The Five Centimes coin is currently the smallest circulating denomination of the Swiss Franc, after the One Centime and Two Centimes denominations were demonetised in 2007 and 1978 respectively. Given that Switzerland has four official languages, the sub-unit of the Franc has four different names; it is centime (c.) in French, Rappen (Rp.) in German, centesimo (ct.) in Italian and rap (rp.) in Romansh. Some English-language catalogues call the coin a "5 Rappen" coin, but the English-language publications of the Swiss National Bank and Swissmint prefer the word "5 centimes".
Coins of the 5 centime (Rappen) denomination went through several transformations in their history. This first version of the coin was designed by Carl Friedrich Voigt of the Munich Mint (then Royal Bavarian Mint). On the obverse it features the Swiss Coat of Arms (a rendering quite different from that on the One Centime and Two Centimes denominations released at the same time but designed by Alexander Hutter), on two sheaves of wheat. The reverse shows the value (only a numeral, no text) within a wreath of grape leaves and grapes. This original reverse has remained unchanged and is still used on current coins.
This version was lighter (1.67 grams) and made of billon (an alloy with a very low quantity of silver), the composition of which varied through the years: 5% silver, 60% copper, 25% zinc, 10% nickel (1850, 1851), 5% silver, 85% copper, 5% zinc, 5% nickel (1872, 1873), 5% silver, 65% copper, 20% zinc, 10% nickel (1874 - 1877). For the first two years of its existence, the denomination was struck by the Strasbourg Mint (at that time a branch of the Paris Mint); thereafter it has been issued by the Bern Mint (now Swissmint).
It was issued until 1877; in 1879, the obverse was changed to a design by Karl Schwenzer featuring the effigy of Libertas; the metal was changed to copper-nickel and the coin became slightly heavier (2 grams).
The first version was demonetised on 30th June 1886.