What is the French Franc (F)

The French Franc (F) was the official national currency of the Republic of France, before the adoption of the euro (EUR). The franc divided into 100 centimes. The Bank of France managed and issued the French Franc in banknote denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 francs, and in coin denominations of 1, 5, and 20 centimes, and 0.5, 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 francs.​​​​​​​

BREAKING DOWN French Franc (F)

First circulated by King John II, the French Franc (F) derives its name from the inscription "Johannes Dei Gratia Francorum Rex," which translates to "John by the grace of God King of the Franks." In 1795, the revolutionary government of France standardized the franc, setting it equal to 4.5 grams of silver. Five years later, in 1800, Napoleon institutionalized management of the Franc by establishing the Bank of France. The bank received funding mostly through private money, including money invested by Napoleon, himself. 

In 1803, the Franc germinal, named after the month in the French Revolutionary Calendar, was established, creating a gold franc. The gold franc contains 290.034 mg of fine gold. Following the Revolution of 1848, and the establishment of the Second French Republic, centralization of the management and issuance of the franc came under the Bank of France in Paris.

As the French economy industrialized throughout the 19th century, the franc grew to become a significant international currency. In 1865, France was a founding member of the Latin Monetary Union, an early attempt to unite European economies under one currency. The union was first based on a bimetallic standard but later switched to a standard based solely on gold.

French Franc Transitions to the Euro

The French franc remained an important international currency after World War Two, but France was an early and ardent supporter of the euro. The Maastricht Treaty, which serves as the basis for the European monetary union, was passed in a referendum by the French public in 1992. This approval put the country on the path to establishing the euro in 1999, with total replacement of the franc with the euro in 2002.

The introduction of euro banknotes and coins came on January 1, 2002. After a three-year transitional period, when the euro was the official currency but only existed in virtual form.  During the dual circulation period, both the French franc and the euro had legal tender status. Transition ended on February 12, 2002. Holders of franc coins could exchange them for euros at the Bank of France until February 2005. Banknotes continued dual circulation until final exchange in February 2012.