Bob Fritsch submitted this item on the topic of hidden images in coins. Thanks!
While continuing my numismatic studies, I found a rather obscure reference to a possible hidden image in a coin. The article was presented in the Bulletin de la Société Suisse de Numismatique, 1re année (1882), No. 5, and was reporting on the Essais of the new 20 rappen (centime) coin introduced in 1881, which was the world’s first circulation coin made of pure nickel. The final paragraph tells the story (translated from French by Google and me),
“Newspapers have occupied much of the new 20 cents coin of 1881 about people fancying the head of the Emperor of Germany in the contours formed by the hair of Helvetia. Despite the best intentions, I have not seen anything like this, we must believe that I have very little imagination or rather that others have too much. These people will, I think, the same who took the angel (monetary detail of Brussels, which is the reverse of the coin of 20 francs. in 1871) for the head of Bismarck. It is unfortunate that such absurd remarks are inserted in the newspapers, who have no other result than to mount the imagination of credulous people who read them.”
It is signed by M. de Palézieux, who was the SNS President at the time. Here is the original French for those who want to try their own translation:
Les journaux se sont beaucoup occupés de la nouvelle pièce de 20 centimes 1881, au sujet de personnes croyant voir la tête de l'empereur d'Allemagne dans les contours, formés par les cheveux de l'Helvétie. Malgré la meilleure volonté, je n'ai rien vu de pareil, il faut croire que je possède bien peu d'imagination ou plutôt que d'autres en ont trop. Ces personnes seront, je pense, les mêmes qui ont pris la tête d'ange (point monétaire de Bruxelles, qui se trouve au revers de la pièce de 20 frs. 1871) pour la tête de Bismarck. Il est à déplorer que l'on insère dans les journaux des remarques aussi absurdes, qui n'ont d'autres résultats que de monter l'imagination des personnes trop crédules qui les lissent.
M. de Palézieux erred when he mentioned the head of Helvetia on the coin – it is Libertas as presented on her tiara (a point the article made clear). The German Kaiser in question would have been Frederick III, who ruled until 1888. Personally I cannot see any hint of a face on the coin, but the example in my collection is of such a low grade that it could have rubbed off in circulation. My 1884 coin is in better shape but there is no guarantee that the dies had not been reworked in the intervening years. This coin is so unimportant in the pecking order that I cannot find any high-grade images of it online. If anyone can provide one, please email me at
Just another fascinating tidbit from the Wonderful World of Numismatics.
Archives International Auctions, Part XVII
Rare U.S. & Worldwide Banknotes, Scripophily, Security Printing Ephemera,
Further Selections From the Hamtramck Collection & Part 1 of the Scarsdale Collection of Modern African Banknotes
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Lot 102 Banco de Quito. 5 Pesos. 1880. Pick #S242 Unlisted as issued note
Lot 704 Essay Proof of Merchants National Bank of Chicago - a rare essay proof of original issue national banknote
Lot 394 Central African Republic, 5000 Francs, P-11
Lot 837 Crescent Mutual Insurance Co., ca.1850's Specimen Stock Certificate
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