This coin was rescued from a dealer’s melt bin. I am not certain of its grade, but would place it somewhere betweenVG8 and VF20. F12 is my best estimate.
The obverse shows the bust of Emperor Napoleon III facing to the left, wearing a laurel wreath. This is called a ‘laureate head 5 franc’. The legend reads “Napoleon III Empereur”. The Emperor has both a mustache and a spiked chin beard. The mint mark is at 5:00 and the artist’s signature “Barre” is at 6:00.
The reverse shows an archaic crest of France (the Monarchist / Bonaparte crest). It appears to have crossed scepters against a cloak, topped with a crown, and with an eagle emblem in the center (with the eagle facing chest-on to the viewer, with wings spread and its head turned to the right, holding a lightning bolt in its talons). Under the eagle dangles the collar of the French Legion of Honor. The legend reads “Empire Francais”, the denomination is written on either side of the crest “5 – F” and the date is at 6:00. An anchor at 5:00 is the engraver’s mark, and a blob at 7:00 is the mint director’s mark (the BB mint uses a cross, but I can’t figure out what this mark is).
Identification code: KM-799.1
Mint Mark: A (Paris)
Mintage: 6,586,000 (approximately 60% of the 5 Franc coins minted that year). Despite the inbalance, the A mint mark appears to be a bit scarcer than the BB. There is also some controversy about how many were minted with the B/B mintmark – it appears that between 4,224,000 and 4,337,636 were minted (a significant discrepancy, but still less than a 3% difference)
Country of origin: France
Composition: 90% Silver
Size: 37 mm, with edge lettering “Dieu Protege La France”
Weight: 25 g. (0.7234 troy oz ASW)
Other details: There are apparently many counterfeits of this coin. Many of the counterfeits make an obvious mistake with the edge – this coin should have edge lettering, not edge reeding.
The French had both a silver and gold 5 franc at this time. The gold coin is very similar, but it is obviously smaller and has a few compressed design elements. The portrait also faces the other direction (to the right).
The artist was named Albert Désiré Barré and lived from 1818 to 1878. I gather that he was highly thought of and widely sought after for his flattering portraiture.
Estimated Value: $30-45 with silver around $30/oz