Latin Monetary Union
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The Latin Monetary Union (LMU) was a 19th-century attempt to unify several European currencies into a single currency that could be used in all the member states, at a time when most national currencies were still made out of gold and silver. It was established in 1865 and disbanded in 1927. Many countries minted coins according to the LMU standard even though they did not formally accede to the LMU treaty.
The LMU adopted the specifications of the French gold franc, which had been introduced by Napoleon I in 1803 and was struck in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 40, 50 and 100 francs, with the 20 franc coin (6.45161g of .900 fine gold struck on a 21mm flan) being the most common. In the French system the gold franc was interchangeable with the silver franc based on an exchange ratio of 1:15.5, which was the approximate relative value of the two metals at the time of the law of 1803.〔Henry Parker Willis, A History of the Latin Monetary Union (U. Chicago Press 1901) p.1〕
By treaty dated 23 December 1865,
With the tacit agreement of Napoleon III of France, Giacomo Antonelli, the administrator of the Papal Treasury, embarked on an ambitious increase in silver coinage without the prescribed amount of precious metal.〔Even if this were true, it seems to have had no wider impact on the currency union itself. This charge was never mentioned in Willis' 332 page work on the history of the LMU. Willis refers to silver coinage leaving all of Italy in large quantities after 1865 when the Italian government ran huge budget deficits, but he says nothing about the Vatican〕 The papal coins quickly became debased and excessively circulated in other union states,〔Not borne out by references in coin catalogues, e.g. Krause & Mishler, Standard Catalog of World Coins, 19th century, which shows LMU standard finenesses for Papal States silver and gold coinage with no debasement〕 to the profit of the Holy See, but eventually Swiss and French banks rejected papal coins and the Papal States were ejected from the Union.〔
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