Sandra L. writes: I have a coin, copper 1855 with Napoleon III on the face and an American eagle with olive branches and arrows in his talons on the reverse and a mint mark W. What is it?
You have an 1855 French 10 Centimes. The denomination is on the reverse and expressed as DIX CENTIMES (100 centimes = 1 Franc). Above that is, EMPIRE FRANCAIS or French Empire. Eagles on coins do not necessarily indicate that they are American eagles or coins from the United States but they are symbols of strength or power. The 10 Centimes was made at various mints and the mint mark appears as a single or double letter below the eagle.
As in U.S. coins, some combinations of date and mint mark impact the value. France had many more places to mint coins than the United States, curious for a country only the size of New York State. Then again, there was the “Empire”, that is, conquered possessions around the world that also had a need for French Coins. Your coin was struck at one of the following mints:
- A – Paris Mint
- B – Dieppe
- BB – Strasbourg
- D – Lyon
- K – Bordeaux (pressing grapes and coins simultaneously!)
- MA – Marseille (?) [on some coins between 1853-57 the Mint is signified by a image of a shell]
- W – Lille [on some coins between 1853-57, the Mint is signified by an image of an oil lamp]
The 10 centimes coin of Napoleon III were made in vast numbers from 1852 to 1864 and were struck at most of the French mints. They are popular with collectors because of their large size and nice portrait of Napoleon III. Values depend on date, grade (condition) and mint mark. Approximate range: US $1 – $200.