Swiss 20 Francs Helvetia
Tavex is pleased to present Switzerland’s best-known classic gold piece, the Swiss 20 franc Helvetia coin. Also referred to as “Swiss Vreneli”, the 20 franc gold coin was first issued in 1883 and is testimony to Switzerland’s long heritage as one of the foremost countries in precious metals artisanship and fabrication. Exceptionally crafted from a durable 21.6 karat gold alloy, the Swiss 20 franc is embellished with the renowned Swiss coat of arms over a background of an oak branch, symbolising the country’s long-term fortitude, and a graceful female personification of Switzerland itself.
With peerless uniformity and “Swiss-made” quality, this coin is a hallmark of one of the most prosperous countries on earth. Associated with financial stability and security, the Swiss 20 franc is the favoured historical gold coin among the large majority of precious metal connoisseurs, investors and collectors worldwide.
- Swiss 20 francs are Switzerland’s most sought-after gold coins. Embellished with a beautiful design of Helvetia, a female personification of Switzerland, and exhibiting peerless uniformity for six decades, these Swiss gold francs are the most famous historical coins of this prosperous alpine country
- Swiss 20 francs are Switzerland’s most liquid gold coins. With around 61 million pieces minted since 1883, the Swiss 20 franc gold coins are a household name among bullion dealers and investors.
- Swiss 20 franc gold coins are money. They are exempt from Value Added Tax and Capital Gains Tax in Switzerland.
- Swiss 20 franc gold coins are internationally recognised. By portraying the emblems of one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the world, Switzerland, the 20 franc Helvetia gold coin is a symbol of trust, stability and uniformity that anyone can relate to. After all, it is Swiss made.
- Swiss 20 francs are the equivalent of savings. Swiss gold francs are an ideal choice for any long-term saver who appreciates the security and stability of owning physical gold coins.
- Swiss 20 franc gold coins are an excellent way to diversify your portfolio. Gold’s low correlation with other financial assets makes sovereign gold coins serve as a portfolio hedge against market risk.
The name behind the Swiss 20 franc Helvetia gold coin
The name behind Switzerland’s most famous gold coin, and the country itself, originates from a Celtic tribe referred to as the Helvetii that settled in around 500 BC in the alpine regions of what is today recognised as Switzerland. The name of this tribe, and subsequently the region, lived on in the Latin language. Today, Switzerland’s official name is the Swiss Confederation, or Confoederatio Helvetica in Latin, and hence was the reason to name the beautiful female personification of Switzerland portrayed on the obverse of the Swiss 20 franc gold coin “Helvetia”.
The birth of the Swiss franc
Leading up to the middle of the 19th century, Switzerland’s cantons (member states) had the privilege of issuing their own coinage. Exercising their right simultaneously, they issued large quantities of coins that were of different denominations, weights and fineness, and which were likewise composed of different materials. In addition, there was a large influx of foreign coinage due to Switzerland’s favourable geographical trade position and from remittances that were sent back home by the relatively large numbers of Swiss mercenaries who were at that time employed by different courts throughout Europe. The large variety of coins complicated everyday monetary transactions, and thus, in order to alleviate the confusion, the cantons agreed that the exclusive right to mint and issue coinage was to be transferred to the Federal Government. In 1850, with the legislation in place, the Swiss Federal Assembly passed the Federal Coinage Act, which stipulated that silver was to become the basis of the new monetary system and that the new uniform silver coinage was to be called Swiss francs.
The Swiss franc and the Latin Monetary Union
In 1865, Italy, France, Belgium and Switzerland founded Europe’s first major currency union under the name “Latin Monetary Union”. This union was an attempt to unify the respective countries’ money into a single uniform currency. The founding members of the union agreed on a uniform fineness and weight of their coinage, which was set to equal the French silver and gold franc, and they agreed to interchange each other’s gold and silver coinage at parity, irrespective of whether it carried another design, effigy or name. The ratio of the two precious metals was likewise standardised, with 4.5 grams of silver being equal to .290322 grams of gold, a ratio of 15.5 to 1. This standardisation facilitated and simplified trade among the member countries and was seen as an appealing concept, leading other European countries to join as well. Although the union came with numerous flaws, one of them being that individual governments over-issued paper notes above the stipulated fixed ratio that was set between paper notes and circulating precious metal coinage, they were all the consequence of poor human judgement rather than the failure of the uniform precious metal coinage itself. Nevertheless, the union expanded until the advent of World War I, and came to a formal end a decade later in 1927.
The creation of the Swiss 20 franc gold coin
Despite joining a currency union that was based both on gold and silver coinage, Switzerland chose not to issue its own gold francs when it entered the union, a decision that lasted for almost twenty years. The reason for this was twofold: the fact that two of her major trading partners were Italy and France meant that she received a large influx of gold coinage from these two countries, and since their coinage was likewise deemed legal tender by the Swiss authorities, it had no need to issue its own gold coinage. The second reason was that the face value of the gold coins in the currency union was set roughly to equal the market rate for gold, thus rendering it unprofitable to mint and issue such coins.
The other members of the union tolerated the second reason for a while, but when France accused Switzerland of “coinage parasitism”, the Swiss Federal Government decided, solely due to the political squabble, to start issuing its own version of the gold franc in 1883. Although committing to the mintage of the Swiss gold coinage, the issuance of these coins was relatively low for the next twenty years. However, this changed with the advent of the First World War, when both France and Italy abandoned their precious metals standard in favour of a fiat monetary system. In the period between the First and Second World War, Switzerland issued approximately 51 million gold francs, or 83% of all the Swiss 20 franc coins issued since 1883.
The value of Swiss francs was supported by the gold standard
With the United States leading the charge in 1971, the world abandoned the gold standard in favour of a pure fiat monetary system. Although Switzerland shared a similar system in regard to the issuance of paper currency, there was a notable dissimilarity in that the Swiss National Bank, the country’s central bank, was obligated by law to keep at least 40% of its assets in gold bullion. This meant that the Swiss National Bank was not able to expand the money supply (create a fiat currency out of thin air), over the stipulated ratio between paper assets and gold. As a result, the Swiss paper franc was perceived as a trustworthy derivative of the former gold franc coinage, a perception that has made the Swiss franc the strongest and best performing paper currency since the 70s.
Unfortunately, the powers that be decided that it was not in the interest of Switzerland to have a fiat currency that was as good as gold, and so, with political backing, a change was made to the Swiss constitution that took Switzerland out of the gold standard in April of 1999. One year later, with the gold price at a 20 year low of $250 per ounce, the Swiss National Bank began to gradually dispose of its gold reserve by selling it onto the market. The selling of the first tranche was completed in 2005, in which 1,300 tonnes of gold were sold at an average price of $351 per ounce, leading to a considerable loss for the Swiss people considering that the price of gold rose to $1,900 per ounce in 2011. To this date, the Swiss National bank has sold 1,550 tonnes of gold from its original reserves of 2,590 tonnes, leaving it today with only 1,040 tonnes of gold bullion or 10% of the SNB’s assets.
|Nominal value||Dimensions||Fineness||Product weight in grams||Gold weight in grams||Gold weight in Troy ounces|
|20 franc||21.00 mm||900||6.45160 g||5.80644g||0.19|
The Swiss 20 franc Helvetia gold coin offered by Tavex was issued between 1897 and 1935. It was again minted in 1947 and 1949 as re-strikes.
Obverse: The obverse portrays Helvetia, a female personification of Switzerland, with braided hair and a wreath of flowers on her shoulders, with the Swiss Alps in the background. Her shoulder also carries the signature of the designer “F.LANDRY” visible at the bottom of the coin. Above her is the text “HELVETIA”.
Reverse: The reverse displays the coat of arms of Switzerland in combination with an oak branch and ribbons. To the left is the denomination “20” with “FR” to the right. The year of mintage is shown at the bottom of the coin, with the mint mark.
Purity: The Swiss 20 franc Helvetia is a 21.6 karat gold coin which means it is composed of 21.6/24 = 90% gold and the rest of the coin contains copper. The gold – copper alloy makes the surface of the coin more durable and less prone to scratches and marks.
Packaging: Each coin is individually packaged in a hard plastic capsule.
When placing an order through our online shop, you can choose to have the products delivered to your local post office or to collect them in person at one of our offices in Stockholm.
Delivery by PostNord: all orders are fully insured and trackable. The package is shipped the same day after we receive your payment and will arrive to your local post office within 1-3 working days.
Self pick-up: you are welcome to come and collect your products at one of our offices in Stockholm the same day we notify you that we have received your payment.