French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins

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Among the more intriguing world gold coins issues are the French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins. These were minted in the reign of Napoleon Bonaparte's nephew Napoleon III, who ruled France as a benevolent dictator from 1853 to 1870. These classic pieces contain .1867 ounces of gold and are graced with a historical design. This combines to make them some of the most popular international gold coins for investors and collectors alike.


French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon Coins Background and History

The story did not end well for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of the first French Republic who died in lonely exile on faraway isolated St. Helens. His nephew Napoleon III enjoyed a greater success in terms of stability and longevity of reign. Louis Napoleon Bonaparte had the legitimacy of being elected after the Revolution of 1848 toppled Louis Philippe of Orleans. The newly founded Second Republic that year chose Napoleon III to be president. It only took four years from the time of his election for the populace to proclaim him as emperor. His subsequent reign won respect for its stability, prosperity, and longevity, even when he ruled the Republic like an autocrat. The eventual humiliating defeat of France during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 brought down Napoleon III. The Third Republic exiled him, bringing an end to the era of the French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins.

These interesting and historical coins boasted three varying designs in the time of their production from 1852 to 1870. The French 20 Franc Gold coins first became produced in France under the First Consul rule of Napoleon I. The first of these coins bore dates ANXI, AN13, and AN14. In 1806, the design became changed to feature Arabic Numeral dates.

French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon Coins Physical Characteristics

There are three different versions of the famed Napoleon III French Gold 20 Francs coins. These are referred to as Versions I, II, and III.

Coin Design

The front side of coins is referred to as the obverse.  Version I of these pieces has an obverse with a bust style portrait of Napoleon III which was designed by Jean Jacques Barre. His name is written as “LOUIS-NAPOLEON BONAPARTE.” With Version II, there are two principal differences in the obverse. Under his portrait is inscribed his name “NAPOLEON III” and his new title “EMPEREUR.” The Version III obverse appeared in 1861. It showcased a Napoleon III wearing a wreath and included a coat of arms. This final version lasted until his fall in 1870.


The back side of the coins is always known as the “reverse” in the world of coins. Version I reverse of these French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins depicts the coin's value as 20 Francs and shows the date of production which is encompassed by wreaths. It bears the inscription “REPUBLIQE FRANCAIS.” Version II changed the national description from “REPUBLIQUE FRANCAIS” to “EMPIRE FRANCAIS.” It included a French coat of arms. The Version III reverse had a French coat of arms and was otherwise similar in design to Version II.



All three versions of the Gold 20 Francs coins contain almost a fifth of an ounce of pure gold at .1867 ounces. Their specifications are as follows:

  • Mass: 6.4516 grams
  • Diameter: 21 mm
  • Thickness:  1.3 mm
  • Content: 0.1867 oz. gold
  • Purity: 90.0% gold

French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon Coins Pricing

French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins came out as legal tender issues in France. Their face value was as depicted on the coins at 20 Francs. Such a face value is now irrelevant for these pieces since the French no longer use the franc, but instead subscribe to the shared euro currency. No one in their right mind would spend such beautiful and valuable coins for only 20 Francs in any case. The reason is that the intrinsic value of such gold bullion is much higher than this face value. The true value derives from both the spot price of gold and the available supply and appropriate demand levels.

Reality means that the intrinsic value of the coins determines their market prices for the French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins. The market price represents the actual value of the coin and gives investment or retirement portfolios which contain it their value. These coins enjoy a significant premium over gold spot prices. The reason is because of their historical and collectible nature which continuously brings in intrigued collectors and investors. The premium also results from the significant production costs of minting these coins and floating them into circulation. Actual market value of these pieces rises and falls each market day along with the moving price of gold. It is easy to learn the everyday real time price of gold just by navigating to our homepage.

Can IRA Accounts Contain French Napoleon Coins?

The Internal Revenue Service has the monopoly on deciding which coins can be bought and held in IRA retirement accounts. Their precious metals IRAs are only able to hold such bullion coins which attain a minimum purity and strict collectibility standard that the IRS itself sets. It is the government which mandates the minimum initial purchase level on funding such accounts with at least $5,000 in qualified bullion coins or bars. Subsequent purchases can be added for only $1,000 in new approved coin purchases. Should you already possess another type of IRA retirement account, you can easily roll it over into a precious metals IRA. After your approved bullion has been purchased and obtained, it must be kept securely in an approved third party depository. Such vaults serve the dual purpose of maintaining and securing your investments in retirement precious metals holdings.

Unfortunately for IRA account holders, these French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins do not meet the minimum 99.5% gold purity that the IRS sets. They only possess .900 fineness of gold. This is not the only standard which these 20 Francs gold coins fail. Even if their gold purity measured up, their collectibility would be too great for the IRS to approve them. These issues are always collected and carry too high a premium over gold spot prices for the IRS' liking. Thanks to not meeting either IRS set standard for bullion, these French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins can not be a part of your precious metals IRA. This does not mean they lack sufficient utility and collectibility for other forms of retirement and investment accounts though. You are able to easily buy French Gold 20 Francs Napoleon coins from a number of well regarded international coin and bullion dealers doing business not only in Europe but around the world.

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