14 December 2000
Gold Coins of the World
France. 1831-A 20 Francs. Incused edge letters. KM 739.1. VF-35 (PCGS). Rich medium yellow gold with vestiges of lustre remaining in protected regions. Very attractive just even circulation wear. Short scratch near 8:00 obverse hidden in legend.
Of the more the 2,000,000 1831-A 20 Francs struck, a large percentage entered the international market soon after their release as a favorite coin of European bankers and merchants. These were readily accepted most everywhere in America as a trusted standard and well-recognized financial commodity, whose rates versus the American dollar and British sovereign were reported in weeklies and almanacs nationwide ($4.00 was a typical current value for a 20 francs coin in San Francisco during the period).
Per the Act of February 1857, foreign coins such as these were to be no longer legal-tender in two years (a six-month extension was subsequently granted). A coin such as this was mandated by law to be accepted for all debts public and private, including Custom House duties, but, curiously, coins of Dubosq, Baldwin, and other private California coiners were not! (Nuances are explained in the forthcoming book by Q. David Bowers).
A very interesting foreign piece that circulated alongside the fascinating mixture of American, private, and other gold as specie in the gold fields of California and the streets of San Francisco.
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