Belgian 20 Franc
Grade Range: XF/AU
Minted 1867 - 1882
Actual Gold Content: .1867 troy ounce
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If one takes the time to contrast the computerized replication of modern currencies at little or no cost with the old world elegance, solidity and beauty of these Belgian 20 Franc gold coins, the argument for gold ownership makes itself. The "Leopold" invokes a simpler time when the long-term purchasing power of the national money was not an issue and the great nations of the world forthrightly made their money from gold. The saver knew that 20 francs deposited would translate to the same 20 francs in value when withdrawn.
The Belgian 20 Franc gold coins were minted to the Latin Monetary Union standard of .1867 ounces per coin, to facilitate cross border trade with the 20 Franc issues of other countries at that time (France, Switzerland, Italy, etc.). The obverse shows Leopold II facing right. On the reverse is the Belgian coat of arms, and the inscription, "L' Union Fait La Force" or "The Union Makes Strength". Belgian 20 Francs are slightly harder to come by than the more common French issues of the era, but still trade at very favorable premiums given their age and state of preservation.
Leopold II, whose portrait this coin bears, ruled Belgium from 1869 until his death in 1909. Leopold believed that establishing overseas colonies was the key to a country's success, and he worked tirelessly to acquire colonial territory on the behalf of Belgium. Receiving little support from the Belgian government or the Belgian people, Leopold formed a private holding company to pursue his colonial interests. In 1879, Leopold hired the famous explorer Henry Morton Stanley to establish a colony in the Congo region of Africa. At the Berlin Conference in 1885, representatives from the United States and European countries recognized Leopold as sovereign of the Congo Free State, an area roughly 75 times the size of Belgium. History does not look kindly on Leopold's actions from this point forward, as the King exploited horribly both the people and the land in the Congo region. Though he generated substantial personal wealth through the procurement of rubber and ivory, the Belgian parliament ultimately forced him to cede the land to his country in 1908.