1 Swiss franc 1983 obverse
1 Swiss franc 1983 reverse
1 French franc 1991 coin obverse
1 French franc 1991 coin reverse
1 Monaco franc 1978 coin obverse
1 Monaco franc 1978 coin reverse
100 Saar francs reverse and obverse
5 Belgian franc 1994 coin reverse

The franc is any of various units of currency. One franc is typically divided into 100 centimes. The name is said to derive from the Latin inscription francorum rex (King of the Franks) used on early French coins and until the 18th century, or from the French franc, meaning "frank" (and "free" in certain contexts, such as coup franc, "free kick").

The countries that use francs today include Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and most of Francophone Africa. The Swiss franc is a major world currency today due to the prominence of Swiss financial institutions.

Before the introduction of the euro in 1999, francs were also used in France, Belgium and Luxembourg, while Andorra and Monaco accepted the French franc as legal tender (Monégasque franc). The franc was also used in French colonies including Algeria and Cambodia. The franc is sometimes Italianised or Hispanicised as the franco, for instance in Luccan franco.


The first franc ever minted, the franc à cheval, was minted upon Jean le Bon's return from captivity from 5 December 1360, and featured combative imagery. Gold, 24 karats, 3.73 g. It conveniently coincided with the account value of one livre tournois.

The franc was originally a French gold coin of 3.87 g minted in 1360 on the occasion of the release of King John II ("the Good"), held by the English since his capture at the Battle of Poitiers four years earlier. It was equivalent to one livre tournois (Tours pound).

French franc

Main article: French franc

The French franc was originally a gold coin issued in France from 1360 until 1380,[1] then a silver coin issued between 1575 and 1641.[2] The franc finally became the national currency from 1795 until 1999 (franc coins and notes were legal tender until 2002). Though abolished as a legal coin by King Louis XIII in 1641 in favor of the gold louis and silver écu, the term franc continued to be used in common parlance for the livre tournois. The franc was also minted for many of the former French colonies, such as Morocco, Algeria, French West Africa, and others. Today, after independence, many of these countries continue to use the franc as their standard denomination.

The value of the French franc was locked to the euro at 1 euro = 6.55957 FRF on 31 December 1998, and after the introduction of the euro notes and coins, ceased to be legal tender after 28 February 2002, although they were still exchangeable at banks until 19 February 2012.[3]

CFA and CFP francs

Fourteen African countries use the franc CFA (in west Africa, Communauté financière africaine; in equatorial Africa, Coopération financière en Afrique centrale), originally (1945) worth 1.7 French francs and then from 1948, 2 francs (from 1960: 0.02 new franc) but after January 1994 worth only 0.01 French franc. Therefore, from January 1999, 1 CFA franc is equivalent to €0.00152449. On 22 December 2019, it was announced that the CFA franc would be replaced in 2020 by an independent currency to be called Eco.[4]

A separate (franc CFP) circulates in France's Pacific territories, worth €0.0084 (formerly 0.055 French franc).

Comorian franc

In 1981, the Comoros established an arrangement with the French government similar to that of the CFA franc. Originally, 50 Comorian francs were worth 1 French franc. In January 1994, the rate was changed to 75 Comorian francs to the French franc. Since 1999, the currency has been pegged to the euro.

Belgian franc and Luxembourg franc

Main articles: Belgian franc and Luxembourg franc

The conquest of most of western Europe by Revolutionary and Napoleonic France led to the franc's wide circulation. Following independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the new Kingdom of Belgium in 1832 adopted its own Belgian franc, equivalent to the French one, followed by Luxembourg adopting the Luxembourgish franc in 1848 and Switzerland in 1850. Newly unified Italy adopted the lira on a similar basis in 1862.

In 1865, France, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy created the Latin Monetary Union (to be joined by Spain and Greece in 1868): each would possess a national currency unit (franc, lira, peseta, drachma) worth 4.5 g of silver or 0.290322 g of gold (fine), all freely exchangeable at a rate of 1:1. In the 1870s the gold value was made the fixed standard, a situation which was to continue until 1914.

In 1926, Belgium as well as France experienced depreciation and an abrupt collapse of confidence, leading to the introduction of a new gold currency for international transactions, the belga of 5 francs, and the country's withdrawal from the monetary union, which ceased to exist at the end of the year. The 1921 monetary union of Belgium and Luxembourg survived, however, forming the basis for full economic union in 1932.

Like the French franc, the Belgian and Luxembourg francs ceased to exist on 1 January 1999, when they became fixed at 1 EUR = 40.3399 BEF/LUF, thus a franc was worth €0.024789. Old franc coins and notes lost their legal tender status on 28 February 2002.

One Luxembourg franc was equal to one Belgian franc. Belgian francs were legal tender inside Luxembourg, and Luxembourg francs were legal tender in the whole of Belgium. (In reality, Luxembourg francs were only accepted as means of payment by shops and businesses in the Belgian province of Luxembourg adjacent to the independent Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, this for historical reasons.)

The equivalent name of the Belgian franc in Dutch, Belgium's other official language, was frank. As mentioned before, in Luxembourg the franc was called Frang (plural Frangen) in Luxembourgish.

Swiss franc and Liechtenstein franc

The Swiss franc (ISO code: CHF or 756; German: Franken; Italian: franco), which appreciated significantly against the new European currency from April to September 2000, remains one of the world's strongest currencies, worth as of August 2023 just over one euro. The Swiss franc is used in Switzerland and in Liechtenstein. Liechtenstein retains the ability to mint its own currency, the Liechtenstein franc, which it does from time to time for commemorative or emergency purposes.

The name of the country "Swiss Confederation" is found on some of the coins in Latin (Confoederatio Helvetica), as Switzerland has four official languages, all of which are used on the notes. The denomination is abbreviated "Fr." on the coins which is the abbreviation in all four languages.

Saar franc

The Saar franc, linked at par to the French franc, was introduced in the Saar Protectorate in 1948. On 1 January 1957, the territory joined the Federal Republic of Germany, nevertheless, in its new member state of Saarland, the Saar franc continued to be the currency until 6 July 1959.

The name of the Saar franc in German, the main official language in the Protectorate, was Franken. Coins displaying German inscriptions and the coat of arms of the Protectorate were circulated and used together with French francs. As banknotes, only French franc bills existed.

Countries that use a franc

Countries using a franc

As of 2023

Countries Currency ISO 4217 code
 Benin West African CFA franc XOF
 Burkina Faso
 Burundi Burundian franc BIF
 Cameroon Central African CFA franc XAF
 Central African Republic
 Republic of the Congo
 Democratic Republic of the Congo Congolese franc CDF
 Comoros Comorian franc KMF
 Côte d'Ivoire West African CFA franc XOF
 Djibouti Djiboutian franc DJF
 Equatorial Guinea Central African CFA franc XAF
 Guinea Guinean franc GNF
 Guinea-Bissau West African CFA franc XOF
 Liechtenstein Swiss franc CHF
 Mali West African CFA franc XOF
 Rwanda Rwandan franc RWF
 Senegal West African CFA franc XOF
  Switzerland Swiss franc CHF
 Togo West African CFA franc XOF
Collectivities franc
Countries Currency ISO 4217 code
French Polynesia French Polynesia CFP franc XPF
New Caledonia New Caledonia
France Wallis and Futuna

Selected obsolete

Countries Former currency Replaced by Since
 Algeria Algerian franc Algerian dinar 1964
 Andorra French franc and Spanish peseta euro 2002
 Belgium Belgian franc
 France (Overseas collectivities) French franc
 Luxembourg Luxembourgish franc
 Madagascar Malagasy franc Malagasy ariary 2005
 Mauritania CFA franc Mauritanian ouguiya 1973
 Monaco French franc and Monégasque franc euro 2002
 Morocco Moroccan franc Moroccan dirham 1960
 Saar Saar franc (used from 1947 -1959) Deutsche Mark 1959
 Tunisia Tunisian franc Tunisian dinar 1958

See also


  1. ^ L. Ciani, Les Mones Royales Françaises (1926) p.77 and p.92
  2. ^ L. Ciani, Les Monnaies Royales Françaises (1926) p.314 and p.356
  3. ^ Harris, Elinor (April 20, 1954). "The Value of the French Franc" (PDF). Federal Reserve.
  4. ^ "West Africa renames CFA franc but keeps it pegged to euro". Reuters. Archived from the original on 22 December 2019. Retrieved 22 December 2019.