|Coin Type||Five Francs|
Bronze coins were issued in 1961 in denominations of 1 Franc and 5 Francs; a gold version of the 5 Francs was also issued for collectors. Their design shows bunch of bananas on one side and a copper cross - which was locally used for money in pre-colonial times - on the other. No smaller coins were issued, thus the centimes only existed in theory but not as actual circulating coinage. The issue was never repeated (i.e. this is a one-year type).
These coins circulated for less than two years. The currency was replaced at par by the Congolese franc after the dissolution of the State of Katanga on 21 January 1963.
The obverse design shows a bunch of plantains (a type of cooking bananas, musax paradisiaca-Musaceae plant) within a raised circle. On the rim, around above: KATANGA; the letters A are without legs (like the Greek letter Δ). Symmetrically below, two "Katanga crosses".
The Katanga Cross, also referred to as Baluba Cross, was cast by pouring copper into sand moulds, and was widely used as currency in pre-colonial times.
The reverse design also features a Katanga cross, which is its central motif. To the left, the value and (abbreviated) denomination: 5 FR (for 5 Francs). On two lines above right, BANQUE NATIONALE (for the Banque Nationale du Katanga); as on the obverse the letters A are without legs. Below the cross, the date 1961.
|Reverse Inscription||5 FR BANQUE NATIONALE 1961|
On July 11, 1960, under President Moise Tshombe (1919-1969), the State of Katanga declared its independence from the Republic of Congo-Léopoldville. Shortly after seceding, Katanga sought to introduce its own currency: the Katangese franc. Jean-Baptiste Kibwe (1924-2008), Katanga's Minister of Finance, eventually approached Belgian artist Claude Charlier (1930 -) and requested he design the breakaway state's 1 and 5 franc coins. Charlier, who first arrived in Belgian Congo in 1952 with the Belgian Armed Forces, settled in Elizabethville (now Lubumbashi) after two years of service. There, in what would eventually become the capital of Katanga, the Belgian established a name for himself as both an artist and a professor at the University of Elizabethville (now the University of Lubumbashi). Charlier accepted Kibwe's request, and produced paper designs for both sides of each coin, and three copper models for the common obverse. These were then submitted to President Tshombe, who approved of the designs. Through a representative of the English company Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI), contacts were eventually made with the mint in Birmingham, which agreed to strike the coins.
In an interview with Charlier, Belgian numismatist Leopold Verbist inquired about the design, pointing out that "bananas grow upward and form relatively straight clusters, not toward the bottom and tapering to a point". In response, Charlier explained that he needed to narrow the bottom in order to get the bunch of bananas in the "circle of the coin".
The coins entered limited circulation in 1961, but were withdrawn after Katanga's reintegration into Congo-Léopoldville in 1963. It seems that a significant part of the issue never made it to Africa, as most coins found on the market are in uncirculated state.