During 1979, the Hunt Brothers attempted to corner the market on silver driving commodity prices to unfathomable levels. By the start of 1980 silver had peaked at $48.70 per troy ounce and considering silver was around $6 per troy ounce at the start of 1979 this represented a price increase of more than 800% in one year. The meteoric rise in silver prices decimated silver coinage programs throughout the world forcing most Mints to abandon silver coinage.
France was no exception to these commodity prices and French authorities could no longer afford to issue large silver 50 Francs Hercules coinage and the series came to an end in 1980.
After the presidential elections in 1981, French authorities decided to create a new smaller silver coin, with a higher denomination (100 francs). But this "devalued" coin had much less success among the population than the previous Hercules series and consequently the mintage decreased year after year until 1991 when mintages were limited to proof coinage or uncirculated coins available in special sets or through Mint programs for the collector market.
The obverse design features the French Pantheon in Paris. This monument was built in the 18th Century to be a church, before becoming a mausoleum for famous Frenchmen such as Victor Hugo, the writer, or Napoleon. It also is home to the well-known Pendulum of Foucault.
Under the monument is the phrase "Aux grands hommes, la patrie reconnaissante" // in English : "To the great men, the grateful fatherland" - which is the motto readable on the pediment of the building itself. On the outer periphery are the words "République Française", in English "French Republic".
The Reverse design represents a Tree of Liberty, on which is superimposed a hexagon (referring to the shape of the French territory) and the facial value 100 F. On the outer periphery is the motto "Liberté - Egalité - Fraternité" or in English "Liberty - Equality - Brotherhood".
General Market Notes
Issued for circulation, very few saw actual use and many survivors exist in high grades. The end of the series mostly consists of Proof coins for collectors, despite certain years with both normal and Proof mintage. The key to the series is the 1996 circulation issue (although it probably never circulated) and should not be confused with the 1996 Proof issue.
All years from 1987 may be regarded as semi-keys, but the 1992 to 1994 issues command higher prices.
From 1997 to 2000, special and scarce gold mintage was issued (500 only for each year). Those coins have the same denomination, with a smaller diameter (22 mm).