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Questions and answers on coins

In Switzerland, who is allowed to mint and issue coins?

The coin-issuing privilege, i.e. the right to mint coins, is held by the Confederation (art. 99 Federal Constitution). Article 4 of the Federal Act on Currency and Payment Instruments (CPIA) stipulates that the Confederation shall mint regular issue coins. The SNB is then charged by the Confederation with the task of putting the coins into circulation. The SNB offsets seasonal fluctuations in the demand for coins and replaces coins that are unfit for circulation, e.g. damaged. The coins are minted at Swissmint, the Federal Mint (www.swissmint.ch).

Which coins can I use for payment in Switzerland?

The regular issue coins issued by the Confederation are considered as legal tender (art. 2 CPIA). There are 5, 2, and 1-franc coins as well as 50, 20, 10 and 5-centime coins in circulation. Pictures of the coins are available on the Coins webpage. For numismatic use and investment purposes, Swissmint may also mint commemorative coins and bullion coins, as well as special quality regular issue coins. Payments made with up to 100 regular issue coins must be accepted. The SNB and the public cash offices of the Confederation accept regular issue coins, commemorative and bullion coins at nominal value and without restriction (art. 3 CPIA).

How many coins are in circulation?

In 2015, the average number of coins in circulation was 5.4 billion, with a value of CHF 3 billion.

Who decides which coins should be regular issue?

According to art. 4 CPIA, the Federal Council decides which coins are to be minted, put into circulation or withdrawn from circulation. For example, based on the results of the consultation on the ordinance to withdraw 1 and 5-centime coins from circulation, the Federal Council decided in 2006 to withdraw the 1-centime coin, but to keep the 5-centime coin in circulation.

Can coins which are no longer in circulation be exchanged at the SNB?

Regular issue coins withdrawn from circulation can be exchanged at the SNB for their full nominal value for 20 years after the withdrawal date, e.g. 1-centime coins can be exchanged until 31 December 2026. There is no deadline for exchange for coins that have been withdrawn from circulation but which have the same size and face as the coins still in circulation, e.g. silver-coloured 5-centime coins as well as silver coins of 50-centime to 5-franc coins. Such silver coins are still often accepted as a means of payment as they are difficult to differentiate from the coins with a copper-nickel alloy. Other coins which have been withdrawn from circulation lose their value after the statutory period or, at most, may gain collector's value. Further information is available on the Coins webpage.

Does the SNB deal in coins?

Unlike numismaticians, the SNB does not deal in coins that have been withdrawn from circulation or declared worthless. It also refrains from making any estimates or evaluations for collectors. Commemorative coins and complete coin sets can be ordered from Swissmint or purchased in numismatic shops. A list of coin dealers can be found on the Swissmint website (www.swissmint.ch).

Which metals are used to make the coins?

The regular issue coins are made with a copper-nickel alloy. The 5-centime coin also contains some aluminium. The commemorative coins are made out of silver, gold or copper-nickel. The technical specifications of the coins are available on the Coins webpage.

Why are there 5-franc coins with and without sunk relief type around the edges?

From 1985 to 1993, 5-franc coins were minted with sunk relief type around the edges. As an increasing number of counterfeits with sunk relief type around the edges began to appear, a decision was made in 1994 to mint 5-franc pieces with a raised (slightly embossed) relief type around the edges. The 5-franc pieces with sunk relief type around the edges were withdrawn from circulation on 1 January 2004. The SNB continues to exchange them at full nominal value.

Why are the two sides of some coins minted facing in different directions?

Until 1981, the 50-centime to 5-franc coins were minted 'upside down', i.e. the reverse face of the coin was minted at 180 degrees to the front (obverse) face. Since 1982, all coins have been minted 'the right way up', i.e. obverse and reverse sides are both upright, thus improving the presentation of coins in coin sets.

Where can I obtain 1-centime coins?

The 1-centime coins were withdrawn from circulation on 1 January 2007. The SNB has not released any of these coins since. However, they can still be found in numismatic shops. A list of coin dealers can be found on the Swissmint website (www.swissmint.ch).

What is the oldest coin that I can use to make a payment today?

There are 10-centime coins minted in 1879 still in circulation and which are still legal tender.