Monetary Unions

Ten centimes coin – Confœderatio Helvetica 1995 – © Wikipedia Commons

When the Euro currency appeared, the obvious question for Switzerland was if the country would join it. For everyday life, in particular when you live in Geneva, this would have been very convenient. Having spent my youth converting between French and Swiss francs just seemed like a tedious mathematical exercise, in my short term perspective: currencies did not fluctuate that much between each other. Of course, in those days, a Dollar was worth more than two Swiss francs, not less than one.

The thing I did not realise when the Euro was introduced was that Switzerland was already technically using a common european currency system. Switzerland has the oldest coins still in circulation, and the system is clearly modelled on the French francs, but it took a tweet by Douwe Osinga for me to realise that there was a standard behind all this: the Latin Monetary Union, yet another thing I never heard about in history classes. This union initially included France, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland, but later extended to Spain, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria, Venezuela, Serbia, and San Marino. The papal states cheated on the amount of silver in the coins, Greece did the same for gold and got kicked out. The alliance disappeared after first world war, but Switzerland used coins complying with the standard up to 1967. After dropping the gold standard, most of the currencies of the latin union lost most of their value and had to be reevaluated (French Franc, Bolívar) and most of them got subsumed into the Euro…

There would be a certain irony in having the last remanent of the old Latin Monetary Union outlive the newer Euro…

One thought on “Monetary Unions”

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.