French town cashes in on forgotten francs

Shopkeepers invite customers to spend their old notes before it's too late

The small town of Le Blanc in the centre of France has found a way to boost business during the downturn. It has invited the French to turn back the clock and shop with francs.

Local businesses are celebrating the fact that they have collected Fr1m since they declared three years ago that the old currency would still be accepted over their counters.

Although francs were replaced by the euro in 2002 it seems many people in France are reluctant to say goodbye to their old currency. According to the Bank of France, notes worth Fr4bn – the equivalent of €625m – have never been exchanged and are still unaccounted for.

The success of the operation in Le Blanc has surprised even the townspeople. Sylvie Moënne-Loccoz, the president of the local chamber of commerce, is banking on reaching Fr2m by February 2012, when the old currency will no longer be officially exchangeable.

The plan was devised as a way of bringing in more business to the town of 7,000 inhabitants and is not a protest against the euro. "Only notes are accepted as payment and all the change that is given to the customers is in euros," said Ms Moënne-Loccoz.

"Everyone has suffered from the recession, but all the same our trading has risen by 10 to 20 per cent in the last three years." Furniture shops and electrical goods stores have been the main beneficiaries of the scheme.

"Our customers travel from all around to spend money they have found," explained Ms Moënne-Loccoz.

Many of the customers have a story to tell about how they discovered their old bank notes. A grandmother found a Fr200 note in her soup tureen while looking for her glasses. A son, who was sorting out his deceased parents' affairs, found a Fr500 note slipped into the pages of the lease on the family house, as if his parents had wanted him to find it.

Carpentras, in Provence, is also using its winter sales as an opportunity to attract business in francs. Marc Attal, who is the president of the local shops, said: "Until 31 March we accept exchangeable franc notes for every purchase."

Exchanging francs officially at the Bank of France can be long and complicated. You often have to travel up to 60 miles to find an office willing to carry out the transaction, and you have to explain where the money came from.

Marc Bovy, a currency expert, says it can be more profitable to sell an old note to a collector than to the Bank of France. For example, a Fr500 note, bearing the image of the 17th-century writer Pascal, "without folds or stains, printed in 1968 or 1969, could reach a value of €600," he said. This compares with a face value of about €75.

In February 2012 the franc will cease to be legal tender and will only be valuable as a collectors' item. Until then, the shopkeepers in Le Blanc will continue to treasure the stories of how their customers came across an old "Cezanne" (Fr100) or a "Curie" (Fr500).

ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The John Peel Lecture has previously been given by Pete Townshend of The Who, Billy Bragg and Charlotte Church
musicGodfather of punk will speak on 'free music in a capitalist society'
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments