Swiss franc

Swiss franc
Swiss franc
Schweizer Franken (German)
franc suisse (French)
franco svizzero (Italian)
franc svizzer (Romansh)
Banknotes Coins
Banknotes Coins
ISO 4217 code CHF
Official user(s) Switzerland Switzerland
Liechtenstein Liechtenstein
Flag of Campione d'Italia.svg Campione d'Italia (Italy)[2]
Unofficial user(s) Wappen Buesingen am Hochrhein.png Büsingen am Hochrhein (Germany)[1]
Inflation 0.7% (2010)
Source (de) Statistik Schweiz
1/100 Rappen (German)
centime (French)
centesimo (Italian)
rap (Romansh)
Symbol CHF, SFr. (old)
Nickname Stutz (1 CHF coin), 2-Fränkler (2 CHF coin), 5-Liiber (5 CHF coin) (Swiss German), balle(s) (≥1 CHF) thune (=5 CHF) (French)
Plural Franken (German)
francs (French)
franchi (Italian)
francs (Romansh)
Rappen (German)
centime (French)
centesimo (Italian)
rap (Romansh)
Rappen (German)
centimes (French)
centesimi (Italian)
raps (Romansh)
Coins 5, 10 & 20 rappen, ½, 1, 2 & 5 francs
Banknotes 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 & 1,000 francs
Central bank Swiss National Bank
Printer Orell Füssli Arts Graphiques SA (Zürich)
Mint Swissmint

The franc (sign: Fr. or SFr.; German: Franken, French and Romansh: franc, Italian: franco; code: CHF) is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. Although not formally legal tender in the German exclave Büsingen (the sole legal currency is the euro), it is in wide daily use there. The Swiss National Bank issues banknotes and the federal mint Swissmint issues coins.

The Swiss franc is the only version of the franc still issued in Europe. The smaller denomination, a hundredth of a franc, is a Rappen (Rp.) in German, centime (c.) in French, centesimo (ct.) in Italian, and rap (rp.) in Romansh. The ISO code of the currency used by banks and financial institutions is CHF, although "Fr." is used by most businesses and advertisers; some use SFr.; the Latinate "CH" stands for Confoederatio Helvetica.

Given the quadrilingual populace, Latin is used for language-neutral inscriptions on the coins.



Before the Helvetic Republic

Before 1798, about 75 entities were making coins in Switzerland, including the 25 cantons and half-cantons, 16 cities, and abbeys, resulting in about 860 different coins in circulation, with different values, denominations and monetary systems.[3]

The local Swiss currencies included the Basel thaler, Berne thaler, Fribourg gulden, Geneva thaler, Geneva genevoise, Luzern gulden, Neuchâtel gulden, St. Gallen thaler, Schwyz gulden, Solothurn thaler, Valais thaler and the Zürich thaler.

Franc of the Helvetic Republic, 1798–1803

In 1798, the Helvetic Republic introduced a currency based on the Berne thaler, subdivided into 10 batzen or 100 rappen. The Swiss franc was equal to 6¾ grams pure silver or 1½ French francs.[4]

This franc was issued until the end of the Helvetic Republic in 1803, but served as the model for the currencies of several cantons in the re-formed Swiss Confederacy. For these cantonal currencies, see Aargau frank, Appenzell frank, Basel frank, Berne frank, Fribourg frank, Geneva franc, Glarus frank, Graubünden frank, Luzern frank, St. Gallen frank, Schaffhausen frank, Schwyz frank, Solothurn frank, Thurgau frank, Ticino franco, Unterwalden frank, Uri frank, Vaud franc and Zürich frank.

Franc of the Swiss confederation, 1850–

Although 22 cantons and half-cantons issued coins between 1803 and 1850, less than 15% of the money in circulation in Switzerland in 1850 was locally produced, with the rest being foreign, mainly brought back by mercenaries. In addition, some private banks also started issuing the first banknotes, so that in total, at least 8000 different coins and notes were in circulation at that time, making the monetary system extremely complicated.[5][6]

In order to solve this problem, the new Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 specified that the Federal Government would be the only entity allowed to make money in Switzerland. This was followed two years later by the first Federal Coinage Act, passed by the Federal Assembly on 7 May 1850, which introduced the franc as the monetary unit of Switzerland. The franc was introduced at par with the French franc. It replaced the different currencies of the Swiss cantons, some of which had been using a franc (divided into 10 batzen and 100 rappen) which was worth 1½ French francs.

In 1865, France, Belgium, Italy, and Switzerland formed the Latin Monetary Union, wherein they agreed to value their national currencies to a standard of 4.5 grams of silver or 0.290322 grams of gold. Even after the monetary union faded away in the 1920s and officially ended in 1927, the Swiss franc remained on that standard until 1936, when it suffered its sole devaluation, on 27 September during the Great Depression. The currency was devalued by 30% following the devaluations of the British pound, U.S. dollar and French franc.[7] In 1945, Switzerland joined the Bretton Woods system and pegged the franc to the U.S. dollar at a rate of $1 = 4.30521 francs (equivalent to 1 franc = 0.206418 grams of gold). This was changed to $1 = 4.375 francs (1 franc = 0.203125 grams of gold) in 1949.

CHF vs Euro (top) and U.S. Dollar (bottom) from June 2003 to 2006. CHF/EUR relatively stable compared to CHF/USD.

Between mid-2003 and mid-2006, the franc's exchange rate with the euro was stable at a value of about 1.55 CHF per euro, so that the Swiss franc rose and fell in tandem with the euro against the U.S. dollar and other currencies. In March 2008 the Swiss franc traded above one U.S. dollar for the first time.

The Swiss franc has historically been considered a safe-haven currency with virtually zero inflation and a legal requirement that a minimum of 40% be backed by gold reserves.[8] However, this link to gold, which dates from the 1920s, was terminated on 1 May 2000 following a referendum.[9] By March 2005, following a gold selling program, the Swiss National Bank held 1,290 tonnes of gold in reserves which equated to 20% of its assets.[10]

2011 appreciation

In March 2011 the franc climbed past the US$1.10 mark (CHF 0.91 per U.S. dollar). In June 2011 the franc climbed past US$1.20 (CHF 0.833 per U.S. dollar) as investors sought safety amidst the continuation of the Greek sovereign-debt crisis.[11] Continuation of the same crisis in Europe and the debt crisis in the U.S. propelled the Swiss franc past US$1.30 (CHF 0.769 per U.S. dollar) as of August 2011, prompting the Swiss National Bank to boost the franc's liquidity in an attempt to counter its "massive overvaluation".[12] The Economist argued that its Big Mac Index in July 2011 indicated an overvaluation of 98% over the dollar and cited Swiss companies releasing profit warnings and threatening to move operations out of the country due to the strength of the franc.[13] Demand for francs and franc-denominated assets was so strong that nominal short-term Swiss interest rates became negative.[14]

On 6 September 2011 the SNB set a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 francs to the euro saying "the value of the franc is a threat to the economy",[15] and that it was "prepared to buy foreign currency in unlimited quantities."[16] In response to the announcement the franc fell against the euro, to 1.22 francs from 1.12 francs[17] and lost 9% against the U.S. dollar within fifteen minutes.[18] The intervention stunned currency traders since the franc had long been regarded as a safe haven.[19]

The franc fell 8.8% against the euro, 9.5% against the dollar, and at least 8.2% against all 16 of the most active currencies on the day of the announcement. It was the largest plunge of the franc ever against the euro.[20] The SNB had previously set an exchange rate target in 1978 and maintained it,[clarification needed] although at the cost of high inflation.[21]


Coins of the Helvetic Republic

16 Franken, Helvetic republic, 1800, Gold.

Between 1798 and 1803, billon coins were issued in denominations of 1 rappen, ½ batzen, and 1 batzen. Silver coins were issued for 10, 20 and 40 batzen, with the 40 batzen coin also issued with the denomination given as 4 franken. Gold 16 and 32 franc coins were issued in 1800.[22]

Coins of the Swiss Confederation

In 1850, coins were introduced in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, and 20 rappen and ½, 1, 2, and 5 francs, with the 1 and 2 rappen struck in bronze, the 5, 10, and 20 rappen in billon, and the franc denominations in .900 fine silver. Between 1860 and 1863, .800 fine silver was used, before the standard used in France of .835 fineness was adopted for all silver coins except the 5 francs (which remained .900 fineness) in 1875. In 1879, billon was replaced by cupro-nickel in the 5 and 10 rappen and by nickel in the 20 rappen.[23]

Both world wars only had a small effect on the Swiss coinage, with brass and zinc coins temporarily being issued. In 1931, the size of the 5 franc coin was reduced from 25 grams to 15, with the silver content reduced to .835 fineness. The next year, nickel replaced cupro-nickel in the 5 and 10 rappen.[24]

In the late 1960s, due to their linkage to the devaluing U.S. dollar, the prices of internationally traded commodities rose significantly. A silver coin's material value exceeded its monetary value, and many were being sent abroad for melting, which prompted the federal government to make this practice illegal.[25] The statute was of little effect, and the melting of francs only subsided when the collectible value of the remaining francs again exceeded their material value.[citation needed]

The 1 rappen coin was still produced until 2006, albeit in ever decreasing quantities, but it did not play any great role in the monetary economy in the fourth quarter of the twentieth century (circa 1975 to 2000). People and groups who could justify the use of 1 rappen coins for monetary purposes could obtain them at face value; any other user (such as collectors) had to pay an additional 4 rappen per coin to cover the production costs, which had exceeded the actual face value of the coin for many years. The coin fell into disuse in the late 1970s and early 1980s but was only officially fully withdrawn from circulation and declared to be no longer legal tender as of 1 January 2007. The long-forgotten 2 rappen coin, not minted since 1974, was demonetized 1 January 1978.[24]

1 Swiss franc 1995
Reverse Obverse

The designs of the coins have changed very little since 1879. Among the notable changes were new designs for the 5 franc coins in 1888, 1922, 1924 (minor) and 1931 (mostly just a size reduction). A new design for the bronze coins was used from 1948. Coins depicting a ring of stars (such as the 1 franc coin seen beside this paragraph) were modified from 22 stars to 23 stars in 1983; since the stars represent the Swiss cantons, it was updated to represent the 1979 expansion of the Swiss federation, when Jura seceded from the Canton of Bern and became the 23rd canton.[24]

10 rappen 1879

The 10 rappen coins from 1879 onwards (except the years 1918–19 and 1932–39) have had the same composition, size and design until now (2011) and are still legal tender and found in circulation.[24]

All Swiss coins are language-neutral (at least with respect to Switzerland's four national languages), featuring only numerals, the abbreviation "Fr." for franc, and the Latin phrases "Helvetia", "Confœderatio Helvetica" (depending on the denomination) or the inscription "Libertas" (roman goddess of liberty) on the small coins. The name of the artist is present on the coins with the standing Helvetia and the herder.[26]

In addition to these general circulation coins, numerous series of commemorative coins have been issued, as well as silver and gold coins. These coins are no more legal tender, but can be exchanged for face value at post offices, and at national and cantonal banks.[27] Their material or collector's value equals or exceeds their face value.

Overview of current Swiss coins[28]
Value Diameter
Composition Remarks
5 rappen 17.15 1.25 1.8 Aluminium bronze Made in Cupronickel or pure Nickel until 1980
10 rappen 19.15 1.45 3 Cupronickel Made in current minting since 1879
20 rappen 21.05 1.65 4 Cupronickel
½ franc
(50 rappen)
18.20 1.25 2.2 Cupronickel In silver until 1967
1 franc 23.20 1.55 4.4 Cupronickel In silver until 1967
2 francs 27.40 2.15 8.8 Cupronickel In silver until 1967
5 francs 31.45 2.35 13.2 Cupronickel In silver until 1967 and in 1969, 25g weight until 1930


In 1907, the Swiss National Bank took over the issuance of banknotes from the cantons and various banks. It introduced denominations of 50, 100, 500 and 1000 francs. 20 franc notes were introduced in 1911, followed by 5 franc notes in 1913. In 1914, the Federal Treasury issued paper money in denominations of 5, 10 and 20 francs. These notes were issued in three different versions: French, German and Italian. The State Loan Bank also issued 25 franc notes that year. In 1952, the National Bank ceased issuing 5 franc notes but introduced 10 franc notes in 1955. In 1996, 200 franc notes were introduced whilst the 500 franc note was discontinued.

Eight series of banknotes have been printed by the National Bank, six of which have been released for use by the general public. The sixth series from 1976, designed by Ernst and Ursula Hiestand, depicted persons from the world of science. It has been recalled and replaced and will lose any value on 1 May 2020. As of 2010, a large number of notes from this series have not yet been exchanged, even though they have not been legal tender for more than 10 years; for example, the value of those 500 franc banknotes still in circulation represents 129.9 million Swiss francs.[29]

Some security features (Iriodin digits and Kinegram) of the 20 Swiss francs banknote.

The seventh series was printed in 1984, but kept as a "reserve series", ready to be used if, for example, wide counterfeiting of the current series suddenly happened. When the Swiss National Bank decided to develop new security features and to abandon the concept of a reserve series, the details of the seventh series were released and the printed notes were destroyed.[30]

The current, eighth series of banknotes was designed by Jörg Zintzmeyer around the theme of the arts and released starting in 1995. In addition to a new design, this series was different from the previous one on several counts. Probably the most important difference from a practical point of view was that the seldom-used 500 franc note was replaced by a new 200 franc note; this new note has indeed proved more successful than the old 500 franc note.[31] The base colours of the new notes were kept similar to the old ones, except that the 20 franc note was changed from blue to red to prevent a frequent confusion with the 100 franc note, and that the 10 franc note was changed from red to yellow. The size of the notes was changed as well, with all notes from the 8th series having the same height (74 mm), while the widths were changed as well, still increasing with the value of the notes. The new series contains many more security features than the previous one;[32] many (but not all) of them are now visibly displayed and have been widely advertised, in contrast with the previous series for which most of the features were kept secret.

8th (current) series of Swiss banknotes[33]
Image Value Dimensions Main Colour Obverse Date of issue Remarks
Obverse Reverse
CHF10 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF10 8 back horizontal.jpg 10 francs 126 × 74 mm Yellow Le Corbusier 8 April 1997
CHF20 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF20 8 back horizontal.jpg 20 francs 137 × 74 mm Red Arthur Honegger 1 October 1996
CHF50 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF50 8 back horizontal.jpg 50 francs 148 × 74 mm Green Sophie Taeuber-Arp 3 October 1995
CHF100 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF100 8 back horizontal.jpg 100 francs 159 × 74 mm Blue Alberto Giacometti 1 October 1998
CHF200 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF200 8 back horizontal.jpg 200 francs 170 × 74 mm Brown Charles Ferdinand Ramuz 1 October 1997 Replaces the 500 francs
banknote in the previous series
CHF1000 8 front horizontal.jpg CHF1000 8 back horizontal.jpg 1000 francs 181 × 74 mm Purple Jacob Burckhardt 1 April 1998
These images are to scale at 0.7 pixels per millimeter. For table standards, see the banknote specification table.

All banknotes are quadrilingual, displaying all information in the four national languages. The banknotes depicting a Germanophone person have German and Romansch on the same side as the picture, whereas banknotes depicting a Francophone or an Italophone person have French and Italian on the same side as the picture. The reverse has the other two languages.

When the 5th series lost its validity at the end of April 2000, the banknotes that had not been exchanged represented a total value of 244.3 million Swiss francs; in accordance with Swiss law, this amount was transferred to the Swiss Fund for Emergency Losses in the case of non-insurable natural disasters.[34]

In February 2005, a competition was announced for the design of the 9th series, planned to be released around 2010 on the theme Switzerland open to the world. The results were announced in November 2005, but the selected design drew widespread criticisms from the population.[35]


As of March 2010, the total value of released Swiss coins and banknotes was 49,664.0 million Swiss francs.[29]

Value of Swiss coins and banknotes in circulation as of March 2010 (in millions of CHF)[29]
Coins 10 francs 20 francs 50 francs 100 francs 200 francs 500 francs 1000 francs Total
2695.4 656.7 1416.7 1963.0 8337.4 6828.0 129.9 27,637.1 49,664.0

Combinations of up to 100 usual Swiss coins (not including special or commemorative coins) are legal tender; banknotes are legal tender for any amount.[36]

Reserve currency

The Swiss Franc is used as a reserve currency around the world and is currently ranked rarely 5th or 6th in value held as reserves after the US Dollar, the euro, the Japanese Yen and the pound sterling.

Current exchange rates

Current CHF exchange rates
From Google Finance: AUD CAD EUR GBP HKD JPY USD
From Yahoo! Finance: AUD CAD EUR GBP HKD JPY USD

See also


  1. ^ Swiss franc is widely accepted, although Euro is officially used
  2. ^ Swiss franc is the official currency and Euro is widely accepted.
  3. ^ LaLiberté.ch, (French) La Liberté, 09.01.2009, La fabuleuse histoire du franc suisse.
  4. ^ (French) Loi du 25 juin 1798
  5. ^ Otto Paul Wenger, p. 49–50.
  6. ^ 150 Years of Swiss coinage
  7. ^, Table of currency devaluations in the United States and Europe following the devaluation of the pound in 1931, in Monetary History of Gold: volume 3 — After the Gold Standard
  8. ^, Declaration of the Swiss Government, through the Federal Finance and Customs Department, and the National Bank of Switzerland regarding the purchase and sale of gold, in Monetary History of Gold: volume 3 — After the Gold Standard
  9. ^, Federal Law on Currency and Legal Tender to enter into force on 1 May 2000, Press Release, 12 April 2000. Last accessed 2006-03-02.
  10. ^, Speech by Philipp M. Hildebrand, Member of the Governing Board, Swiss National Bank, 5 May 2005
  11. ^ [1], Swiss Franc Climbs to Record High on Greece Crisis.
  12. ^ SNB Steps Up Franc Fight to Counter 'Massive Overvaluation' Bloomberg Businessweek, 10 August 2011
  13. ^ Francly wrong]
  14. ^ Swiss Short-Term Debt Yields in Negative Territory
  15. ^ Swiss National Bank acts to weaken strong franc BBC News 6 September 2011
  16. ^ Swiss Pledge Unlimited Currency Purchases
  17. ^ Swiss Central Bank In Move To Weaken Franc Sky News September 06, 2011
  18. ^ [2] Franc loses 9% within 15 mins on SNB internvention
  19. ^ Currency traders stunned by SNB intervention
  20. ^ [3] Franc Plunges Most Ever Versus Euro
  21. ^ Swiss draw line in the sand to cap runaway franc
  22. ^ (de) Jürg Richter et Ruedi Kunzmann, Neuer HMZ-Katalog, tome 2 : Die Münzen der Schweiz und Liechtensteins 15./16 Jahrhundert bis Gegenwart, (ISBN 3-86646-504-1)
  23. ^, Mintage figures for Swiss coins as of 1850, status in January 2007.
  24. ^ a b c d, Mintage figures for Swiss coins as of 1850, status in January 2007
  25. ^, 150 Years of Swiss coinage: From silver to cupronickel. Last accessed 2006-03-02.
  26. ^ Visible on the pictures of the Swiss coins
  27. ^, Law on Swiss coins
  28. ^, Circulation coins: Technical data. Last accessed 2006-10-30.
  29. ^ a b c Swiss National Bank,, Monthly Statistical Bulletin February 2010, A2: Banknotes and coins in circulation. Bern, February 2010
  30. ^, Seventh banknote series. Last accessed 2007-09-27.
  31. ^ The global value of those 200 franc notes in circulation in 2000 (5120.0 million francs) was larger than the value of the 500 franc notes in 1996 (3912.30), even when these figures are corrected for the global increase in total value of Swiss banknotes in circulation (+9%). Figures from the Monthly Statistical Bulletin of the Swiss National Bank, January 2006, Op cit
  32. ^ An overview of the security features, Swiss National Bank. Last accessed 19 March 2010.
  33. ^, Eighth banknote series 1995. Last accessed 2007-06-01.
  34. ^, National Bank remits Sfr 244,3 million to the Fund for Emergency Losses, press release of the Swiss National Bank, 4 May 2000. Last accessed 2006-02-26.
  35. ^, New banknotes project, on the website of the Swiss National Bank. Last accessed 2007-09-27.
  36. ^ Art. 3 of the Swiss law on Monetary Unit and means of payment. (German), (French) and (Italian) versions.


  • Lescaze, Bernard (1999) Une monnaie pour la Suisse. Hurter ISBN 2-940031-83-5
  • Rivaz, Michel de (1997) The Swiss Banknote: 1907–1997. Genoud ISBN 2-88100-080-0
  • Wartenwiler, H. U. (2006) Swiss Coin Catalog 1798–2005. ISBN 3-905712-00-8
  • Wenger, Otto Paul (1978) Introduction à la numismatique, Cahier du Crédit Suisse, August 1978 (in French).
  •, 150 Years of Swiss coinage: A brief historical discourse. Last accessed 2 March 2006.
  •; Prägungen von Schweizer Münzen ab 1850 — Frappes des pièces de monnaie suisses à partir de 1850, 2000.
  • Krause, Chester L. and Clifford Mishler (1991). Standard Catalog of World Coins: 1801–1991 (18th ed. ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0873411501. 
  • Pick, Albert (1994). Standard Catalog of World Paper Money: General Issues. Colin R. Bruce II and Neil Shafer (editors) (7th ed.). Krause Publications. ISBN 0-87341-207-9. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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