Collecting: French Billets de Nécessité

The Billets de Nécessité issued in France around the time of WWI have many similarities with the English tokens previously discussed on this blog. Local governments issued small currency notes to compensate for a shortage in nationally issued bills.  The billet most known by lace collectors was issued by the Chambre de Commerce du Puy in three denominations; 1 Fr, 50c and 25c. They all bear the date 10 Octobre 1916. All have a seated Le Puy lacemaker at the left hand side. Note the three different colors.

Three notes issued in 1916 by Le Puy en Velay. Each measures 3-3/4″ x 1-3/8″, although the 25c note is very slightly larger.  Regularity of the cut retangular shape varies a lot. They are not marked with an expiration date.

The Le Puy lacemaker billet is the most famous for lace collectors, but it is not the only one with a lace subject. Alençon also issued two billets dated August 10, 1915, each with a border of Alençon lace on one side. I have not been able to find any reference to the Alençon billets in any lace-related literature.

Alençon billets, both dated August 10, 1915. The 1 fr note measures 4-5/16″ x ~3-11/16″, and bears an expiration date of December 31, 1923.  The 50c note is much smaller, measuring 3-3/4″ x !2-5/16″.  It expired December 31, 1920.

There is a possible third billet, also issued by Le Puy and dated October 10, 1916. It came in two denominations, 1 fr and 50c. I’m not certain about this one – the background may have a Le Puy guipure pattern, but it is difficult to identify.

The second Le Puy issue, dated October 10, 1916, and both expire October 10, 1920. The 1 fr note is 3-9/16″ x 2-1/16″, the 50c note is 3-1/4″ x 1-3/4″.

A set of postcards has been issued commemorating all the French Billets de nécessité – although I have not been able to find the Le Puy lacemaker one.  The Alençon one is shown below.

One of a series of postcards featuring the WWI French billets. They were issued by B. Sirven, Toulouse-Paris.

Circulated examples of these billets have sold on the Delcampe site usually for under $20, although none were in very good condition. Anyone interested in collecting currency, stamps, or postcards is well advised to become familiar with Delcampe at There is no better place on the net to find this kind of material. Their ‘Paypal-like’ partner is called Moneybookers, although it seems that name will soon change to Skrill.

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