1904 Silver 1 Piastre Liberty Dollar,
Weight: 26.85 grams; Size: 39.0 mm; Silver .900
Silver 1 Piastre Dollar, French Indochina
Obverse: Liberty seated left with fasces, date in exergue
Lettering: REPUBLIQUE FRANÇAISE 1904 BARRE
Engraver: Jean-Auguste Barre
Reverse: Denomination within wreath
Lettering: · INDO-CHINE FRANCAISE · PIASTRE DE COMMERCE A
TITRE 0,900. POIDS 27 GR.
Engraver: Jean-Auguste Barre
Reference: KM# 5a.1
French Indochinese piastre
The piastre de commerce was the currency of French Indochina between 1885 and 1952. It was subdivided into 100 cent, each of 5 sapèque.
The name piastre (French pronunciation: [pjastʁ]), from Spanish pieces of eight (pesos), dates to the 16th century and has been used as the name of many different historical units of currency.
In 1884, the French empire in Indo-China further expanded to incorporate Annam and Tonkin. The following year, in 1885, the French introduced a new silver piastre de commerce and associated subsidiary coinage throughout the entire Indo-Chinese colonies in order to increase monetary stability. The piastre was initially equivalent to the Mexican peso. The piastre was therefore a direct lineal descendant of the Spanish pieces of eight that had been brought to the Orient from Mexico on the Manila Galleons. It was initially on a silver standard of 1 piastre = 24.4935 grams pure silver. This was reduced to 24.3 grams in 1895.
During the first 11 years of their colonial rule, the French had minted millions of silver coins. However, because these French silver piastres were heavier than the Spanish and Mexican reals, that already circulated in French Indochina at the time, the French made piastres were often hoarded by the local populace, especially by the highland tribes (Gresham's law). On July 8, 1895 and later again on April 14, 1898 it was decreed that new silver French Indochinese piastre coins would be minted with a lower weight, which allowed them to stay in general circulation. In 1895 the weight of the silver 1 piastre coin was reduced to 27 grams; the 50 cents to 13.5 grams; the 20 cents to 5.4 grams; and the 10 cents to 2.7 grams.
In the year 1897 the weight of the copper-alloy 1 cent was also reduced to 7.0 and 7.5 grams in 1897 and was holed. These weights and denominations of the French Indochinese piastre would continue for some time until during and after World War I when the global value of silver had become very high.
The governor of French Indochina issued a decree on 1 January 1906 that the Spanish colonial real and Mexican real were no longer legal tender in the colony. Despite this decree, a number Spanish and Mexican silver coins that had been cut into halves, fourths and eighths would remain in circulation. Chopmarked piastres were also officially banned from circulation, while the native Vietnamese cash coins were still considered legal tender.
French Indo-China was one of the last places to abandon the silver standard. The piastre remained on the silver standard until 1920, when due to the rise in the price of silver after the First World War, it was pegged to the French franc at a varying rate hence putting it unto a gold exchange standard.
After World War I broke out, many local and French people in French Indochina became worried that the central powers would attack the colony and mass converted their Bank of Indochina banknotes into silver coins. Following this, silver disappeared from circulation from a time.
The silver standard was restored in 1921 and maintained until 1930, when the piastre was pegged to the franc at a rate of 1 piastre = 10 francs. During the World War II Japanese occupation, an exchange rate of 0.976 piastre = 1 Japanese yen operated, with the pre-war peg to the franc restored after the war. However, in December 1945, to avoid the French franc's devaluation, the peg was changed to 1 piastre = 17 francs. This increased rate created huge financial opportunity by exchanging piastres into francs since the real value of piastres remained around 10 francs in Indochina, attracting organized crime and resulting in the Piastres Affair in 1950.
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