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Chadís coinage introduced rather recently
By Mark Benvenuto, WCN
May 05, 2014

This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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While all parts of the world are arguably as old as all other parts, geologically speaking, all countries are certainly not. Some nations, such as China, can lay claim to an ancient history. Others, like the newly separated Czech Republic and Slovakia, are much more recent political entities. One nation that the folks at Rand McNally always slap onto the map, but what is really much more complex than any lines on a map can show, is Chad.

The modern nation of Chad has its origins in the year 1885 and the city of Berlin – believe it or not. That was the year that a gathering of European leaders basically carved up all of Africa and laid down a series of ground rules that established how one nation or another could lay claim to a particular territory. With a set of rules in place, the race was on for the land, and all the perceived riches of sub-Saharan Africa.

The French were the ones to lay a successful claim to Chad, as part of what was then called French Equatorial Africa. This confederation of four states was established in 1910, and ran from the southern boundary of Libya to the Congo River. The southern part of the then territory was thought to be rich in various minerals and in ivory, the large but very shallow body of water now called Lake Chad was thought to be rich in exotic aquatic life, and the much less populated north also held the promise of mineral wealth.

This then is where a collector can lay his or her first claim when it comes to collecting any coinage of Chad, with the coins of French Equatorial Africa, or even with those of the neighboring French West Africa.

Now, it’s not that there was no specific coinage for Chad prior to this. Trade and commerce certainly was going on, but it was a mixture of barter, and trade coins such as the Maria Theresa thaler that made it happen. The reason for this barter style economy is because the peoples of modern Chad represent a diverse group. In the news today, one can be forgiven for thinking that Chad is conveniently divided into a Muslim north and a Christian south. It’s what the reporters and the news agencies tell us. But Chad is far more than that. In actuality, there are about 200 different ethnic groups in Chad – which probably goes a long way to explaining why there was really no specific, unifying coinage for the area prior to the French moving in – or unifying anything, for that matter.

For a collector today, the coinage of French Equatorial Africa can be quite collectible and affordable. It’s probably no surprise that a system was put in place by the French government which encompassed 100 centimes making up one franc. What might be something more of a surprise is just how much of this early coinage was made of aluminum. The reason this is surprising is that a method for the production of cheap aluminum – now called the Hall-Heroult Process – was only invented and patented in 1887, making aluminum a relatively new metal when it came to its use in coinage and other large-scale concerns.

The coins of French Equatorial Africa were issued in 1942 and 1943 and again in 1948. They span from the little 5 centimes all the way up to the aluminum 2-franc pieces. There are three different one-franc coins to hunt down, the brass pieces of 1942 which sport the Gallic rooster on the obverse, as well as the 1943 version, and the aluminum pieces of 1943, which show a female figure wearing a winged cap, the representation of the French Republic.

All of these were minted in large numbers, which makes collecting them today just an exercise in finding them, and not really too much of an expense. Some may even be found in dealer bargain bins.

We mentioned the coinage of French West Africa, and do so again to point out the similarities of the designs, especially of the one-franc and two-franc coins. If it seems like there is too little there to make a hefty collection of French Equatorial African pieces, a person can always add the French West African pieces as well. Once again, because several of these are aluminum, the prices are quite inexpensive.

Unfortunately, when the French pulled out and recognized Chadian independence in 1960, many of the 200 ethnic groups we just mentioned let their ancient animosities rise to the surface and went at each other with a vengeance. They had not gotten along traditionally and had kept something of a peace under the French. But as a newly free nation, and armed with modern weapons from the developed world, there was nothing to stop different groups from simply trying to massacre each other.

It was 1970 before any form of Chadian government got around to issuing national coins, and those for 1970 were a series of commemoratives of the 10th anniversary of independence. The total number produced was pretty small, with the silver 100-franc coin coming in at 975 pieces, and the much larger 20,000-franc gold piece totaling 4,000 coins. Assembling a full set of these commemoratives would be a fun challenge and would include 10 coins, five in silver and five in gold.

First, the silver. Such an assembly would start with the 100-franc piece, which sports Robert Kennedy on the obverse (no kidding). Second, a silver 200-franc piece with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on it. Third, another 200-franc piece, this time honoring President Charles de Gaulle. Fourth, a further 200-franc piece, this one honoring Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Fifth, a somewhat larger 300-franc piece sporting President John F. Kennedy’s face.

Sixth, a gold 1,000-franc coin honoring Major Amedee-Francois Lamy, the French officer in command at the Battle of Kousseri in 1900, who was killed in the fighting (for decades after, the capital city of Chad was named Fort Lamy, in his honor). Seventh, a 3,000-franc gold piece honoring Felix Adolphe Eboue, who was governor-general of Chad during much of the Second World War, and who was the first African to rise to such high rank. Eighth would be a 5,000-franc gold piece honoring French General Philippe Leclerc de Hauteclocque. Ninth, a rather large 10,000-franc gold piece also honoring De Gaulle. And tenth, a truly huge 20,000-franc gold piece (weighing in at 70 grams) honoring Francois Tombalbaye, who holds the title of the first president of Chad, but who was also considered a dictator, and who was assassinated by the Chadian military in 1975.

For those of us who are interested in the history and politics of this far off and far flung land, but who do not have the chunk of cash needed to land the five different gold pieces we’ve just seen, in 1971 there was an issue of 100-franc coins, made of nickel, that qualifies as downright common today. The obverse shows three of a type of central African antelope, the addax of the Sahara, and the reverse simply has the denomination surrounded by the words “Banque Centrale” and the date. As with many countries, these were not made every year, but there are enough that were issued from 1971 until the 1990s that a person could have some fun collecting them all.

In 1985 a copper-nickel 500-franc piece was issued, again in large enough quantities that adding one to a collection is not going to be too costly.

Chad uses the Central African CFA franc, which is a monetary arrangement shared by six former French colonies and guaranteed by the French government.

Chad has continued to have problems maintaining a steady government. The man who was in power when the 500-franc piece was minted, President Hissene Habre, has been in exile in Senegal for over a decade, and has made the news recently because even though he is in exile, he may be arraigned and tried in the World Court for crimes against humanity. Over a million Chadians might have been tortured and killed by his security forces during his years in power. The United Nations does not consider the situation today to be all that much better.

However bad the political situation is though, some form of money is almost always in use. Shortly after the turn of the millennium, Chad did come out with a set of 500-franc and 1,000-franc commemoratives that spanned quite an array of themes. World Cup football features prominently on a few, although there are several other designs as well. None are too costly today.

Even more recently, in 2003 there was an entire series produced for the union of countries known as the Central African States, which starts with a small 1-franc coin and goes as high as a 500-franc piece. The year 2006 saw a second set issued. All are in base metals like aluminum, nickel or steel, which means that all are very inexpensive.

Additionally, in 2005 Chad issued a 1,500-franc piece that shows the image of a manila on it – a traditional torque-shaped metal trade bracelet used in Central Africa for hundreds of years. This coin is part of a series issued by the African Development Bank, which is made up of several countries including Chad. A collection of these would not be expensive, because they are so new.

The modern nation of Chad has a relatively short but extremely tumultuous history. Finding and collecting the coins of this struggling nation might prove to be a wonderful way to connect with a distant land.

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