Thuan D. Luc
Dai nam Hoa Te Do Luc, Albert Schroeder, Paris 1905.
Histoire monétaire des Colonies Francaise, E.Zay, Paris 1892.
Monnaies Francaises, Colonies 1670-1942, V.G, numismate, Versailles 1942.
Quan dan Viet Nam chong Tay xam, Quan Xu 3, Bo Tong Tham Muu Quan Luc VNCH.
Viet Su: Xu dang trong, Phan Khoang.
Tu lieu 'Tien Te Viet Nam, tap Tien Dong Duong', Luc Duc Thuan (chua xuat ban).
Tu lieu 'Tien Te Viet Nam, tap Tien co trieu Nguyen', Luc Duc Thuan (chua xuat ban).
Standard catalog of World coin, 19th century edition, Krause publications.











The European commercial ships came to Viet Nam for commerce from 17th century during the conflict between Trinh and Nguyen Lords. Foreign coins, local pieces of "sou", zinc coins were utilized in business. When realizing Viet Nam is abundant in its resources, the French want to occupy it because of their savage ambition. After Saigon lost to the French in 1859, the Bank of Indochina was founded. The French gradually replaced the foreign coins, pieces of "sou", ingots of gold by Indochinese money to mark France's domination over the Indochina peninsula consisting of colony of Cochinchina, protectorates of Annam and Tonkin, Cambodia, and Laos.

In 1875, the French brought their 1 centime coins and had them punched with hole at a Navy arsenal in Saigon. This coin was named sapeque and intended to replace all Viet Nam coins. Since the rate of exchange was not clear and lucrative, the centime was not preferred by the local people. In 1879, the French produced a series of new coins to be used in Cochinchina. The word COCHINCHINE FRANCAISE (French Cochinchina) was printed on all the coins. They were composed of:

10 cent, 20 cent, and 50 cent silver coins, with picture of a seated lady wearing crown symbolized of the republic of France.
1 cent bronze coins, with centered rectangular hole and Chinese BACH PHAN CHI (one percentage). It looked like a playing card thus local people called it XU LA BAI (one-cent playing card coin).
The sapeque was casted again with many new models made of brass, valued 1/5 of 1 cent. It was larger than the centime, with centered square hole, and in Chinese - FRENCH ANNAM DAI PHAP QUOC CHI AN NAM and DANG NHI.

In 1885, the first 1 piastre silver coin was made, weighted 27.2156 gram and pure silver of .9000 fine, after the design of the Republic Lady.

In 1905, the French issued another model of sapeque to North Viet Nam to replace all bronze coins but without success. On one side of the coin, the words PROTECTORAT DU TONKIN and on the other side, the Chinese LUC BACH PHAN NHAT CHI THONG BAO indicating the value of this piece was 1/600 of 1 piastre.


At the end of 1885, all coins from sapeque to piastre were imprinted with the sign of INDO-CHINE FRANCAISE instead of COCHICHINE FRANCAISE so they could be used in entire Indochina. The production of Indochina sapeque was stopped in 1903. Their values were declined since WW1 and the silver content in the coin were continuously reduced. The first 20 cent coin weighs 5.4331 gram with pure silver of .9000 fine. The last ones weighs 5.400 gram with pure silver.6800 fine. A number of coins with new style were made to replace the old ones.

In 1895, the 1 cent brass coins with symbol of France and Chinese BACH PHAN NHAT CHI (1/100 of a piastre).
In 1923, the 5 cent bronze/nickel coins with symbol of France wearing wreath of olive branches.
In 1931, the 1 piastre silver coins weighing 20 gram and pure silver of .9000 fine, with symbol of France wearing olive wrath.
In 1935, the 1/2 cent brass coins with Liberty hat and letters RF.


During WW2, Paris was occupied on June 66 1940 which caused trouble on politics and economics in Indochina. Communication with France was interrupted and under the Japanese oppression in every aspect, the Indochinese government changed the coins several times to mark new phases. The coins produced in this era were:

In 1939, 10 cent and 20 cent brass/nickel coins, with symbol of France holding a branch of rice on the front, and picture of a bunch of rice branches on the back.
In 1940, 1 cent bronze coins, with picture of a Phrygian hat (bonnet phrygien= a red hat appeared in French Revolution).
In 1943, 1 and 5 cent aluminum coins, with the words ETAT FRANCAISE.
In 1943, 1/4 cent bronze coins, with the words ETAT FRANCAISE.


The world war ended; the Japanese surrendered; the French followed the Allied forces to disarm the Japanese in order to return to Viet Nam. The Franco-Vietnamese war started again and the struggle for Viet Nam independence grew stronger and stronger. In 1945, the French government in Indochina issued a new metal coins made of cheaper material. The coins of Indochina increasingly lost value.

The 5, 10, and 20 cent aluminum coins, with the same design of bunch of rice branches as of 1939.
1 piastre bronze/nickel coins, also with the design of a bunch of rice branches.
50 cent bronze/nickel coins, with the picture of Republic Lady.


After the world war, the French economics was exhausted while the battlefield of Indochina became raging. France wanted to mollify the high tide of struggle for Viet Nam independence by using politics rather than military forces. The Ha Long Agreement was signed followed by the Auriol-Bao Dai Agreement in 1949. According to these two agreements, France should recognize the independence and unification of Viet Nam with a condition that Viet Nam would join the French Union. The coins were again changed their names.
In 1953, the National Institute of Issue of Cambodia, Laos, and Viet Nam produced 3 kinds of new coins made of aluminum: 10, 20, and 50 cent with picture of 3 Vietnamese girls representing North, Central, and South Viet Nam. On one side of the coins were the words QUOC GIA VIET NAM. On the other side, a picture of a bunch of rice branches on the 10 and 20 cent coins; a picture of a dragon on the 50 cent coins. The "3 girl" coins were in use until the French's defeat at Dien Bien Phu and withdrawal from Viet Nam in 1954, after a few year of the foundation of the first republic of Viet Nam.

Thuan D. Luc