Rare French 1959 Molière 50,000 Franc Banknote on MA-Shops.com

Obverse, France 1959 Moliere 50,000 Franc banknote
Obverse, courtesy Cgb.fr

By Hubert Walker for CoinWeek ….

50,000 Francs MOLIÈRE 1959 FRANCE New Unc


From François Villon to Jean Genet, French culture has long embraced its rebels and non-conformists. One of the greatest is Molière.

Molière (real name: Jean-Baptiste Poquelin) was a French playwright who wrote some of the most renowned comedies in the Western European theatrical canon: The Misanthrope (1666), Dom Juan (1665), The School for Wives (1662), The School for Husbands (1661) and The Imaginary Cuckold (1660), to name a few. But he is perhaps best known for his 1664 play Tartuffe, a scathing indictment of religious hypocrisy.

In fact, Molière’s explorations of hypocrisy in its many forms – and compulsion to épater la bourgeoisie in general – tended to get him in trouble and his plays censored or banned.

The year 1960 saw the revaluation of the French franc after a decade of post-war inflation, and banknotes were redesigned between 1958 and 1960 to reflect this change. A bill denominated in 50,000 “old” francs, for example, was now worth 500 “new” francs. France had begun a series of commemorative circulating banknotes honoring famous French creators and scientists in the late 1950s, and Molière’s banknote was the surprise choice for the first new franc redesign. Apparently, a few bills denominated in 50,000 “old” francs were printed, hence the rarity of this issue.

The Molière 50,000-franc banknote was designed by landscape painter Jean Lefeuvre. It was engraved by noted stamp and banknote engraver Jules Piel and André Marliat.


The obverse features a famous portrait of Molière by Pierre Mignard, painted around 1658. The background features an orchestra pit and attendees at a play being performed at the Palais-Royal in Paris. The inscriptions BANQUE DE FRANCE and the denomination (written out in French as CINQUANTE MILLE FRANCS in the lower left corner) are found in prominent places on the note’s face. A watermark, featuring an effigy of the French actress Armande Béjart (not incidentally Molière’s wife), is found to the right of Mignard’s portrait, surrounded by the signatures of various executives at the Banque de France.

The note’s color scheme is dominated by shades of red, brown and yellow.

Reverse, France 1959 Moliere 50,000 Franc banknote
Reverse, courtesy Cgb.fr


The reverse features a reimagining of Mignard’s portrait with a background based on a 1676 engraving by Jean Le Pautre. Behind Molière, actors perform his last play, The Imaginary Invalid (1673). Readers familiar with Molière know that he died after his fourth performance of the play (he’d been an actor longer than he’d been a playwright), during which he collapsed at least twice but refused to stop the show.

A watermark containing an image of Armande Béjart is located to his left.


Country:  France
Year Of Issue:  1959
Denomination:  50,000 Francs
Material:  Paper
Designer(s):  Jean Lefeuvre / André Marliat / Jules Piel

Security Features:

Watermarks:  Front & Back

This note and others like it–as well as thousands of ancient and modern world coins–are available from Cgb.fr, one of the many well-respected dealers on MA-Shops.com and one of the top numismatic companies in France since its beginnings in 1988. You can check out this banknote by clicking here, or search through the rest of Cgb.fr’s inventory at http://www.ma-shops.com/cgb

About MA Shops

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