Author Topic: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island  (Read 3158 times)

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Offline gerard974

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20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« on: August 02, 2010, 04:21:32 PM »
This is a story of a 20 Kreuzer called KERVEGUEN that circulated in Reunion island

http://www.clicanoo.re/La-Reunion/L-histoire-de-la-Reunion/Temoins/la-saga-des-kerveguen-3-la-fumeuse.html

The saga of the Kerveguen family - part 3: the female smoker

Gabriel de Kerveguen, an enterprising business man had his own answer to the monetary crisis of the middle of the XIXe century resulting from the abolition of slavery: to solve the lack of coins, he imported and put in circulation 227 000 pieces of 20 kreutzers (or “zwangziger”) demonetized by the Habsburgs. Some 814 000 were retrieved...

The abolition of slavery in 1848 raises problems for the Kerveguen family to pay the Indian hired to replace the thousand slaves on their fields. They refuse to be paid in banknotes or negotiable notes, in which they do not have confidence. They want to be paid in ringing currency, as they were used to in India. “These Indians, accustomed to the rupees of money of their country, showed themselves rather intransigent on the quality of the currency which one paid them”, wrote André Bernot, manager of the telegraph office, in his article “The case of the Kerveguen, or a very unforeseen incident during the monetary reform of 1879”.

However, there is not much money in the island. Because of the increase in sugar cane production, the Reunionnais produced less and less food and became increasingly dependent on imports. The hired hands want rice, rather than corn, and since there isn't any, it is necessary to import rice. But how? The heterogeneous mass of coins in circulation, will be exhausted or re-exported quickly, since the merchants of India accept neither letter of credit nor commercial drafts on the island of Reunion. As trade of Reunion with India, Madagascar and other countries of the region was one way, it causes a monetary imbalance in the colony. Monetary scarcity is cruelly felt in the “shops” and other commercial transactions.

At the beginning of 1859, Gabriel Coat De Kerveguen goes to Europe with an idea in his head, leaving quite precise instructions for his financial agent in the Reunion Privy Council, the stockbroker Armand Gamin, even before proposing a solution to the Privy Council of the colony. He has learned that the Austrians have withdrawn the kreutzer coins from circulation; they look much like the two French francs, but are thinner and have a lesser weight and silver content. He buys by weight 227 000 coins of 20 kreutzers (called “zwanziger”, from “zwanzig” = twenty) struck with the effigies of the kings and emperors of the Habsburg dynasty reigning between 1755 and 1848, in particular those of empress Maria-Theresa, of Josef II, Franz II and Ferdinand II. On their reverse is the bicephalous eagle surmounted by a crown, symbol of the Holy Roman Empire, the number 20 in a cartouche and the year. According to the Bureau des longitudes, these coins weighed 6,682 grams and contained 57,2 % of silver, 42% copper and 0,8% gold. This small presence of gold is explained by an old and pious habit of believers which is to add a gold ring, cross, chain or medal in the molten metal of church bells. Actually, the weight of these kreutzers varied with the year: 6,315 grams in 1804 and 6,630 grams in 1845.

Accepting a done deal

The cases with these coins precede Gabriel and arrive at the Meeting in June 1859. The customs authorities let them pass without any problem, since they are goods of Mr. Gabriel. At the meeting of the Privy Council of the colony of July 11, 1859, Gamin presents the idea of his employer to make them circulate in the island. Faced with a done deal (the coins already there and are even presented to the Council), the majority of the worthy members do not appreciate this feat of ingenuity and express their violent disapproval, the more so since Mr. Gabriel is not present. Some underline, rightly, that such an authorization concerns the French State and not them. After a tumultuous meeting, Governor Darricau takes the responsibility, as there are guarantees “more than sufficient in the immense fortune of Mr. de Kerveguen”. Indeed, at the time, this fortune is estimated at more than thirty million goldfrancs. A considerable sum, when compared to that of Mrs. Desbassyns (who died in 1846) which at the same time was 1 600 000 francs but, and that, in metropolitan France, except perhaps for Mr. de Rothschild, nobody else had as much money!

On July 20, 1859, the director for Internal Affairs makes issues an announcement which authorizes the introduction of the coins into the island, without determining their value, giving them legal tender status or obliging the agents of the Treasury to accept them. The government of the island does not want to be implied deeper. Three days later, as if all had been foreseen, another announcement, this time of the company of Mr. Gabriel, appears in the newspapers. It informs the public that the coins have the value of their purchase price, i.e. a French franc. We will never know the real price paid in Austria. What we know from an assay is that their real value at the time of putting them in circulation did not exceed 86 centimes. Taking just this into account, the operation will have generated a benefit of 38 590 francs to the Kerveguen enterprise!

Overvalued pieces

The Austrian pieces were therefore overvalued by almost 20% in the island. On some coins, a letter “K” was struck in the reverse with a hammer, the only distinctive sign of the new currency. One should also note that by paying his Malabars, Bengalis and Telingas with his own currency, Kerveguen incited them to spend them in its own stores, where his money is most easily accepted. The Kerveguen coins were a very great success, at first in the South where the main part of the activities of the powerful family was concentrated, later in the rest of the island.

In July, Gabriel returned to Reunion to see how “his” currency was going and to propose other ambitious projects to mitigate the lack of money and to arrange the needs of foreign trade. He is quite controversial for the majority of the members of the Council, who still reproach him his done deal, so he returns almost immediately to France, to defend his ideas directly with the minister, and even the president.

Smart people with money (or the Kerveguens themselves?), realized that they could also make a profit of 20% by importing kreutzers and do it without the authorization of it of the Council. Twenty years after, in 1879, as many as 814 000 coins would circulate in the island! However, for the last six years, France applies a new monetary system in all its territory, except in Reunion, where a rather delicate special situation persists. After much hesitations, a decree is signed on April 2, 1879, which incorporates Reunion in the national system. To his amazement, the paymaster general of the Department of Bouches du Rhone, a Mr Imhaus, representing the Minister of Colonies got wind of the Kerveguen currency while on an official trip to the island to explain this reform. A decree taking effect on May 10 stipulates: the Kerveguen currency will have to be withdrawn from circulation within twenty day. The coins are immediately refused everywhere and depreciated quickly, causing scenes of panic and virulent demonstrations. The police begged the tradesmen to leave their shops open and to accept the kerveguens. The house of the agent of Gabriel is attacked by an angry crowd, which claims refunding. Certain speculators will exchange the coins for… 10 centimes. domestic trade is as good as stopped.

Paralysed Economy

This has without any doubt a terrible blow to the savings of households, and, by extension, to that of the island. This period of uncertainty and distress was prolonged for almost two months by the protests of Kerveguen because of the large difference between the number of pieces he issued (227 000) and of those retrieved (814 000). Thus, during four months (from April at July 1879), the economy of Reunion was almost paralysed. Almost, because Spanish piastres, Indian rupees and other pagodas also circulated in the island.

Of course and logically, the Kerveguen family is responsible only for the number of pieces they issued, but the problem is complex: many colonists built small saving in kreutzers for a long time and at the price of great sacrifices. Not exchanging all of the coins in circulation would rob them of years of work and saving. In view of the impossibility to determine which smart people issued the surplus, the court of Saint-Pierre judges the Kerveguen family responsible for the existence of these coins in the island and requires them, in July 1879, to refund all in circulation. Of course, that causes the greatest protests on behalf of the family, which is obviously taken advantage of. In the end, it makes amends and scrupulously pays for all the coins brought back to the treasure of the Colony, but ill feelings remained with them forever. The affair has not undermined the financial stability of the Kerveguen family: they profited for twenty years of the circulation of their blessed kreutzers. In fact, it was morally justified that the affair should have given a serious blow to the heirs to Gabriel. Much more than this misfortune was necessary to knuckle them under. Kerveguen did wrong and came out the better in an industry where everything appeared well disposed to them. The economic bankruptcy of the island in the first years of the XXth century would separate the descendants of the great Gabriel from their fields after the First World War and make them return to France, where their business interests were more important than those they had in Reunion, even if their sixteen factories and properties in the island were worth… thirteen million goldfranc.

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The doubts of a collector: Michel Chung-Poo-Lun: “Much exaggerated”
Collector Michel Chung-Poo-Lun does not believe that the number of “zwanziger” issued in the island amounts to 814 000. And he wonders what became all these pieces, since they are now impossible to find.

In the Cartesian spirit, Michel Chung-Poo-Lun never believes hearsays. He believes only what can be proven. He reasons like no one else and is extremely wary of theories that lack evidence. Thus, the business of the kreutzers remains a puzzle for him: “The story says that more than 800 000 parts were put in circulation. Kerveguen disputed to have introduced such an enormous number of it. Despite that, he was condemned to exchange all those which circulated, although he agreed to do so (and that is logical!) for only the number which he had issued. And since he was obliged to exchange these, these pieces should have been returned to the State, right? What did the State do with them? 800000 pieces, that represents a total weight of almost 5 tons. That is not nothing! The story does not say what became of them, while they were supposedly held by tradesmen and private individuals.”

The collector also thinks that the number of 814 000 “does not correspond at all to reality. If so, you would still have found some. Because before the abolition of slavery, there were some 62 000 slaves (who were not paid) in the whole colony. (…) I own one of these kerveguens. My piece is counterstamped K which attests that it was put in circulation by Kerveguen. But there was not just one of them, there were many more! I repeat the question: what became of all the other ones?

In the more than fifty years that I am collector, no one has offered one of them, whereas I regularly receive offers for all kinds of other pieces, even those which are regarded as extremely sought after. And even in the few treasures discovered here and there, nobody to my knowledge found a kerveguen. All that tends to show that there was not as many as the story says. (…) Some people say they were molten. OK, but, by whom, for what? To my knowledge, Réunion did not strike new pieces with the metal of these kerveguens.

Not all pieces were offered to the Treasury: why does one finds all kinds of other coins and not those?” Michel Chung-Poo-Lun still asks other questions, to which it also does not find an answer: “How could Kerveguen, a private person, have dealt with a sovereign country like Austria? He cannot have dealt with private individuals for such a large number of pieces. Which private individuals would have kept so many demonetized pieces…? And then, didn't Austria need to melt them to issue other coins? (…) One does not know either how Kerveguen could leave Austria with something so heavy and also bulky. Austria is far from the sea. And it is not obvious either that the country had struck as many pieces, because, it had issued not only the 20 either kreutzer at face value. Another question: with what has Kerveguen paid the pieces he bought? That remains a puzzle, since you will not find the least bit of an answer to this question anywhere…”




The Kerveguen coins

The catalogue of the first and only numismatic exposition in Réunion, now twenty years ago, evokes the Kerveguen coins. Jacky Rickebusch wrote: “To face the ongoing requirements for cash a convention of 1859 authorized lord Coat de K/Veguen to buy and put in circulation the demonetized Austrian coins of 20 kreutzers called zwanziger. The authorization was for 227 000 coins, but probably more were issued, as so many were retrieved... The initial operation was profitable because the pure silver weight, which varied from one year to another (of 1755 to 1848), represented at best 0,83 F. Nevertheless everyone accepted these coins for 1 F. But in 1879, a decree of April 2nd withdrew all the foreign coins which then circulated freely in France and in the colonies. Although this decree was intended to end monetary anarchy, it sowed public disorder. The kreutzers become useless and refused by the tradesmen who lost confidence and closed their shops. The people of modest means felt injured and took to the street. The representative of Mr. K/Veguen agreed to repurchase 227.000 of them. “To calm the situation, the governor changed his position and decided that the kreutzers will be accepted in receipt of tax. After stormy debates, the Conseil General agreed with the repurchase of the coins but they in turn held Coat de K/Veguen responsible; he was eventually condemned to refund the 800 000 coins paid for taxes. To replace the demonetized coins, French coins are introduced: 2 million gold louis, 1,5 million in silver coins of 5 F, 4/5 million small coins. The colonial Treasury, moreover, issued various notes of 50 centimes, 1 F and 2 F…”
« Last Edit: November 02, 2013, 08:36:43 PM by Afrasi »

Offline Afrasi

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2010, 04:23:02 PM »
One of the best stories in numismatics. So I have indeed some pieces of this coin in my Reunion collection. Usually it should be countermarked with a small K. My pieces lack this countermark ...  :'(

Here's one of them:

Offline gerard974

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2010, 05:00:16 PM »
with countermark with a little K i know that is exist but i have never seen from Reunion . In my collection i have two differents 20 Kreusers coins,is a very old person who has give to me,and is his Grandfather who have give to him . I dont think that he is going from Austria for to have "i say i think ???"

Offline Figleaf

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #3 on: August 07, 2010, 04:09:03 PM »
Edited the above article because of its numismatic importance. Any errors in translation are mine.

I don't find Michel Chung-Poo-Lun's doubts very convincing. Some remarks: if Kerveguen was made to reimburse the Treasury of Réunion, he, not the state, would have been the owner of the withdrawn coins. Having a commercial empire, shipping and smelting them would not have caused him great problems. Same thing for the purchase. Kerveguen would have paid with commercial paper, drawn on an Austrian bank. That should have caused no problems for the Austrian states or the Austrian bank, in view of Kerveguen's wealth. No, he probably didn't carry the coins on his back or in his pockets, but he must have known how to ship stuff from any European destination to Réunion, as that was his business.

The most serious argument Michel Chung-Poo-Lun has is that they are so hard to find. Here, I think the circumstances of their withdrawal were important. They were thoroughly discredited, valued at 10 centimes (while they circulated at 100 centimes) and could for a period be offered to the government, i.e. by offering them to the government, their value increased tenfold. That rarely happens. Coins that are withdrawn are usually supplanted by others with less weight or precious metal content, giving an incentive to keep the coins as a small precious metal speculation. Privately issued tokens are most often simply abandoned: they are not redeemed at all. Therefore, there is every incentive, especially if you are poor, to offer the demonetized kreutzers to the government.

Lastly, I am persuaded that the bulk of Kerveguen's imports were not counterstamped. The need to issue them may have been greater than the time and trouble it took to apply the counterstamp. This may also have been why the court decided to make Kerveguen responsible for all the coins: there was no way to distinguish the coins he officially imported from those imported otherwise. Had he counterstamped all the coins, the court may well have decided in his favour.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline Afrasi

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #4 on: August 07, 2010, 09:04:25 PM »
Thanks, Pweter for translating!

Question to Gerard: Which literature exists about Reunion coins?

I use Schön, KM, Lecompte and the catalogue of the 1ère Exhibition Numismatique de la Réunion.

If you know more or better: Please, share with us!

Offline gerard974

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #5 on: August 09, 2010, 05:04:43 AM »
Hi Afrasi
I dont know except like you say Lecompte and exposition numismatique catalogue other catalogue from Reunion . on my island for numismatique we have nothing , no club , no shop , no market just second hand market and on this market is very difficult to find coins
Best regards  Gerard

Offline Afrasi

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #6 on: August 09, 2010, 03:57:29 PM »
Thanks for answering!  :)

Offline gerard974

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #7 on: October 23, 2019, 01:55:15 PM »
Hello
one other history that i have found for the 20 kreutser Kerveguen ,but i am sorry is in french
Best regards Gerard

Le « K » des Kerveguen
Par Olivier Soufflet -7 novembre 2018      0482
 Partager

Frappant leur propre monnaie en 1859, les Kerveguen ont été la dynastie la plus puissante de l’histoire réunionnaise. Ils incarnent l’apogée des grands domaines sucriers. Entreprenants, sans état d’âme, ils bousculent jusqu’aux pouvoirs établis.

« Vous vendez un kreutzer ? » Faussement assoupi sur une chaise, surveillant l’entrée d’une boutique triste aux trois quarts vide, l’homme sursaute et ses yeux s’illuminent. Le visage impassible du boutiquier musulman, en tunique, sandales aux pieds, s’efface un instant, laissant place à celui, passionné, du numismate. Un réflexe de collectionneur : on ne laisse pas passer la chance d’acquérir un kreutzer frappé du « K » des Kerveguen. « C’est une pièce rarissime. Si vous en trouvez un, tenez-moi au courant. Ça m’intéresse… » Les conservateurs de musée tendent eux aussi l’oreille quand le mot « kreutzer » est prononcé. Aucun des musées de l’île n’en possède. La pièce manque au musée historique De Villèle. Il y a quelques années, un conservateur du musée Léon Dierx, à Saint-Denis, croyait que le coffre noir, massif, clouté, datant du Directoire, de son bureau en renfermait un. Mais la lourde clé surgie du passé n’ouvrit que sur une déception.

Si le kreutzer Kerveguen prend des allures de mythe, il en existe d’autres, sans marque, et qui furent les plus nombreux à circuler dans l’île. Ils ont traversé le siècle avec plus de facilité. Les collectionneurs en ont. Celui du directeur de l’une des plus anciennes bibliothèques de la Réunion est placé entre un thaler et une piastre à l’origine romanesque (elle aurait été retirée de l’épave du Saint Gérand dont le naufrage, en 1744 à l’île de France, inspira à Bernardin de Saint-Pierre une scène mémorable de son chef d’œuvre Paul et Virginie).

On dit kreutzer, mais son véritable nom est swanziger, pièce de vingt kreutzers en usage dans l’empire austro-hongrois entre 1755 et 1848. Une petite pièce de vingt-sept millimètres de diamètre. Côté face, quelques profils des maîtres séculaires de l’Europe centrale : l’impératrice Marie-Thérèse, Joseph II, François II, Ferdinand II. Au revers, l’aigle bicéphale surmonté de la couronne, emblème impérial, porte en son centre les armoiries des Habsbourg. La pièce comporte aussi le chiffre 20 dans un cartouche et son millésime.

La seule image accessible de la variante des Kerveguen du kreutzer fut longtemps celle qui figurait dans le catalogue de la première exposition numismatique réunionnaise, présentée en 1983. Sur cette image, le K est frappé transversalement au cœur de l’écusson des Habsbourg. Une marque sans originalité mais qui vaut cher. Le kreutzer Kerveguen n’est pas répertorié dans le Livre des monnaies. Il n’est pas coté. Sa valeur n’a donc aucune référence. Elle ne dépend que d’une chose : la somme qu’un collectionneur serait prêt à sacrifier pour la posséder… « Avec eux, tout est possible » juge l’érudit directeur de bibliothèque, connaisseur du très fermé milieu local des amateurs de livres et de pièces historiques.

Que reste-t-il des deux cent vingt-sept mille kreutzers démonétisés, ramenés d’Autriche et frappés par Gabriel de Kerveguen en 1859 ? Quelques spécimens. Ils sonnent comme un écho prémonitoire de déclin pour cette dynastie, la plus puissante de l’histoire de l’île. Où sont-ils ? Au secret, dans des coffres de banques pour une partie d’entre eux. « On peut penser aussi que certaines vieilles familles en ont conservé sans jamais s’y intéresser » évoque, songeur, notre expert. Si un objet révèle une âme, chacune de ces pièces enferme une trace de celle des Kerveguen et de leur rêve démesuré de pouvoir et d’argent.

La Réunion, 1859. Depuis plus de trente ans, la colonie prospère grâce au sucre. Elle est une réussite de la France du Second Empire. Son prestige atteint Paris. L’esclavage y a été aboli sans heurt et ses richesses s’étalent. De somptueuses demeures, dans le style des résidences de Louisiane, sont bâties sur les grands domaines. Le plus grand de ces domaines appartient aux Le Coat de Kerveguen. Venu de Bretagne, le premier de la lignée, aspirant de marine, a débarqué dans l’île en 1796. Denis Le Coat de Kerveguen est de ces fils de petite noblesse qui refusent de choisir leur camp dans la tourmente révolutionnaire, et vont tenter le sort outre-mer. Il a peu de fortune mais un mariage bien choisi lui permet de constituer un premier domaine foncier à Saint-Pierre. Cependant, la rente agricole ne l’intéresse pas. Réalisant une partie de ses terres, il préfère ouvrir une maison de commerce, puis fonde une boulangerie qui ravitaille en pain Saint-Pierre et les navires de passage. En 1816, peu après le décès de sa première épouse, un second mariage encore plus profitable lui ouvre de nouvelles perspectives.

La paix revenue avec l’Angleterre, les liaisons maritimes ont été rétablies avec la France où la demande de sucre ne cesse de croître. Denis Le Coat de Kerveguen comprend alors que la puissance économique et financière réside désormais dans la production sucrière et le capital terrien. Dans le mouvement qui couvre l’île de cannes à sucre, il est l’un des acteurs les plus entreprenants.

Après sa mort en 1827, son fils Gabriel poursuit l’œuvre avec encore plus d’ardeur. Gabriel Le Coat de Kerveguen construit son empire cannier en conquérant. Il agit avec intelligence, patience et détermination, modelant un ensemble foncier et agricole homogène dans le Sud et l’Est de la Réunion. Il absorbe les propriétés hypothéquées des planteurs financièrement fragiles qui ont l’imprudence de s’endetter auprès de lui. Des alliances matrimoniales, parmi les frères et sœurs de Gabriel, renforcent le domaine. En deux générations, la famille a acquis toutes les terres, de la mer au sommet des montagnes, du Gol à la Ravine des Cabris et de la Ravine Manapany à Vincendo, auxquelles s’ajoutent deux grandes propriétés au Quartier Français et à Sainte-Suzanne. Orgueil suprême, Gabriel de Kerveguen fait l’acquisition, au prix fort, d’un titre de « comte » auprès du Vatican.

Il règne sur plus d’un millier d’esclaves. Pour lui, l’esclavage dresse les indigènes primitifs à la discipline et au travail et les prépare à la vie civilisée. Il va jusqu’à vanter les vertus du fouet. Quand en 1831 l’interdiction de la traite négrière est enfin appliquée à Bourbon, alors que son propre besoin de main-d’œuvre est l’un des principaux débouchés du trafic, il se tourne vers l’immigration indienne, dont le sort vaut à peine mieux que celui des esclaves. L’abolition de l’esclavage, en 1848, ne le trouble pas. Au contraire, il profite du marasme dans lequel sombrent nombre de petits et moyens planteurs pour accroître son domaine. Cinq mille hectares de cannes à sucre donnent à Gabriel Le Coat de Kerveguen une immense fortune et en font le principal acteur de l’économie insulaire. Tous plient devant sa volonté. Même la puissance publique. Et c’est ce qu’elle fait en juillet 1859 quand De Kerveguen, rentré d’Europe avec ses 227 000 mille kreutzers autrichiens, réclame le droit de frapper cette monnaie et de la mettre en circulation.

Gabriel de Kerveguen a décidé de résoudre à sa manière la double crise monétaire intérieure et extérieure dans laquelle la Réunion s’enfonce. L’île manque de numéraire depuis la fin de l’époque de la Compagnie des Indes. Échaudés par une faillite bancaire, attachés au métal, les milliers d’engagés travaillant sur les exploitations des Kerveguen refusent d’être payés en monnaie de papier. Ils veulent de l’argent solide qui tient en main.

À l’extérieur, la crise est liée au regain de tension entre la France et le Royaume-Uni. Dans l’océan Indien, la puissance financière est anglaise. En cessant d’accepter les traites françaises, la Banque du Bengale laisse un vide que la Banque de la Réunion est incapable de combler. Gabriel de Kerveguen propose donc des monnaies de métal et de papier gagées sur sa fortune et son prestige. Sans attendre l’autorisation du gouvernement, il a introduit avec la complaisance des douanes ses milliers de kreutzers démonétisés. Le 11 juillet 1859, le gouverneur Darricau et le conseil privé de la colonie sont placés devant un fait accompli. Ont-ils le choix ? Gabriel de Kerveguen ne fait que profiter de la carence du gouvernement impérial. Le conseil privé entérine, mais pose une condition : « que De Kerveguen s’engage à rembourser à la première réquisition la contrepartie, à bureau ouvert, au cours qu’elle aurait à la date du remboursement. » Les kreutzers Kerveguen sont autorisés sans cours légal et sans obligation de les accepter.

Dès ce moment, jour et nuit, les presses frappent les pièces du K victorieux. Mais le conseil privé a commis une erreur fatale en ne fixant aucune limite à cette masse monétaire artificielle et fragile. L’appât du gain emballe la machine jusqu’au désastre. Car l’influence accrue sur la destinée de l’île se double, pour l’habile financier qu’est Gabriel de Kerveguen, d’un formidable coup spéculatif. La pièce autrichienne de vingt kreutzers valait 0,83 franc. Le cours officieux réunionnais est fixé à un franc. Les Kerveguen font des émules. Les kreutzers affluent dans l’île. Ils entrent dans le circuit, avec ou sans la marque prestigieuse. Quand 20 ans plus tard tout s’effondre, on en comptera plus d’un million.

Dans un décret daté du 2 avril 1879, le gouvernement de la Troisième République décide le retrait des monnaies étrangères en circulation dans les colonies. Du jour au lendemain, les kreutzers ne servent plus à rien. Les commerçants perdent confiance. Ils refusent les kreutzers et ferment boutique. La crainte s’installe. On frise l’émeute à Saint-Denis. De Kerveguen fait face et tient son engagement. Il accepte d’en racheter 227 000. Les siens. Pas un de plus. Pour enrayer la panique qui monte, le conseil général, nouvelle institution républicaine de la colonie, prend à sa charge le rachat de l’ensemble des pièces, mais se retourne contre De Kerveguen qu’il rend responsable de cette situation. Les kreutzers sont détruits. Un procès passionné s’ensuit. De Kerveguen se défend. Au cours d’un franc par kreutzer, il perd maintenant 6,5 % sur chaque pièce : le kreutzer comprend 3,90 grammes d’argent ; le franc de 1879, 4,17 grammes. Le verdict tombe. De Kerveguen est condamné à payer le remboursement de 800 000 kreutzers réunionnais.

Après lui, son fils Denis reste puissant, mais le prestige du nom s’est évanoui. La famille se déchire. Fait exceptionnel, elle quitte la Réunion définitivement au lendemain de la Première Guerre Mondiale, cédant ses biens après plus d’un siècle de présence. Il ne reste pour témoigner de ce passé que quelques pièces entourées de mystère, à la gravure usée, oubliées ou conservées loin des regards à travers les ans. Elles font partie des pièces secrètes qui mettent en marche la machine à remonter le temps.

Offline Figleaf

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2019, 04:47:37 PM »
My translation. Any errors are mine.

Peter

The Kerveguen were the most powerful dynasty in Reunion's history. They made their own coins in 1859. They embody the apogee of the large sugar estates. Unapologetically entrepreneurial, they jostle, up to the powers that be.

"Do you have a kreutzer for sale? Pretending to doze on a chair, watching the entrance to a sad three-quarter empty shop, the man jumps and his eyes lit up. For a moment, he impassive face of the Muslim shopkeeper, in a tunic, sandals on his feet, fades, gives way to that of a passionate numismatist. A collector's reflex: you do not miss the chance to acquire a kreutzer stamped with a "K" for Kerveguen. "It's an extremely rare piece. If you find one, let me know. I am interested ..." Museum curators also listen when the word "kreutzer" is pronounced. None of the museums on the island have any. The piece is missing in the history museum De Villèle. A few years ago, a conservator of the Léon Dierx museum in Saint-Denis believed that the black, massive, studded trunk, dating from the time of the Directorate in his office contained one. But the heavy key from the past only opened up a disappointment.

While the Kerveguen Kreutzer takes on the appearance of myth, there are others, unmarked, that were the most numerous to circulate on the island. They went through time with greater ease. Collectors have some. That of the director of one of the oldest libraries of Reunion is placed between a thaler and a romantic piastre (it is said to have been removed from the wreck of Saint Gérand whose sinking, in 1744 near the island of France, inspired Bernardin de Saint-Pierre for a memorable scene in his masterpiece Paul and Virginie).

It is commonly called Kreutzer, but its real name is Zwanziger, a coin of twenty Kreutzers used in the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1755 and 1848. A small coin, twenty-seven millimetres in diameter. On the obverse are the portraits of some secular rulers of Central Europe: Empress Maria Theresa, Joseph II, Francis II, Ferdinand II. On the reverse, a two-headed eagle surmounted by the imperial crown, carries on its chest the coat of arms of the Habsburgs. The coin also has the number 20 in a cartridge and its date.

The only accessible image of the Kerveguen variant of the kreutzer was for a long time that which appeared in the catalog of the first Reunionese numismatic exhibition of 1983. In this image, the K is struck across the centre of the Habsburg crest. A mark without originality but expensive. The Kerveguen Kreutzer is not listed in coin catalogues. Its value therefore not known. It depends only on one thing: the amount that a collector would be willing to sacrifice to possess it ... "Among them, everything is possible" says the scholarly director of library, connoisseur of the very closed local community of book lovers and of historical pieces.

What remains of the two hundred and twenty-seven thousand demonetised Kreutzers, brought from Austria and countermarked by Gabriel de Kerveguen in 1859? Some specimen. They sound like a premonitory echo of decline of this dynasty, the most powerful in the history of the island. Where are they? Part of them are in hiding, in bank vaults. "We may also speculate that some old families have preserved them without ever being interested" says our expert, dreamily. If objects had a soul, each of these pieces would have a trace of the Kerveguen and their inordinate quest for power and money.

Réunion, 1859. For more than thirty years, the colony has prospered thanks to sugar. It is a success of the French Second Empire. Its prestige reaches Paris. Slavery has been smoothly abolished and its wealth is spreading. Sumptuous residences, in the style of the residences of Louisiana, are built on large estates. The largest of these estates belongs to the Le Coat family of Kerveguen. The first of the dynasty, a midshipman from Brittany,  landed on the island in 1796. Denis Le Coat of Kerveguen is one of those sons of low nobility who refuse to choose sides in the revolutionary turmoil, and will try his luck overseas. He has little capital but a well-chosen marriage allows him to constitute a first real estate domain in Saint-Pierre. However, the agricultural rent does not interest him. He sells a part of his land to open a trading house, then founds a bakery that caters to Saint Pierre and passing ships. In 1816, shortly after the death of his first wife, a second and more profitable marriage opened up new perspectives.

After the conclusion of peace with England, maritime connections were reestablished. In France the demand for sugar continues to grow. Denis Le Coat of Kerveguen understands that the economic and financial power now lies in sugar production and the value of land. He is one of the most enterprising actors that cover the island with sugar cane, .

After his death in 1827, his son Gabriel continued the work with even more ardor. Gabriel Le Coat of Kerveguen builds his cane empire by conquering. He acts with intelligence, patience and determination, creating a homogeneous land and agricultural complex in the South and East of Reunion. It takes over the mortgaged properties of financially weak planters who have, imprudently, taken on debt with him. Matrimonial alliances, among the brothers and sisters of Gabriel, strengthen the domain. In two generations, the family has acquired all the land from the sea to the top of the mountains, from Gol to Ravine des Cabris and Ravine Manapany to Vincendo, plus two large properties in the French Quarter and Sainte-Suzanne. Gabriel Kerveguen acquired, to his great pride but at a high price, the title of "count" from the Vatican .

He reigns over more than a thousand slaves. For him, slavery educates primitive natives in discipline and work and prepares them for civilized life. He goes so far as to extol the virtues of the whip. When in 1831 the ban on the slave trade was finally applied to Bourbon, while his own need for manpower was one of the main outlets for the traffic, he turned to Indian immigration, who he treated barely better than slaves. The abolition of slavery in 1848 did not disturb him. On the contrary, he takes advantage of the slump in which many small and medium planters are falling to increase his land holdings. Five thousand hectares of sugar cane give Gabriel Le Coat of Kerveguen immense wealth and make him the main player in the island's economy. All bend before his will. Even the authorities. And bend it did in July, 1859, when De Kerveguen, returning from Europe with his 227,000,000 Austrian Kreutzers, claimed the right to countermark the coins and put them into circulation.

Gabriel de Kerveguen decided to solve in his own way the internal and external monetary crisis in which Reunion sinks. The island lacks cash since the end of the era of the East India Company. Scarred by a banking failure, attached to metal, the thousands of workers on the Kerveguen farms refuse to be paid in paper money. They want solid money in their hands.

Externally, the crisis is linked to the renewed tension between France and the United Kingdom. In the Indian Ocean, the financial power is English. By ceasing to accept the French bills, the Bank of Bengal leaves a void that the Bank of Reunion is unable to fill. Gabriel de Kerveguen offers coins of metal and paper money guaranteed by his fortune and prestige. Without waiting for the authorization of the government and helped by complacency of the customs, he enters his thousands of demonetized Kreutzers into circulation. On July 11, 1859, Governor Darricau and the privy council of the colony were confronted with a fait accompli. Do they have a choice? Gabriel de Kerveguen is only taking advantage of the imperial government's shortcomings. The Privy Council ratifies, but imposes a condition: "that De Kerveguen undertakes to reimburse the countervalue on simple demand, at open office, at the price it would have on the date of repayment. Kerveguen Kreutzers do not become legal tender and there is no obligation to accept them.

From that moment, day and night, presses countermark the pieces with a victorious K. But the Privy Council made a fatal mistake by setting no limit to this artificial and fragile money supply. The taste of profit envelops the machine up to disaster. The clever financier Gabriel de Kerveguen has struck a tremendous speculative blow that increases his influence on the fate of the island. The Austrian coin of twenty kreutzers was worth 0.83 francs. The unofficial Reunion rate is set at one franc. The Kerveguen Kreuzers are imitated. Kreutzers flow to the island. They enter circulation, with or without the prestigious counterstamp. When 20 years later everything collapses, there were more than a million.

In a decree dated April 2, 1879, the government of the Third Republic decided to withdraw foreign coins circulating in the colonies. Overnight, Kreutzers are no longer valid. The traders lose confidence. They refuse the Kreutzers and close shop. Fear sets in. Saint-Denis is close to rioting. De Kerveguen takes his responsibility. He agrees to buy 227 000 coins. His own. Not one more. To stop the rising panic, the General Council, a new, Republican governing body of the colony, takes over the purchases all the other coins, but holds De Kerveguen responsible for this situation. The Kreutzers are destroyed. An emotional trial ensues. De Kerveguen defends himself. With a rate of a franc for a kreutzer, he now loses 6.5% on each coin: the kreutzer comprises 3.90 grams of silver; the franc of 1879, 4.17 grams. The verdict falls. De Kerveguen is condemned to pay the reimbursement of 800 000 kreutzers Reunion.

After him, his son Denis remains powerful, but the prestige of the name has evaporated. The family is torn apart. Remarkably, they left Reunion in the aftermath of the First World War, selling their property after more than a century of being there. All that remains to testify of this past are a few pieces surrounded by mystery, with worn engraving, forgotten or hidden from view over the years. They are part of the secret parts that make the time machine run.
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline gerard974

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2019, 05:43:03 PM »


Thanks Peter
the problem is that Mr DE Kervegen has never hit coins at La Reunion. All coins that circulated arrive from europe. I think I have 3 in my collection and I have them from a very old man, now deceased ', who had them from his grand father, they are very worn and I think not with the short time or they have circulated she would be so damaged
best regards Gerard

Offline Figleaf

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #10 on: November 09, 2019, 12:01:39 AM »
I am pretty sure he did not strike coins, but did countermark at least some of them. The coins were already withdrawn in the Austrian empire when he bought them, so he paid scrap price (the value of the metal minus melting cost) plus transportation cost, not the value in francs and centimes of 20 Kreutzer. Indeed, many must have been worn already. His big mistake was not to countermark all of them. The majority of the coins were not imported by him, but by others who wanted their share of the profits, as there were found to be about a million in circulation and he imported only 227 000 of them.

The author is obviously not an expert on numismatics. He does not know the difference between a die and a punch and between striking coins and countermarking them.

Peter
An unidentified coin is a piece of metal. An identified coin is a piece of history.

Offline WillieBoyd2

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Re: 20 Kreuser from Reunion island
« Reply #11 on: November 09, 2019, 01:24:22 AM »
Austrian Zwanziger coins also traveled to California in 1848 to serve as money during the California Gold Rush.

http://www.worldofcoins.eu/forum/index.php/topic,47202.0.html

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