaced with centimes. The symbol of France, Marianne, first appeared on coins in 1858. Other countries liked this so much that the franc was adopted and imitated.

The first World War was not kind to the gold-based franc, and it dumped in value to become only a shadow of its former worth, until the 'new franc' was introduced in 1958 - which whacked the last two zeros off 'old' francs. 'New francs' became plain 'francs' in 1963.

The last francs, both coins and bills, were decorated with traditional French symbols, plus references to modern France. Some people, not just in France, do regret the disappearance of some of these later designs - especially when compared to the euro's one-size-fits-all graphics.

Other Franc Notes

Tonight's TV-news has had a report that hundreds of millions of francs have 'disappeared.' By this, it is meant that the Ministry of Finance does not know where they are. Since francs are no longer legal tender, Bercy thinks these 'missing' francs may not by traded in for euros - which will represent a huge windfall for the treasury.

Various charitable organizations in France have been collecting francs. The Croix-Rouge estimates that it has recovered 50.5 million, but thinks the figure is short by about 16 million francs uncollected so far.

Other collection points, at airports for example, believe that as much as 75 percent of what they've piled up in coin boxes is probably foreign currency. In any case, so many are collecting so much that it is registered in tons rather than face-values.

Hospitals in Paris will continue collecting francs until the end of this month. The Association of Paralytics in France, the League Against Cancer and the Catholic Committee Against Hunger will continue their collections until the end of March. The Croix-Rouge will maintain its operation until the end of June.

Some Francs Worth Gold?

Some francs minted in smaller numbers than usual may be worth far more than their face-value if they arephoto: rue chat qui peche in very good or uncirculated condition. For example, a 1967 5-centime piece could bring as much as 46euro 3 sign.

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