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Category: Currency



9 cm x 6.8 cm (3-3/4” x 2-5/8”)

HISTORY: Africa was carved up into numerous pieces during the years of European colonialism. The Partition of Africa between 1881 and 1914 saw France take over eight colonial territories, including Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, Dahomey, French Sudan, French Guinea, and Upper Volta. In 1904, this group of territories was formally named French West Africa (Afrique occidentale franҫaise (AOF)). This federation spanned the years 1895–1960.

Although unsigned and undated, this paper currency was printed in 1944 by the AOF as an Issue of Necessity. This 1 franc note is crude, like a woodblock print, and varies in color from bill to bill with some black, some dark brown, and others reddish brown. It is not to be confused with the currency printed by the Bank of West Africa (Banque de L’Afrique Occidentale), which succeeded Bank of Senegal (Banque de Senegal) in 1903 to become the foremost bank of the French colonies.

OBVERSE: “AFRIQUE OCCIDENTALE FRANҪAISE” and “1 franc” identifies this simple note. The illustration is of the Soumbedioune Fish Market on the shores of Dakar, Senegal, looking westward on a tranquil Atlantic Ocean. A fisherman raises what appears to be an amberjack, a triumph for the catch of the day. His companion sits on the bow of his traditional Soumbedioune boat. Two women, in traditional dress, offer a platter of fresh fruit.

REVERSE: “UN FRANC” and “AOF” are the highlights on this note, with an Arabic script centered above the “O” (the territories of AOF were, and still are, predominately Muslim). Posted in the middle of the bill is an excerpt from France’s Article 139: “L’ARTICLE 139 DU CODE PENAL PUNIT DES TRAVAUX FORCES CEUX QUI AURONT CONTREFAIT OU FALSIFIE LES BILLETS DE BANQUES AUTORISEES PAR LA LOI.” When translated, it reads, “Article 139 of the Penal Code punishes hard labor those who have counterfeited or falsified banknotes authorized by law.”