175th anniversary
of the Federal Constitution

As we celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Federal Constitution, we look back at 175 eventful years of Swiss coin history.

Coin confusion
“It is well known that knowledge of different currencies is one of the first things that parents teach their children, because it would be fatal if they were to prefer a large French or Bohemian coin to a small but weighty gold piece, entailing perhaps a hundredfold loss. They would tell of this all their lives, even if they lived to the age of 100.” From “Der Herr Esau” by Jeremias Gotthelf.

«Frankenfüssler» and «Guldenfüssler»
The earlier discussions about the creation of a single Swiss currency flared up again. While eastern Switzerland was in favour of the “guldenfuss” (florin-based) system used in southern Germany, the cantons west of Zurich advocated the franc system. This debate was brought to an end in 1850 by Parliament’s decision in favour of the franc system.

To this day, the terms “Frankenfüssler” and “Guldenfüssler” (denoting advocates of the two currency systems) are occasionally used when voting results in French-speaking Switzerland differ substantially from those in the German-speaking parts of the country.

Alte Münze
The Old Mint with the Münztor (Mint Gate) in Gerberngraben. Built in 1787 by J. D. Antoine, architect of the Paris Mint, it was taken over by the Confederation in 1855. The site is now home to the Bellevue Palace hotel’s Restaurant zur Münz (Restaurant at the Mint).


The old and new Federal Mint in Bern

The Confederation took over Bern’s former cantonal mint in Gerberngraben in 1853 but minted far fewer coins than were actually needed for circulation. The close alignment with the French coinage system meant that foreign coins could be used. Consequently, around 80 % of the money in circulation continued to consist of foreign currency. This state of affairs was subsequently sanctioned in 1865 by the “Convention monétaire” concluded with France, Belgium and Italy.

The Old Bern Mint re-opened as the first Federal Mint on 1 September 1855. However, as the demand for coins increased, the rooms and technical facilities at the Old Mint became too cramped.

1906: The New Mint
1906: The New Mint

To be continued:
The history of Swiss coins and Swissmint does not end there. You can find out more about the period from 1926 onwards, the dissolution of the Latin Monetary Union, and the abandonment of gold and silver coinage and full-bodied coins in the next issue of the magazine.


“Die Eidgenössische Münzstätte in Bern” – Gesellschaft für Schweizerische Kunstgeschichte,
Bern 2006 – ISBN 3-85782-799-8 / ISBN 978-3-85782-799-0