The Great War Series of commemorative coins from Monnaie de Paris(the French Mint) is now in it's third year of issue and has just released the latest silver and gold coins in the series commemorating Verdun and the Sacred Way.
The Great War(Grand Guerre)series began in 2014 to mark the centenary of the First World War. Rather than focus on the new machines of war that so came to dominate the largest war the world had ever seen until that point in history. Or even the great battles that have become so synonymous with World War I, the series instead chooses to put a human face to the conflict. The themes and designs shine a light on the experiences of the men and woman who were directly affected by the war.
The focus of this coin falls on a mail exchange program that proved extremely popular during the First World War. The voluntary program would see a “marraines de guerre” or “war godmother” correspond directly with a given soldier in order to lend moral support.The program was meant to prevent the emotional and psychological deterioration during the harsh combat conditions and keep the troops in good spirits.
Many of the recipients of this program fought in the battle of Verdun on the western front. The Battle of Verdun was one of the largest and fiercely contested battles of World War I. The battle was contested between German and French forces between February and December of 1916. There is no concise number available but most historians agree that there were approximately 700 000 casualties during the Battle of Verdun's 299 days of battle.
The “Voie Sacrée” or the Sacred Way is a 72km(45mi) road between Verdun in the north and Bar-le-Duc in the south, and a crucial supply link for the French Army. The road was the only reliable means to transport goods, munitions, men and mail to Verdun. At the hight of the conflict a truck would pass on the road every 14 seconds to keep the front-lines supplied.
The reverse design depicts a “war godmother” sitting at a writing desk, busy writing a letter to her 'adopted' solder. To the left of the woman are represented cornflower and a poppy, these are the symbols for French and Commonwealth veterans. The reverse legend is inscribed in a circle along the rim and reads: “LES MARRAINES DE GUERRE – VERDUN – 1916-2016”.
To illustrate the connection between the “marraines de guerre” or war godmothers at home and the soldiers on the front-lines, the letter flows off to the right of the coin on the reverse and can be seen again entering from the left of the obverse. The letter , that resembles a scroll, follows the line of trucks along the Sacred Way until it ends in the lap of a resting soldier.
The obverse depicts a seemingly endless line of supply trucks on the Sacred Way, snaking off into the distance on the left. To the top right are three soldiers in the trenches of Verdun. To the bottom right is a soldier clearly taking solace in a letter he had just read. The coins denomination appears to the to left of the obverse design.
True to form Monnaie de Paris has released three coins for the above design. The first is a crown sized silver 10 Euro coin struck from .900 Fineness silver. The proof coin measures 37mm(1.45) for a total of 22gram(0.7oz). A total mintage of 5000 coins has been announced for the silver 10 Euro coin. At the time of writing the French Mint was releasing these coins at €55.00(US$62) each.
The second coin is a proof 50 Euro gold coin. The 22mm(0.86inch) is produced using .920 Fineness gold and weighs 8.45gram(a little over 1/4oz). A special mintage of 1916 coins have been struck. The gold 50 Euro coins are being offered for €505.00(US$571.23) each.
The final coin in the trio is 1oz pure gold proof coin with a face value of 200 Euros. The coin features the same design as the two coins described above in 37mm of .999 Fineness gold. Only 500 of the 1oz coins have been minted. The low mintage coin is being offered by the French Mint for €2000.00(US$2262.00) a piece.
The First World War raged from 1914 until it's conclusion in 1919, so collectors of this series should have at least a few more years of interesting coins to look forward to from Monnaie de Paris' Great War Series.