With all of the recent headlines surrounding the Euro and the possibility of Greece and other countries leaving the Euro zone, this article from CoinsWeekly is timely. It discusses the Belga, a currency created by Belgium when it left behind the Belgian Franc in a time of monetary trouble. Here's an excerpt from the article by Franky Leeuwerck. Be sure to read the complete version online.
About a decade ago I spotted a Belgian share of the Walburg textile company from the city of St-Niklaas.
At first sight it looked like a rather plain certificate. But I was puzzled because it was not mentioning the familiar Belgian Franc as its currency denomination but Belgas. Thundering typhoons, what were Belgas?
A strong Belgian Franc for King Leopold II
In 1865 king Leopold II was made king of Belgium. In these days most national currencies were made out of gold and silver. In the very same year Belgium, France, Greece, Italy and Switzerland established the Latin Monetary Union (LMU). The LMU countries agreed to change their national currencies to a standard of 4.5 grams of silver or 0.290322 gram of gold (a ratio of 15.5 to 1) and make them freely interchangeable. In this period, which lasted until World War I, the Belgian franc was considered a stable and strong currency, a situation which resembled the international ambitions of the king of making Belgium a more powerful nation amongst other great nations.
Reichsmarks induce Belgium inflation
During World War I the Reichsmark became the only official currency in Belgium. At the end of the war, the Belgian economy was immersed in Reichsmarks and for their exchange against Belgian francs, the government preserved the overvalued currency rate of the occupier. As a result, the war inflation was transferred onto the peace economy, causing prices to increase and the value of the Belgian Franc to decrease.
The following years saw a continuous fall of the value of the Franc in comparison to the Pound Sterling and the US Dollar, causing further flight of Belgian capital. Eventually, the government Poullet-Vandervelde was forced to resign. Strong measures were needed to stabilize the Belgian currency and to put the evolution of the Belgian national debt back on the right track.
Belgium leaves the Latin Monetary Union and introduces the Belga
At the end of 1925, Belgium, wanting to regain full monetary autonomy, decided to withdraw itself from the Latin Monetary Union by 1927. It would mean the end of the LMU. The Belgian decision meant a clear disruption of its monetary alignment with the French Franc. In 1926, the new government Jaspar works out a stabilizing program for the Belgian Franc. The introduction of the Belga currency was one of several components of the plan. One Belga was equal to 5 Belgian francs. In order to clearly distinguish this new Belgian valuta against the other currencies, especially the French Franc, all exchange operations had to be realised in Belga.
Belga coexists with Belgian Franc
However, the Belgian Franc did not disappear, because the newly issued coins and notes always mentioned their value in both the Belga as the Belgian Franc currency.
1927 saw appearing the first notes mentioning both currencies and 3 year laters ‘Belga-Franc’ coins appeared on the market. Nevertheless, the plan was a success and did stabilize the Belgian currency.
The Belga was not popular when it was used and it was soon forgotten after it disappeared from the market. In the past decades the Belga was seldom mentioned in history lessons at schools, so nowadays few people know about its past existence. And that explains the mystery of the Belga, people simply forgot about the Belga except for collectors of coins and notes.
To read the complete article, see:
Twenty years of Belgas
Wayne Homren, Editor
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