Sixteen years after the last silver Hercules coin in 1980, the French authorities struck for circulation a small 5 Francs coin in copper and nickel, probably to celebrate the bicentennial of Augustin Dupré's original Hercules design created in 1795/96*. Issued in common base metal, this coin was not hoarded like its silver predecessors and did circulate widely among other various 5 Francs commemorative types.
*Note: Between 1792 and 1805, France had used a decimal calendar often referred to as the Republican Calendar. The calendar began each new year in September unlike the traditional January so coins minted in 1795 carry the dates 1795 or 1796.
The obverse design features Hercules (a popular artistic figure in France) protecting two women who symbolically represent “Liberty” and “Equality”. Liberty is shown holding a pole with a phrygian cap on top of the pole. Equality is shown holding a scale of justice. Hercules stands in the center protecting the two women and wearing the skin of the Nemean Lion which, in the legend of the twelve tasks, granted him the gift of invulnerability. On the outer periphery in French is the motto “LIBERTE-EGALITE-FRATERNITE” or in English "Liberty – Equality – Brotherhood”.
The reverse design features a wreath with the denomination “5 FRANCS” and year of issue enclosed within while on the outer periphery are the words "REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE".
Unlike previous Hercules coinage, the edge of the coin is reeded.
General Market Notes
This coin is common, but pretty rare in perfect condition. Even in UNC sets of the year : it generally shows small strikes and hairlines due to a high rate of production. Essays will yield coins in better condition and some can be found in much higher grades due to an optimum conservation.