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Swiss stars at Heritage

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Superb Swiss ‘Stirnlocke-Vreneli’ pattern 20 francs of 1897-B showing the “frivolous” forelock realized $105,750. Image courtesy

Superb Swiss ‘Stirnlocke-Vreneli’ pattern 20 francs of 1897-B showing the “frivolous” forelock realized $105,750. Image courtesy

A superb example of a rare, 1897-B, “Stirnlocke-Vreneli” pattern for a Swiss 20 francs, KM-Pn39, was on offer at Heritage’s American Numismatic Association World Coins & Ancient Coins Signature Auction. The pattern engraved by Fritz Landry is one of just 12 struck for a proposed Swiss Confederation 20 francs.

It is easily distinguished by its edge lettering in that like the previous Helvetia-type 20 francs it has just 13 stars. The eventual issue had 22 stars. Most famously the archetypal Swiss Miss on the obverse has a loose forelock all a-flutter in the alpine breeze.

The pattern is Fritz Landry’s second version. His first was adjudged too youthful. In the second the lass is more mature, her hair is braided, and there a strand of Edelweiss around her collar. However, her loose forelock was dismissed by the powers-that-be in Bern as “too frivolous.” It had to be tucked away before this design could go into full production.

The new 20 francs was part of an extensive European endeavour to develop a uniform gold currency unit under the Latin Monetary Union.

Post-World War II these 20 francs coins became known as Vreneli-type. The origin of this nickname is unknown although various explanations are available in web-land. It is not the name of either artist or model. The coins were issued between 1897 and 1936 and in 1947 and 1949. All coins issued post-1936 are restrikes.

Graded SP65 by the Professional Coin Grading Service, the present “frivolous” pattern realized $105,750.

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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• The 1800s were a time of change for many, including in coin production. See how coin designs grew during the time period in the Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1801-1900 .

• The Standard Catalog of World Coins, 1901-2000 is your guide to images, prices and information on coinage of the 1900s.