From 1871 to 1891, the French minted a 20 Franc coin with a design called the “French Angel”. The coin’s design is attributed to Augustine Dupré, a French medalist of some fame (Thomas Jefferson even commissioned him to design a special coin).
According to legend, the design of the French Angel coin first emerged in 1792 – right at the peak of the French Revolution. Dupré minted a coin with the image of an angel because he believed deeply in the idea of Guardian Angels.
There is some speculation about the history of that first coin. The angel on it appears to inscribe the French Constitution. Given that the new French government wanted to bring down the sovereignty, it is possible that Dupré minted this first coin against the king’s wishes. Whether or not this is true, Dupré was sentenced to death by guillotine. One of these “Guardian Angel” coins was in Dupré’s possession when he walked to the platform to his death.
There are several legends that explain how the “Guardian Angel” saved Dupré from execution. The most popular is that he used this coin to bribe the executioner. The most fantastic is that the gleam from the coin caught the jailer’s eye and he was moved to release him. Either way, Dupré escaped execution that day, and attributed his good fortune to the coin.
A similarly fantastic legend about this early version of the coin exists in regards to Napoleon Bonaparte. The story goes that Bonaparte kept a “Guardian Angel” coin in his possession at all times, only to lose it right before the Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon was conquered and subsequently exiled.
Flash forward to 1871, when the 20 Franc Angel coin was minted. This coin was automatically considered to be lucky because of the legends attached to the early version of the coin. Minted until 1898, and again from 1899 to 1906, the coin was used as normal French currency.
One side of the coin depicts an angel writing the French Constitution, a rooster (a traditional French symbol), a candle, and is inscribed with the words “Republique Francaise”. The other side depicts the denomination and the year, with the words “Liberte, Ecalite, Fraternite” (Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood) inscribed above. The coins are 90% pure gold, and weigh 6.4516 grams.
World War I saw many pilots (French and American) carrying the coin for luck. Sea captains carried the coins for luck as well. By World War II the coins were still available. A German official in Hitler’s army used to give the coins to his pilots as awards. Despite this negative connotation, the coins remained popular with fighter pilots. Pilots from the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, and Desert Storm would carry the coins for good luck also.
People today still give the coins as gifts for luck, and many people have attributed their luck to the possession of one of these coins. The coins are surprisingly easy to come by, and many have come across them in their coin collections, their family estates, and more.
In today’s rough economic environment, one of these French Angel coins might just be as lucky as legend says they are. Gold is at a record high, and many organizations are keen to buy gold coins and jewelry. Check your collection to see if you might be one of the lucky ones who have a “Guardian Angel”.
The best online resource to sell coins or sell palladium can be found at http://www.refinity.com.