Gold Duplone

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The duplone is a relatively obscure moniker for a type of gold coinage made in Switzerland and its subsequent cantons during the latter part of the 1700s to the early part of the 1800s. often referred to or confused with the unrelated Swiss franc, the gold duplone was the result of a highly complex and oftentimes confusing currency system employed during the early modern period of Swiss coinage that gave rise to a gamut of differently minted coins of various names and values, all of which were legal tender and in general or limited circulation throughout Switzerland.

One of the most interesting things about duplones is the fact that it is a relatively obscure, if not altogether unmentioned coin in many histories dealing with the early Swiss monetary system, although it is a common name that pops up in numismatic catalogues. The duplone is also unique in that nearly every area which was a part of the Swiss Cantons had their own exclusive versions of the duplone which were legal tender only within the area, but exchangeable at a slightly different rate than its given face value in other cantons.[1]

Because of this, no one standard sample of the gold duplone exists, although there are a number of different duplones minted and issued under its own canton that bears its own unique symbolism, legends, size (diameter and width) and face value. Perhaps the only constant feature of every gold duplone is its gold purity, as every gold duplone was made with gold of .900 fineness; making it a remarkably fine and undoubtedly valuable coin.

The amount (in grams or milligrams) of gold found on a duplone coin varies according to its relative size, and since no two duplones of varying cantons were exactly alike, this could vary from somewhere between one to as much as twenty grams of gold per duplone (the latter only in very rare cases, and often with very little extant examples).[2]

Unlike other Swiss coins of the period, the duplone was also remarkably simple in its design, usually only incorporating the local arms of the canton where it was minted, along with the date of mintage and some accompanying Latin legends – usually the motto of the said canton. Every duplone bore the legend ‘REPVBLICA’ followed by the name of the canton it was minted in, in Latin. Some examples of duplones are the antithesis of this seeming simplicity, as they are usually minted with highly ornate designs endemic to its place of origin, or else common in the symbolic culture or history of the Swiss.[3] With the fall of Switzerland’s ancien regime to the powers of the French, the issue of duplone continued under the Helvetic republic, and it later came to be referred to as a ‘franc’. Some examples of duplones and double-duplones that can be found today bear this incongruity.[4]

As typical of the coinage of the Swiss, the duplone is a great example of the height of coin-making and minting during the middling part of the early-modern period of coinage, prior to the eventual boom of the Industrial Revolution that would forever do away with the practice of general gold coinage. As the monetary system of the Swiss eventually changed and evolved along with the times, the gold duplone only remained temporarily as a type of hard currency or early form of bullion. Eventually, it was also done away with, until the standardization of currency allotted the Swiss franc the position of de facto currency of all Switzerland. Today, gold duplones are extremely rare and valuable coins that are sought after by bullion investors more than numismatists, although a latter group specializes in its collection owing to its rarity and artistic beauty.

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Content researched and created by Alexander Leonhart for ©

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