Rapidly rising silver prices in the 1970's placed additional pressure on France's silver coinage program that would lead to the demise of the 10 Franc Hercules series due to lack of being profitable.
In response, French financial authorities decided first to replace it by a 20 Francs coin but silver prices were rising so rapidly they gave up this project (only a few essays were struck of this 20 Francs, extremely rare) and decided to issue a 50 Francs coin instead. This one is larger than the 10 Francs with slightly more silver content and a slight increase in overall weight.
The overall design was based on an original design from Augustin Dupré used on 5 Franc coinage from 1795 with only minor changes.
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 “10 FRANCS” and year of issue enclosed within while on the outer periphery are the words "REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE".
The coin edge is not reeded nor smooth but decorated in ornate designs. Most of these ornaments are symbolic representations of agriculture, industry and commerce.
The very first issues of the year 1974 a limited number of issues have a slightly different obverse based on a die originally intended for the non-issued 20 Francs denomination. It is unknown the exact population of these coins in circulation but speculation and estimates limit it to only several thousand.
Small details differ, the most obvious being the branch on the left, at the same level of the drape of Liberty for the variety, a bit beneath for the normal 50 Francs coin.
General Market Notes
The key to the series is the 1980 issue with a mintage of only 60,000 and was not issued for circulation in the final year of the series. The semi-key is the 1974 variety with the 20 franc die.