As with the 20-unit gold coins issued by France, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium and other members of the Latin Monetary Union of 1865 to 1927, silver pieces of uniform size and weight denominated in various national currencies were struck to facilitate cross-border commerce. Budget-minded collectors who are priced out of obtaining U.S. silver coinage of that era will find that the LMU issues to be a somewhat more affordable option.
The one-unit pieces issued by nations from around the world contains .1342 ounce of silver in an .835 fine alloy. That works out to just over 18.5 cents in U.S. silver, which means a fair number of smaller and larger denominations were also struck to Latin Monetary Union specifications.
Belgium wasted no time in creating its version of LMU silver as illustrated by the 1 franc of 1866 to 1918. There are a number scarcer and high-priced dates, including the 1917 and 1918. The 1880-dated franc is a commemorative honoring the 50th anniversary of Belgian independence, and it displays the busts of Leopold I and II on the obverse.
Numismatists who are drawn to U.S. and Canadian dimes can make a natural shift to 50 centimes and half francs with .0671 ounce of silver, while those who like their coins with some heft can pursue the 2 franc pieces that contain .2684 ounce of the metal. The Belgians struck both denominations sporadically from the 1860s to 1914. Why collect the coins of a European nation the size of Maryland?
Legends on Belgian coinage switch back and forth from French to Dutch, reflecting the heritage and origins of most of the nation. For the collector who likes two for one deals, Belgium looks like a winner.