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An Overview of the French Colonial Coinage of Cameroon

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Modern day Cameroon was originally claimed by the French in the 19th century, and was part of the French Equatorial Africa. After the Agadir Crisis, Cameroon was ceded to German and relabeled Neukamerun. However, the territory was mandated back to France by the League of Nations in the aftermath of World War I, with parts also given to Britain. France generally relegated control to the tribal leaders, but retained the judicial and police systems. Great care was taken to remove all traces of former German control, and Cameroun became a thriving colony – exporting cotton, wood, and coffee.


The Union of the Peoples of Cameroon was founded as an anti-colonialist league in 1948. When it was outlawed in 1955, war broke out. Ruben Um Nyobé led a guerilla war against the French, resulting in autonomy in 1956. Cameroon was finally granted full independence in 1960, although a civil war continued for many years.


The coinage of French Colonial Cameroon can be divided into 4 distinct groups. The first is the beautiful laureated head, designed by Henry Auguste Jules Patey. He was the Chief Engraver of the French mint from 1896 until 1930. His privy mark is the torch, and appears on all coins struck under his authority. The cornucopia privy mark, for the Paris mint, is also on these coins. The reverse has a bundle of three branches, like ferns or palm fronds. 50 centimes, 1 franc, and 2 francs were struck in 1924, 1925, but in 1926 it was 50 centimes and 1 franc onl. These coins are readily available for type, but assembling the complete set is probably going to take a little more effort. The 2 franc coin is scarce in higher grades, and 1925 in all denominations is key.









The second group is the Free French WWII coinage, featuring a rooster and the Cross of Lorraine. As others and I have mentioned before, this coinage is very difficult, especially when searching for high grade, problem free specimens. They are much harder to locate than the price would indicate. These coins were all struck in Praetoria, South Africa. There are two varieties for each denomination of this group - half the coins were struck with the legend "Cameroun Francais" below the rooster, and half were struck with the legend "Cameroun Francais Libre." Despite the mintages being listed as the same in Krause, the "Libre" coinage is harder to find, and worth more.











The third group is the familiar bust of Marianne with ships common to all French Colonial coinage of this era. The reverse features a gazelle. Struck in 1948, the Cameroon issues consist of a franc and 2 franc coins. These were designed by the new Chief Engraver, Lucien Bazor, and feature his privy mark - the wing. These coins are widely available, and collectors should not settle for less than Gem BU specimens. The aluminum composition of these coins often causes spottiness or other unsightly blemishes, so be sure to take the time to find clean examples.







The fourth group comes from the troubled time of transition between colony and fully independent country. Struck in 1958, the 5, 10, and 25 franc coins feature three giant eland on the obverse, and the denomination on the reverse. They were designed by Lucien Bazor, and struck at the Paris mint. These too are widely available, and can be obtained for very little money.









The French Colonial Coinage of Cameroon is a very interesting set, and one which I encourage you to attempt. I put my complete 17 coin set together in about a year, and only spent $165 on it. Its always refreshing to be able to take a break from the high dollar sets and put together a set like this - an attractive group of artistically pleasing coins, for not much money.


To see my complete set, see my photobucket album


Comments, questions, complaints all welcome! If you have any of these coins, post them!

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Great thread, thanks for the info! What made you decide to collect coinage of the French colonies?


Thanks :)


It sort of evolved out of other things, as so many things do. Back when I was no more than 13, and Ebay was still young, I bought a small group of Moroccan coins off Ebay. They were all pretty worn, but I thought they were awesome. They were about 5 or 6 of the later date colonial coins, and so I set out to finish the set. After a round or two of upgrades, and several years of searching for the harder coins, I finished the colonial Morocco set. I was quite proud of myself, but during the last couple of years of working on the set, I began to realize that French Colonial Morocco fit into a much larger overall French Colonial set. As the last couple of Moroccan coins eluded me, I decided to start working on a few of the other colonies.


I focused on Madagascar first, since it was a small set. After Madagascar, Cameroon was rather a random choice. I finished Cameroon last spring, but most of last year was spent focusing on Capped Bust halves and I was working on my Franklin set hardcore. I actually haven't worked on my French Colonials in a year or so, and I haven't really decided which colony to work on next, but I'm thinking either Lebanon or Syria. I've really been working on the 20th century colonies first, since they are generally more available and cheaper, but the goal is to eventually go all the way back to the first colonies, somwhere in the 1600's. This set is obviously going to last most of my collecting life.


I am also intrigued by the idea of colonization, and how it fits into the imperialism and globalization of the European (and sometimes American) superpowers. The French colonial empire is sort of where I find myself collecting, but I wouldn't be opposed to working on some of the other empires. The Dutch, Portugese, German, and Italian colonial empires never quite extended as far as the French and British. The British Empire, however, was an incredibly large and complex, globe spanning entity. To tackle that empire's coinage in totem would be quite an undertaking. Even the French Empire is a tremendous goal! But I love it, and I'm having a great time. The advantage of the French Empire over the others, in my numismatic mind, is the aesthetic advantage - the French generally have very attractive and artistic coins, at least from the period I'm working on now. Many of the British coins feature the king or queen, whereas many of my current pursuits have striking renditions of Liberty or Marianna or something like that.


Both the British and French empires also represented a tremendous variety, due to their vast holdings. One day I could be working on some African territory, the next could be Arabic, the next could be Indo-Chinese, and then I can come back to the New World! All this adds up to make an incredibly diverse, interesting, and fascinating pursuit.

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Great story! I really like the French Indo-China series. There are some beautiful designs on those coins. :cloud9: Thats where I would suggest you go next, but that would be a biased opinion based on what I find appealing. Good job on collecting what you like and not what is the norm. :golfclap:

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