French Napoleon gold coins have become very popular among investors and historical collectors in recent years. Before buying, however, it’s important to understand the history, composition, and investment facts about this coin.
Commonly known as the Napoleon, this coin was originally produced by the French monarch of the same name. Originally, the coins were minted in just two denominations; 20 and 40 francs. The 20 franc coins are about the size of a U.S. nickel and have a diameter of 21 mm. Their gross weight is 6.45 grams and contain 0.1845 ounces or 5.801 grams of pure gold, giving them a purity of 90%. The 40 franc coins have the same purity but are slightly larger at 26 mm in diameter and a weight of 12.90 grams.
These coins were issued throughout the reign of Napoleon I and each of them feature his portrait. Depending on the date the coin was minted, this portrait will sometimes feature the monarch as bare headed or wearing a laurel wreath. In addition to this difference, the words on the face of the coin will read either “Bonaparte – Premier Consul” or “Napoléon Empereur”. Prior to 1809, the back of the coin will read "RÉPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE" while after 1809 the back of the coin will read, "EMPIRE FRANÇAIS". In addition to these coins, in 1805 there was a 20 lire Napoleon coin that was minted in the Kingdom of Italy, while the country was annexed by Napoleon I of France in 1805 after the defeat of Austria during the Battle of Austerlitz.
The coin was continued to be used throughout the 19th century and later versions of French gold coins in the same denomination were continued to be called Napoleons. It is important to note, however, that these coins were minted at several different French mints and also at the mints in the Italian territories of Genoa, Turin, and Rome. There were also Napoleons made at mints that were located in the Netherlands and Geneva. It should be noted that these coins were only minted outside of France during the French occupation of these locations.
The price of gold fluctuates on a daily basis, making it difficult to pinpoint an exact price for these coins. Of course, the price of Napoleons is not based solely on the price of the gold they contain. The fact that these coins are considered antiques mean that they have value beyond the amount of gold they contain. Pinpointing their exact price, therefore, is a function of both their gold value and their value as antiques.
Currently, the current selling price for these coins is around $1200. A premium beyond this price is paid for coins that were minted outside of France and for 40 franc pieces.