With a good deal of fanfare, the French government released the new 10-franc coin (worth a little more than $1.50) on Oct. 22. The public looked at it, weighed it and began confusing it so quickly with the half-franc coin (worth only 8 cents) that a crescendo of fury and ridicule fell on both the government and the coin.
So the Ministry of Finance asked the French Mint to design a new coin. After much study, designers came up with a silver-colored coin made of nickel and featuring a modernistic drawing by artist Joaquim Jimenez of a Gallic rooster on one side and of Marianne, the female symbol of the French republic, on the other. The coin was light, sported special ridges on its rim for easy reading by electronic vending machines and seemed tough to counterfeit.
Although the designs of the two coins were far different-a traditional Marianne on the half-franc, for example, and a modernistic Marianne on the 10-franc-their size and weight were perilously similar. The new 10-franc coin had a circumference of 21 millimeters, or eight-tenths of an inch, while the half-franc coin had a circumference of 19.5 millimeters, or seven and a half-tenths of an inch. The new 10-franc coin weighed 6.5 grams, or between one-fifth and one-quarter ounce, while the half-franc coin weighed 4.5 grams, or one-sixth ounce.