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I am neither an expert concerning Swiss history, nor do I
claim this timeline to be an exhaustive academic work. The intent is to merge
historical perspective with the monetary history of
Switzerland is a
country of approximately 41,300 sq. km (26,300 sq. mi.) bounded by Germany,
France, Italy, Austria and Liechtenstein. Mountain ranges (
c. 200 BC: Coins circulating in the land of the Celtic Helvetians were imported from Swabian/Bohemian trade centers, and were later minted locally.
c. 100 BC: Silver and copper Celtic Helvetian coins were in circulation.
58BC-450AD: Roman Era--Roman coins minted at the various military centers were in common use.
450-600: With the fall of the
7th Century: Religious/cultural centers of
9th Century: With fragmentation of Carolingian
power, the Swiss territories reverted to Burgundian control (
11th Century: The authority to mint coins was retained exclusively by the church. Coins were minted by religious centers (Abbeys, Bishoprics, etc.)
August 1, 1291: After the death of Rudolf, the "Forest Cantons" of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden (in central Switzerland) joined in an "Eternal Pact" of mutual defense and independence from external control and
This league was the beginning of the Confederation. August 1st is
the Swiss equivalent of July 4th in the
13th & 14th C.: Besides
the church, other entities, such as certain cities and land barons, gained the
right to produce coinage. Many of these were "bracteats", similar to
those minted elsewhere in
c. 1315: The story of Wilhelm Tell
and the cruel Austrian governor Gessler originated about this time in
1332: Luzern joined the
Confederation, followed by Zürich in 1351, Glarus and Zug in 1352, and
1339: In the Battle of Laupen,
1355: The infant Confederation declared full autonomy from the Austrian
1386: The Battle of Sempach liberated another piece of the Swiss
territories from Austrian rule. Arnold Winkelried sacrificed himself to
Austrian pikes to open the Austrian lines for the victorious Swiss
1388: The Battle of Näfels
was another stunning defeat of
liberation of more Swiss territory.
1424: St. Gallen
(City/Abbey) minted the first dated coin in
1444: The Battle of St. Jacob an dir Birs outside Zürich restored
1476: In The Battle of Murten, Charles the Bold was defeated, liberating
more territory to the Confederation, thanks to defenders from other
1481: The Stans Convention prevented civil war between city and rural
Cantons. It was a compromise between the eight Cantons that
confirmed the status of the Confederation as a loose partnership
of independent states. Fribourg and Solothurn also joined the
Confederation later that year.
1499: With the Battle of
Dornach, more of
independence from Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I.
1513: Appenzell joined the Confederation.
declared neutrality toward external conflicts.
Protestant Reformation began.
16th Century: Silver was imported to
1618-48: The "Thirty Years
War" caused the worst period in Swiss history (and
1757: The 10 Batzen silver coin minted by Canton Bern was first referred to as a "Swiss Franc".
1798: The French invaded
1803: The Republic was
abandoned with the French retreat. The Confederation was re-established, with
the addition of new Cantons of St. Gallen, Graubünden, Thurgau,
1815: The Congress of Vienna
1825: The Bank of Bern produced the first Cantonal paper money.
1836: The first draft of a unified "constitution" for the Swiss Confederation included a passage concerning standardization of money under a central "federal" authority.
1840: At this point there
were approximately 860 types of coins in circulation in
1847: In a Civil War, the protestant army, led by General Dufour, crushed the separatist Catholic Canton league.
1848: The "Bundes" Constitution (modeled after the U.S. Constitution) was finalized and adopted, detailing authority for a central government, but with great Cantonal autonomy. "Artikel 36" gave the central government the sole authority to mint coins.
1849-50: Standards for Swiss coins (100 Rappen = 1 Schweizer Franken) were established, including size, composition and value, identical to the French Franc and Belgian Franc at that time.
1850: The first Confederation silver coins (minted in Paris and Strassbourg) were introduced, with a design (by famed engraver Antoine Bovy of Geneva) that was received by the public (and politicians) with outrage ("…a [not very attractive] Helvetia seated on an uncomfortable plow, apparently pointing at nothing!").
1851-52: The public was allowed to
exchange silver Cantonal coins for Confederation coins at complicated exchange
rates. Approximately 66 million Cantonal coins were exchanged and melted. At
this time the supply of silver coins was far short of need (and not well
accepted for design), so the French and Belgian coins (of identical size,
weight and composition) continued to be allowed as legal tender. Coins of
1853: The old mint in the
1864: The foundation of the
International Red Cross was established in
1870s: The war between
1872-82: Construction period of the
"Gotthardbahn" railway across the
1891: The Confederation established its authority to produce paper
1897: The design of the gold
20 Franken coin was changed to the popular "Vreneli". Through the end
of production in 1949 the "Vreneli" was widely hoarded in
1905: As late as 1905, half
the coins in circulation in
1906: The newly constructed Bern Eidgenossenschaft (Federal) Mint was dedicated. Today it is called "Swissmint".
1907: The Swiss National Bank was formed, and the first Confederation paper currency was issued (designed by Ferdinand Hodler).
1914-18: Swiss neutrality was preserved through WWI.
1926: The "Latin Money
Union" was dissolved. From this date, only Swiss coins and currency were
legal tender in
1939-45: Swiss neutrality was again tested in WWII, and remained intact.
1967: This was the last year of silver used in regular circulation coins (except the 1969 5 Franken. Apparently sufficient silver planchets existed and were used, after 1968 production in copper-nickel).
1974: The first "technical" proof coins were issued in proof sets. Prior to this, the mint produced "specimen" strikes or "first strikes" for diplomatic presentation, etc.
1979: The new Canton of Jura
(formerly part of
1992: The Swiss people voted against becoming a member of the European Economic Area (EEA), forerunner of the European Union.
2002: Collectors Rejoice!
The denominations begun in 1850 are still in use today, although the 2 Rappen was discontinued in 1974 and the 1 Rappen is produced only in small quantities, as it is not commercially needed. There have been few design changes since 1879. Date ranges indicate the design runs (composition changes are not indicated):
1 Rappen: 1850-1946; 1948-present
2 Rappen: 1850-1946; 1948-74 (discontinued)
5 Rappen: 1850-77; 1879-present
10 Rappen 1850-76; 1879-present
20 Rappen 1850-59; 1881-present
50 Rappen (1/2 Franken): 1850-51; 1875-present
1 Franken: 1850-61; 1875-present
5 Franken: 1850-74; 1888-1916; 1922-28; 1931-present
10 Franken (gold): 1911-22 (Vreneli)
20 Franken (gold): 1883-96 (
100 Franken (gold): 1925 (Vreneli)
MINTMARKS: B (or no MM) -Federal Mint in
AB or BB -Strassbourg
This list does not include commemorative coins,
"shooting talers", or hundreds of official medals issued (or
authorized) by the cantons and federal mint over the years. Mintages for Swiss
coins are quite small compared to the