However the circulation of this metallic currency declined during the Republic that exchanged the old gold and silver reserves (needed to finance wars and try to solve the shortage of food supplies by importing them) against printed assignats, initially designed as bonds based on the value of the confiscated goods of churches, but later declared as legal tendercurrency. Too many assignats were put in circulation (by largely overevaluating the value of the "national properties"), and the silver franc rarefied to pay foreign providers, and the unpaid governmental national debt caused decreasing trust in this secondary unit, shortage of silver supplies for producing metallized francs, hyperinflation, even more food riots in the population, and severe political instability and termination of the First French Republic (the political fall of the French Convention, the economic failure of the Directoire that replaced it, then a coup d'état that lead to the Consulate during which only the first Consul progressively gained all the legislative powers against the other unstable and discredited consultative or legislative institutions).
In 1803, the "germinal franc" (named after the month Germinal in the revolutionary calendar) was established, creating a gold franc containing 9/31 g (290.32 ug) of fine gold. From this point, gold and silver-based units circulated interchangeably on the basis of a 1:15.5 ratio between the values of the two metals (bimetallism). This system continued until 1864, when all silver coins except the 5 franc piece were debased from 90% to 83.5% silver without the weights changing.
The currency was retained during the Bourbon Restoration.
France was a founding member of the Latin Monetary Union (LMU) in 1865. The common currency was based on the franc germinal, with the name franc already being used in Switzerland and Belgium, whilst other countries used their own names for the currency. In 1873, the LMU went over to a purely gold standard of 1 franc = 9/31 g gold.
The outbreak of World War I caused France to leave the gold standard of the LMU. The war severely undermined the franc's strength, as war expenditure, inflation and postwar reconstruction, financed partly through the printing of ever more money, reduced the franc's purchasing power by 70% from 1915 to 1920 and a further 43% from 1922 to 1926. After a brief return to the gold standard (1928 to 1936) the currency was allowed to resume its slide, until it was worth in 1959 less than a fortieth of its 1934 value.
During the occupation of France, the franc was a satellite currency of the German Reichsmark. The coins were changed, with the words Travail, Famille, Patrie (Work, Family, Fatherland) replacing the Republican triad Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité (Liberty, Equality, Fraternity) and the emblem of the Vichy regime added.
At the liberation, the US attempted to impose use of the US occupation franc, which was averted by General De Gaulle.
After World War II, France devalued its currency within the Bretton Woods system on several occasions. Beginning in 1945 at a rate of 480 francs to the British pound (119.1 to the U.S. dollar), by 1949 the rate was 980 to the pound (350 to the dollar). This was reduced further in 1957 and 1958, reaching 1382.3 to the pound (493.7 to the dollar, equivalent to 1 franc = 1.8 mg pure gold).
The old franc pieces were gradually withdrawn and demonetized. None were valid at the time of the euro's introduction.
Interestingly, after revaluation and the introduction of the new franc, many French people continued to speak of old francs (anciens francs), to describe large sums. For example, lottery prizes were often advertised in amounts of centimes, equivalent to the old franc. Multiples of 10F were referred to as "milles francs" (thousand francs) or "milles balles" ("balle" being a slang word for franc). This usage continued right up to the time when franc notes and coins were withdrawn in 2002.
From January 1, 1999, the value exchange rate of the French franc against the euro was set at a fixed parity of 1 EUR=6.55957 FRF. Euro coins and notes replaced the franc entirely between January 1 and February 17, 2002.
The first coins were issued in denominations of 1 and 5 centimes, 1 and 2 decimes (in copper), quarter, half, 1, 2, and 5 francs (in silver), and 20 and 40 francs (in gold). Copper coins were not issued between 1801 and 1848, leaving the quarter-franc as the smallest coin being minted. During this period, copper coins from the previous currency system circulated, with a one-sou coin being valued at 5 centimes.
Bronze coinage was introduced from 1848, and coins worth 1, 2, 5 and 10 centimes were issued from 1853. The quarter-franc was discontinued, with silver 20-centime coins issued between 1849 and 1868. The gold coinage also changed at this time, with 40- franc coins no longer produced and 5-, 10-, 50- and 100-franc coins introduced. The last gold 5-franc pieces were minted in 1869, and silver 5-franc coins were last minted in 1878. Nickel 25-centime coins were introduced in 1903.
The First World War brought substantial changes to the coinage. Gold coinage was suspended, and holed 5, 10 and 25 centimes minted in nickel or cupro-nickel were introduced. In 1920, production of bronze and silver coinage ceased, with aluminium-bronze 50-centime, and 1- and 2-franc coins introduced. Until 1929, these coins were issued by the Chambers of Commerce of France. During the same period, local Chambers of Commerce also issued small change coins. In 1929, silver coins were reintroduced in 10- and 20-franc denominations.
The Second World War also affected the coinage substantially. Zinc 10- and 20-centime pieces were introduced, along with aluminium coins of 50 centimes, and 1 and 2 francs. Following the war, rapid inflation caused denominations below 1 franc to be withdrawn and coin denominations up to 100 francs were introduced by 1954.
In 1960, the new franc was introduced, worth 100 of the old francs. Stainless steel 1- and 5-centime, aluminum-bronze 10-, 20- and 50-centime, nickel one-franc and silver 5-franc coins were introduced. Silver 10-franc pieces were introduced in 1965, followed by aluminum-bronze 5-centime and nickel half-franc coins in 1966.
Nickel clad cupro-nickel 5-franc and nickel-brass 10-franc coins replaced their silver counterparts in 1970 and 1974, respectively. Nickel 2 francs were introduced in 1979, followed by bimetallic 10 and 20 francs in 1988 and 1992, respectively. The 20-franc coin was composed of two rings and a centre plug.
A nickel 10-franc piece was issued in 1986, but was quickly withdrawn and demonetized due to confusion with the half-franc and an unpopular design. The aluminum-bronze pieces continued to circulate until the bimetallic pieces were developed and additional aluminum-bronze coins were minted to replace those initially withdrawn. Once the bi-metallic coins were circulating the aluminum-bronze pieces were withdrawn and demonetized. A silver 50-franc piece was issued from 1974-1980, but was withdrawn and demonetized after the price of silver spiked in 1980. A 100-franc piece, in silver, was issued, and circulated to a small extent, until the introduction of the euro. All French franc coins were demonetized in 2005 and are no longer redeemable at the Banque de France.
At the time of the complete changeover to the euro on 1 January 2002, the coins in circulation (some of which were still produced during 2000) were:
Coins were freely exchangeable until February 17, 2005 at Banque de France only (some commercial banks could still perform it but were not required to offer this service for free after the transition period in 2001), by converting their total value in francs to euros (rounded to the nearest eurocent) at the official fixed rate of 6.55957 francs for 1 euro. Banknotes are officially convertible up to 17 February 2012.
In 1800, the Bank of France began issuing notes, first in denominations of 500 and 1000 francs. In the 1840s, 100- and 200-franc notes were added, while 5-, 20- and 50- francs were added in the 1860s and 70s, although the 200-franc note was discontinued.
The First World War saw the introduction of 10- and 5000-franc notes but, despite base metal 5-franc coins being introduced after the war, the banknotes were not removed.
In 1944, the liberating Allies introduced paper money in denominations between 2 and 1000 francs. Following the war, 10,000-franc notes were introduced, while 5-, 10- and 20-franc notes were replaced by coins, as were the 50- and 100-franc notes in the 1950s.
The first issue of the new franc consisted of 500-, 1000-, 5000- and 10,000-franc notes overprinted with their new denominations of 5, 10, 50 and 100 new francs. This issue was followed by notes of the same design but with only the new denomination shown. 500-new franc notes were also introduced at this time. 5- and 10- franc notes were withdrawn in 1970 and 1979, respectively. Banknotes in circulation when the franc was replaced were
Banknotes of the current series as of euro changeover may be exchanged with the French central bank or services like GFC until February 17, 2012. Most older series are exchangeable for 10 years from date of withdrawal.