The history of the Pacific Franc

10000 Pacific Francs
Old note 10000 CFP (until 2014)

The Pacific Franc, also known as CFP franc is a recent currency, created on December 25, 1945 by the General de Gaulle for French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna and the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu).  While the dollar was widely used in the Pacific during the Second World War, identitywise, those territories had a real need for their own currency.

Originally, in the Pacific islands trade was only based on barter and presents. The very first Oceanian currency  consisted of shells, feathers or animals teeth. Trade actually started with the arrival of the European navigators.

In the middle of the 19th century, the creation of protectorates in the Pacific generated economical upheavals (starting of employment, import /export trade,  creation of companies) and launched the monetarization. The franc became the official legal currency, but the banknotes were insufficient, people were forced to use foreign currencies (dollar, chilian and peruvian piastre) or treasury bills. In 1880, too many different ways of payment coexisted, standardizing the currency became a priority. The « Banque de L’indochine » was granted the responsibility of issuing (which was until then reserved to the Caisse Agricole de Tahiti –now called Socredo). At the dawn of the Second World war, the monetary system seemed stabilized.

Stamped Piastre note
Stamped note with a higher value

The war marked the beginning of a new era for those Pacific islands as the monetary supplies were  suspended, thus, the use of barter and private currencies was back. To cope with this shortage, old banknotes were stamped to a higher value (these banknotes are now highly prized by collectors worldwide !).

In 1942,  American troops took position in the Pacific, 5000 soldiers landed in Bora Bora and settled there (they even built the airport), US dollar was widely used. Americans left the area in 1944. On December 25, 1945, Charles de Gaulle declared the French franc devaluation and created 2 new currencies : the Franc of French Colonies of Africa (franc CFA) and the Franc of French Colonies of the Pacific (franc CFP). The « Banque de l’Indochine » was in charge of issuing this new currency until the Overseas Institute of Issuing (IEOM) took over this responsability in March 1967.

New 5000 CFP (since 2014)
New 5000 CFP (since 2014)

Nowadays, Pacific Franc has a set exchange rate with Euro (1000cfp = 8,38 Euros).    More than just being a way of payment, it is a real symbol of Polynesian identity, probably thanks to the beautiful illustrations shown on the notes since their creation, where local fauna and flora are showcased, a real delight for the collectors !

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