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Helvetia Head (Vreneli) 20 Swiss Francs Gold Coin

The Vreneli gold coin is the informal name of a series of gold coins made in Switzerland. The coin is known by several names, formally as Helvetia Head (English) Tête d’Helvetia (French) or Helvetiakopf (German). Colloquially it is also known as Vreneli, Helvetia, Swiss Miss or simply as a gold 20 Swiss franc. The Vreneli is a gold coin, but it also has numismatic adherents.

The coins were issued between 1897 and 1936, in 1947 and in 1949. The coin was no longer legal tender in 1936 and all coins issued after 1936 have been restriked.

The series consisted of coins of 10, 20 and 100 Swiss francs. The 20 franc is by far the most popular. The 100 franc coin was only made in 1925 with a small mintage of 5000. Approximately 61 million coins were produced in the series.

All coins were made in 90% gold (900 millesimal fineness).

The obverse shows the head of a young lady with simply the words ‘HELVETIA’ written above. The female figure has braided hair and her shoulders are covered with a garment. In the background are the Swiss mountains.

The reverse of the 20 franc coin shows the Swiss shield, with the Swiss cross, and a wreath of oak wood tied with ribbons, along with the denomination on the left (in this case 20) and the currency on the right (FR for Swiss francs).

One coin, many names

The design was by Fritz Ulysse Landry in 1895 and it is believed that the model for the obverse was Françoise Engli.

The coin is known as Helvetia because of the single inscription on the obverse. Helvetia is the female national personification of Switzerland, officially Confœderatio Helvetica, the Swiss Confederation. Helvetia is also a variation of the official Latin name of Switzerland.

However, the name Vreneli is derived from Verena, another personification of the Confederation of Switzerland in the female effigy (similar to the American Lady Liberty). This is why the coins are sometimes popularly referred to as Swiss Miss.

The coins were minted at the Swiss Mint in Bern (although the die was engraved at the Paris Mint). The coins bear a mintmark of a “B” (without dot) for Bern. The restrikes have a mintmark of “L”.

The 20 franc coin specification is:

  • Diameter: 21mm

  • Thickness: 1.25mm

  • Weight: 6.45 g, so the gold content is 5.805 g or 0.1866 oz

The 10-franc coin weighs 3.23 g and has 2.9 g of pure gold.

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