Graphic works from 20th century artist, £20.00
Width: 84.000 mm
Height: 73.000 mm
Chartered Institute of Bankers Collection
CM CIB 16995
Coins and Medals
Assignat note for 50 sols
France, AD 1793
Paper money of the French Revolution
From 1789, the new revolutionary government of France tried to raise money by issuing paper assignats, which circulated like modern banknotes. Some were of high denominations, but many were for small values, designed to replace coins, which were becoming increasingly scarce.
Early designs for the higher value notes carried a head of the Bourbon king, Louis XVI. However, most of the notes included symbols of liberty and revolution. This 50 sols note shows two allegorical female figures representing Justice, with her scales, and the new Constitution, with a tablet inscribed Droits de l'Homme, 'The Rights of Man'. It was issued at a critical point in the French Revolution, the year that Louis XVI was sent to the guillotine.
The value of the new notes was supposed to be guaranteed by the government through the sale of confiscated church land. However, like John Law's earlier experiment with paper money in France, these assignats were wildly over issued. Their value dropped so much that eventually they were literally worth less than the price of the paper they were printed on. The French government abandoned the note issue in February 1796.
J. Williams (ed.), Money: a history (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)
J. Lafaurie, Les Assignats (Paris, Le Leopard d'Or, 1981)