Coin varieties and values: Switzerland’s 5 Francs


27 June 2023
Michael Burzan provides a collecting guide to the highest nominal circulation coin in Switzerland, the 5 Franc, which after a century of use, is now considered a classic.

The common designation ‘Fünfliber’ (‘Fivepounder’) is derived from an ancient French coin at 5 Franc (5 livres) that was in use since the late 18th century.

A design of the alpine herdsman by Paul Burkhard (1888-1964) was selected after a 1919 competition for new coins. Reduced to a portrait, it was adapted for the mintage of the top value from 1922, often mistaken as the head of national hero William Tell.

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The coin's design

The final design on the obverse shows the bust of an alpine herdsman in a hooded shirt in semi-profile, with the Latin legend ‘CONFOEDERATIO HELVETICA’ for the Swiss confederation.

The reverse with value and vintage presents the Swiss cross as federal coat of arms, flanked by sprigs of edelweiss on the left and gentian on the right. The rim embossing reads ‘DOMINUS PROVIDEBIT’ (Latin for ‘The Lord will provide’).


From silver to cupronickel

For an estimation of the material market value one should know the used metals.

  • The first 5 francs coins of the 1920s had a diameter of 37mm and the mintage had a weight of 25 grams, including 90% fine silver.
  • In 1931, the diameter was reduced to 31mm, the weight to 15 grams and the fine silver content from 22.5 to 12.5 grams (83.5%).
  • When the silver value of the coins climbed above their nominal value, the material used was changed again, to the more resistant Cupronickel alloy of 13,2g, including 75% copper and 25% nickel.
  • The final batch in silver came in 1969, while the mintage of 1968 was the first batch in cupronickel (13.2g).

A rare version may be found in the first 5fr cupronickel mintage of 1968.

A number of coins were minted on the smaller planchets of the 2 franks nominals. These faulty embossings in splendid conservation fetched CHF 550 and 500 at auction, showing a weight of 8,85 resp. 8,78 grams.

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Another mintage error of the 5Fr 1968 CuNi version was found in a lot with 12 varieties of mostly lower nominals.

It showed a missing part in the upper right, a so-called clipped planchet. This kind of misfeed can occur when the metal strip is fed through the blanking machine. When the punches overlap the leading edge of the metal produce a straight clip. In some cases a punch strikes an area of the strip where a hole was already punched out for a planchet, resulting in a curved clipping.

Top price for 1st strike of 1928 

The large silver mintage of the first years are relatively rare in best uncirculated condition without fine scratches.

Rapp Auktions in Switzerland presented some very nice examples for the centenary of the coin design in 2022. CHF 460 were paid for two splendid examples of 1922 and 1923; CHF 380 for two uncirculated 5fr of 1925 and 1926.

CHF 1,000 was fetched for a 1924 vintage with fresh embossing and patina. The record price of 18,000 CHF was granted for a 1928 first strike with beautiful patina, described as ‘An absolutely perfect splendid specimen!’.

The Swiss 5fr silver mintage of 1922 was recently selected to become part of the portfolio formed as the basis for the new Numindex, a numismatic market index for a group of 30 coins, which once circulated across Europe.