The Ten Centimes coin is currently the second smallest circulating denomination of the Swiss Franc after the Five Centimes (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 10 Rappen coin, but the English-language publications of the Swiss National Bank and Swissmint prefer the term 10 centimes.
This first version of the 10 centimes / rappen coin was designed by Carl Friedrich Voigt of the Munich Mint (then Royal Bavarian Mint). On the obverse it featured 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 oak branches. The reverse shows the value (only a numeral, no text) within a wreath of oak branches. This original reverse has remained unchanged and is still used on current coins.
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 (3 grams). The second version is still current, and the earliest of these coins are the oldest in the world legal tender still circulating.
This version was lighter (2.5 grams) and made of billon (an alloy with a very low quantity of silver), the composition of which varied through the years: 10% silver, 55% copper, 25% zinc, 10% nickel (1850, 1851), 5% silver, 85% copper, 5% zinc, 5% nickel (1871 - 1873), 10% silver, 65% copper, 15% zinc, 10% nickel (1875, 1876). 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).
The first version was issued until 1876 and was demonetised on 30th June 1886.
The obverse 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 oak branches. Around above is the legend HELVETIA. Around below, the date: [year].
There are two privy marks; to the left of the shield, a bee, the privy mark of baron Alfred Renouard de Bussière - director (mint master) of the Strasbourg Mint; to the right, a greyhound head looking right, privy mark of Jean-Jacques Barre, the chief engraver of the Paris Mint.
The reverse shows the value 10 (only a numeral, no text) within a wreath of oak branches. This original reverse has remained unchanged since 1850 to present.
The mint mark is under the ribbon tying the wreath: BB for the Strasbourg Mint in 1850 and 1851, B for the Bern Mint later.