Online Coin Club / Home / General Information / List of Currencies / Assignat

Information about currency: Assignat

Currency nameAssignat
CountryFrance, First Republic
Dates1789 - 1796
System

Description

Assignat was a type of a monetary instrument used during the time of the French Revolution, and the French Revolutionary Wars.

Assignats were paper money issued by the National Assembly in France from 1789 to 1796, during the French Revolution. Backed by the value of properties formerly held by the Catholic Church, the assignats were immediately a source of political controversy. While their proponents, like other eighteenth-century advocates of "land banks," argued that land was a more stable source of value than was gold or silver, the assignats' opponents saw them as based on an illegitimate seizure of property.

Originally meant as bonds, the assignats were re-defined as legal tender (assignats-monnaie) in April 1790 to address the liquidity crisis provoked by the political, social, and cultural instability of the Revolution. When the cost of reimbursing Old Regime venal office holders for their properties (judgeships, military ranks etc.) added yet more to the Revolution's inherited debts, the National Assembly voted by a narrow margin to issue additional assignats (Sept. 1790).

After the outbreak of war, the fall of the monarchy, and the declaration of a Republic, the National Convention mandated that bills and coins exchange on par, but this law could never be enforced. Instead, the assignats continued depreciating. Rising prices and food shortages exacerbated public unrest. Bills such as the Maximum Price Act of 1793 aimed to address this situation. The Thermidorian Convention lifted the Maximum Price Act in the name of "economic freedom" and the assignats lost almost all value over the next year. In 1796, the Directoire issued Mandats, a currency in the form of land warrants to replace the assignats, although these too quickly failed.

Napoleon opposed all forms of fiat currency. By the 1830s-1840s, the assignats and other papers issued during the Revolution had become collectors' items.

Currency Assignat was used:
Country From To
France, First Republic Assignat 1789 1796