This banknote is of interest to lace collectors due to the wonderful engraving of a lacemaker at work on the reverse. The front shows a portrait of the Belgian King Albert I (1875-1934, reigned 1909-1934), and Queen Elisabeth (1876-1965), along with a watermark of the king’s profile. Even though King Albert died in a mountaineering accident in 1934, his portrait continued to be used until the end of WWII.
The 1000 frank/200 belga note was issued yearly from 1927 to 1943, with the date engraved at the front top. Below are shown examples from 1934, 1939, 1941 and 1943. (Note the slight change in engraving in 1941.) The first example from 1926 is for 1000 francs, with a blue color and a little different background to the main engraving. This illustrates that the basic design was in use for the 1000 frank note a year before Belgium developed the belga in 1927. The first frank/belga notes also seem to have been backdated to 1926, although I have not been able to find an example.
A series of four 1000 frank/200 belga notes issued in different years from 1927 to 1943, along with a 1926 1000 frank example. I’ve tried to collect examples in as good condition as possible. The plates held up well, with minor color variations, although wear seems evident by 1943. They all measure approximately 5-1/4″ x 8-3/4″.
This history of currency values during this time is complex, and covers a critical period from the aftermath of WWI through WWII. France and Belgium needed funds to rebuild following the devastation of WWI, funds which were expected from Germany, but slow in coming (one of the many factors contributing worldwide to the Great Depression). In 1926, these countries experienced depreciation and an abrupt collapse of confidence, leading to the introduction of a new gold standard currency for international transactions. A new unit called the ‘belga’ was introduced, worth 5 francs. The belga was tied to the British pound at a rate of 35 belgas (175 francs) = 1 pound and was thus put on a gold standard of 1 belga = 209.211 mg fine gold (13.9 cents in 1927 or $8.24 in 2010 dollars).
In 1935, the Belgian franc was devalued by 28% to 150.632 mg fine gold. The US had abandoned the gold standard in 1933, so the conversion based solely on gold values is no longer valid for this period. Following Belgium’s occupation by Germany in May, 1940, the franc was fixed at a value of 0.1 Reichsmark, reduced to 0.08 Reichsmark in July, 1940. This is where it gets confusing – the Reichsmark was valued at 40 cents in 1940 and had fallen to 5 cents in 1941. Getting values after this is quite difficult, in fact no one seems to want to commit to a value at all in period between 1941 and 1944. In 1944, the franc entered into the Bretton Woods system, with an initial exchange rate of 43.77 francs = 1 US dollar set on October 5. Following liberation in 1944, a new note printed in England replaced this one. Again, the new issue was backdated to 1943, so there are two different 1000Fr/200Belgas dated 1943.
Below is a graph of belga values in dollars for this period, along with an estimate for what it would have been worth in 1945 if the belgia were still around. I also added two points for 1940/41. Values are taken from http://www.measuringworth.com/datasets/exchangeglobal/. I leave it to the reader to convert these numbers into today’s equivalent currencies.
For today’s collector, uncirculated examples of this note can go as high as 100 euros. One can find a wide range of lower prices depending on condition.
The dubiously redoubtable Franklin Mint managed to cash in on this note, including it in their 1983 collection of fifty “World’s Greatest Bank Notes”… reproduced in sterling silver, albeit somewhat reduced in size.