Switzerland’s Most Precious Coins

March 23, 2017 – Are you interested in Swiss coins? Then please save the date of the exhibition “L’EXCELLENCE SUISSE”, taking place from 2 to 12 May 2017 at the premises of Rapp Auctions in Wil, Switzerland. The main emphasis is put on the Swiss Franc – in silver and in gold.

Swiss Confederation. Coin set of the first year the Swiss Franc was minted. Etui from the property of the creator of the seated Helvetia: Antoine Bovy.Photo: © Chaponnière et Firmenich SA.

The Creation of the Swiss Franc

Due to the historical research performed by Olivier Chaponnière, we nowadays command a lot more knowledge about the creation of the Swiss world record pieces by Antoine Bovy: Coins featuring the type of Helvetia standing have been struck since 1874. This makes the Swiss Franc the oldest circulation coin of the world. The coin’s reverse type also created by Bovy dates back to the first issues of the Swiss Confederation of 1850.

The rarest coin of the Swiss Confederation: 5 Francs 1886. Due to its date, this 5 Francs of 1886 is, today, the most precious Swiss coin in existence, that has been struck since the foundation of the Swiss Confederation. Photo: © Rapp.

Aided by sketches, original models, patterns and first strikes, the exhibition also illustrates how the “Helvetia Seated” type was created and why, in 1874, it was replaced by “Helvetia Standing”.

Swiss Confederation. 20 Francs pattern, 1897. The so-called “Stirnlocken-Vreneli”: The administration which was responsible for the decision about the coin designs thought this representation of a Swiss woman to be too frivolous due to the forelock (Stirnlocke), which gave the coin its name. Photo: © Chaponnière et Firmenich SA.

The Gold of Switzerland

All, really all types of the Swiss gold coins are to be seen in the second part of the exhibition. These include the great rarities such as the “Stirnlocken-Vreneli” (a pattern featuring a prominent forelock) as well as the only preserved specimens of the enigmatic gold-coin series of 1955, which are in private property.

Swiss Confederation. 100 Francs. 1925. Photo: © Chaponnière et Firmenich SA.

Additionally, the exhibition will display one of the legendary 15 strikes in gold from the dies of the commemorative coin “100 Years of Swiss Constitution”, which the Federal Government awarded to 15 Swiss citizens who happened to be alive at the time when the constitution was passed.

The enigmatic gold coins of 1955 which were partly melted down. Only some remnants are still to be kept in the vaults of the Swiss National Bank. The only pair of these two gold coins in private possession is to be seen in the exhibition. Photo: © Chaponnière et Firmenich SA.

Thanks to Olivier Chaponnière’s extensive research, the exhibition “L’EXCELLENCE SUISSE”, can present the history of Swiss gold coins in all details illustrating it with many originals, patterns and models up to the latest commemorative coins of Swissmint.

City of St. Gall. Double Ducat 1621. Photo: © Rapp.

The Money of Our Ancestors

To really appreciate the incredible changes in handling money because of the introduction of the Swiss Franc, a third part of the exhibition illuminates the everyday history of Swiss money.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden. Neutaler equivalent to 4 Francs, 1812. Photo: © Rapp.

Numismatic gems from Eastern Switzerland, originating from the presumably most important private collection of Swiss coins and never to be seen in public before, will be used to raise the question why these coins were struck and how these coins were used in everyday business transactions.

Two Voluminous Catalogues

For (and because of) this exhibition, the two foundational works on Swiss numismatics authored by Olivier Chaponnière, “Antoine Bovy & le Franc Suisse” and “L’Or de la Suisse”, were translated into German. On the basis of the exhibits presented in the exhibition, these books tell the detailed history of the birth of the Swiss franc and of the Swiss gold coins, the latter up onto the present time. Both volumes of which the first was honored by the Jean-Paul Divo Price of Professional Swiss Numismatists in 2016 will be edited in a completely new layout.
In addition, there will be a lavishly illustrated volume on “The Money of Our Ancestors” penned by Ursula Kampmann. This multiply award winning author informs us about our ancestors’ everyday transactions with money. And she provides insights into the background of early-modern monetary economy.

Marianne Rapp Ohmann, the initiator and organizer of the exhibition, waxes lyrical about the wonderful collaboration of the many who were involved and helped to make her dreams become real: “In the beginning, I just had the modest idea to organize a small exhibition about Swiss numismatics. I wished to demonstrate to the people of Wil and in its surroundings, what we do and how thrilling numismatics can be. The dedicated collaboration of so many experienced numismatists has turned my initial project into something really big. Now it obviously has turned into one of the most important exhibitions on Swiss numismatics ever.
The concept that we have been following with our ‘The Money of our Ancestors’ exhibition, is entirely new. Our focus is not on individual coins, but rather on the question why these coins were produced and how they were handled: We wished to show that the Swiss Franc was really something incredibly new, that has shaped our past and will go on shaping our presence and future. I would like to invite to this exhibition all those who wish to understand why our money looks like it does, and why it is used the way it is. It would be a pleasure if my enthusiasm for this theme was contagious and infected all visitors who attend the exhibition.”

The exhibition “L’EXCELLENCE SUISSE – Switzerland’s Most Precious Coins” is open from 2 to 12 MAY, 2017, 14:00 – 17:00. Admission is free. The event will take place at the premises of the Peter Rapp auction house, Toggenburgerstrasse 139, CH-9500 Wil.

For further information, please consult the newly-created exhibition website.

You will find more information about Rapp at their website.