Often unfairly overlooked and rarely collected in comparison with other forms of currency, piedforts (variant spelling pieforts) are projects which do not enter into circulation, sometimes trials, and fully-fledged collectible items, often rare and often of an excellent quality.
A fully-fledged collectible item
As illustrated by the video below, in order to avoid the model piedfort being confused with the final coins for which it will ultimately serve as a reference – more on that later – it is designed twice as thick and twice as heavy (sometimes even three or four times) and often produced in proof quality.
Franc, 1972, Paris, PCGS, SP69, MS(65-70), Gold, KM:P454, graded
Furthermore, it is this considerable thickness which contributes heavily to its charm, resulting in an object which is both unique and different than a “classic” coin.
A little bit of history
Piedforts can trace their origins 12th century France during the reign of Philip Augustus, one of the first kings who sought to put an end to the stranglehold of the feudatories on the issuing of money.
Ordinance of Philip Augustus regulating currency in Normandy
“And no one is permitted, not a money-changer nor anyone else, to remove the forbidden currency from the land of my lord the King, instead he must take it to the money-changer or to the gardes of the mint.”
“Recueil des actes de Philippe Auguste roi de France” published under the direction of Clovis Brunel by H.-F. Delaborde, C. Petit-Dutaillis, and J. Monicat, volume II, Paris, 1943, no. 844, p. 423-424. (Retranslated from French translation of original Latin)
A distinction is made between two acceptations for piedforts:
- Initially, they were gifts for visiting dignitaries, a little like medals.
- Later they served as templates for minting coins.
In the 16th century, when coining presses began to take over from the hammer as the main means of minting coins, they were struck by the engraver general and then distributed to provincial workshops, where they served as a reference. This was the case up until the 18th century, when the use of piedforts declined and eventually vanished more or less altogether.
Louis XIV, 1/4 Ecu, 1644, Paris, VF(30-35), Silver, KM:P61
However, the Paris Mint continued to produce a piedfort for each new currency creation in the year the coin appeared and in an identical metal up until 1968.
After that, and up until 1990, piedforts were primarily produced for collectors and are found in a variety of metals.
Popularity and rarity
The popularity of a piedfort is very precise and depends upon its rarity and how great the demand for it is. While some coins intended specifically for collectors do not adhere to this rule, the number of examples produced is often low and – consequently – they are very rare.
For example, only 118 examples of this épi centime were minted in 1977.
It should be noted that the piedfort may or may not feature the word “Essai” (trial), depending on whether the coin in question was subsequently issued and entered into circulation or not.
Video : Thomas W. for NumisCorner.com (All rights reserved)
Translation : Michael Wright
- “View of the Seine downstream of the Pont Neuf, the Hôtel des Monnaies on the left and the Louvre on the right” by Pierre-Antoine Demachy (1783) (CC)
- “Philip II, known as Philip Augustus, King of France (1165-1223)” by Louis-Félix Amiel (1837) (CC)