Paris embodies both tradition and innovation: a contrast that is reassuring and
yet remarkable, for without bold thinking, a precondition for modernity and
elegance, there can be no contemporary creativity.”
View of the Louvre and Monnaie de Paris building, P.-A. Demachy (c. 1783)
Monnaie de Paris was founded by Charles the Bald in 864 and included in the Edict of Pistres, making it the world’s oldest institution.
For 12 centuries, it has been responsible for the sovereign function of minting coins, including the French euros in circulation today.
Monnaie de Paris was originally set up to serve the monarchy and as such it has always been situated close to royal residences. It was initially located on the Île de la Cité, close to the palace used by the Carolingian and Capetian kings, before relocating to Paris’ right bank, not far from the Louvre, where the new royal residence and treasury were situated. When this building became too cramped and eventually fell into disrepair, Monnaie de Paris moved to the left bank of the Seine in 1775.
Louis XV chose the complex’s current location on Quai de Conti in what is now Paris’ VIth arrondissement. He appointed the architect Jacques-Denis Antoine to design and build the royal mint and administrative offices on the banks of the Seine. Work began at the end of 1769 and the foundation stone was laid on 30 April 1771. Monnaie de Paris was officially moved to Quai de Conti on 20 December 1775.
The complex was the first public building to be constructed in Paris under Louis XV and its industrial origins have been preserved to the present day. A superb example of architecture from this era, it is of remarkable architectural interest.
Façade of Monnaie de Paris on Quai de Conti, Photo: Gilles Targat, Date: 2012
Monnaie de Paris and the Seine, Charles Rivière, (c.1860)
Monnaie de Paris is a superb example of Neo-Classical architecture. The main part of the complex (housing the administrative offices) is situated on the banks of the Seine and follows the Quai de Conti for 117 metres. It is flanked by two side wings facing Rue Guénégaud and Impasse Conti respectively and its imposing façade is both simple and classical. The complex is a listed building (‘Monument Historique’) and boasts a magnificent entrance hall, the longest series of adjoining rooms in Paris with views over the Seine and an impressive grand staircase.
It also has a mint where the various traditional crafts are distributed around the ‘Salle du Grand Monnayage’ (Minting Room), the heart of the institution where coins are struck. The workshops were arranged logically – raw materials were brought to Quai de Conti by boat or to Rue Guénégaud by horse. They were then processed in various specialist workshops and would come out transformed and ready for distribution behind the workshops overlooking Impasse Conti. The unique expertise and techniques used to mint the coins are still in evidence today.
Guillaume Dupré Balroom - Quai de Conti
Floor plan of 11 Quai de Conti
In 1973, Monnaie de Paris moved its minting activities to Pessac in south-west France due to a large increase in its output, which currently stands at 9 million coins per day.
The new production plant was part of a strategy to house all minting activities (including that of related items, such as commemorative medals) in the same location.
The Pessac plant is a superb example of 1970s state architecture. It was built using pure, stable and highly reliable materials – concrete structures with the formwork removed, white plastic walkways, orange carpets and large plate glass windows.
Although the design and decor have been perfectly preserved, many changes have been made to the production process since the ‘70s and today the production plant makes use of the very latest technological innovations.
To ensure quality service to customers, the factory houses since 2010 a research and development departement. Renowned for its know-how, the Monnaie de Paris also hosts the Centre National d’Analyse des Pièces de Pessac (CNAP) and the Centre Technique et Scientifique Européen (CTSE), to fight against fraud and counterfeiting.
"Coins and medals"
Monnaie de Paris has crafted artistic creations at its historic Parisian headquarters for over 12 centuries, including collector coins, medals, decorative castings and jewellery. These products are fashioned by 150 workers, including 50 artisan craftsmen, using traditional techniques.
Design of the reverse of a euro cent coin
Designs created in the engraving workshop form the starting point for all productions.
An engraver etches the designs for both the front and back of the coin onto plaster.
The plaster is turned into resin and, together with a reducing lathe, is used to create a coining die.
The engraver then polishes the coining die by hand.
Special striking workshop:
Coins made from precious metals (gold and silver) are mainly struck in Paris in the “special striking workshop” and are individually checked by mint staff.
Special striking workshops
Medals are struck before being annealed and patinated. These processes can be repeated up to 8 times.
Minting workshop - Pessac:
At the Pessac plant, coins are struck by machines that can press up to 850 coins per minute
In addition to French euros, the Paris Mint in Pessac makes many parts of the world: Oman, Tunisia, Thailand, Central Bank of West African States, Guatemala, Uruguay ....
"Official decorations and jewellery"
Monnaie de Paris also makes official decorations, such as the Légion d'Honneur (Legion of Honour), L’Ordre National du Mérite (National Order of Merit) and L’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters).
Jewelry workshop, shaping a medal
Enamelling and jewellery workshop:
Like coins, decorations are mainly struck by stamping. They are then cut, polished and assembled in the jewellery workshop.
The enameller places the enamel on the surface of the metal and then fires them one or more times to fuse them together, resulting in a multi-coloured, vitreous coating of grand feu enamel.
Medal pendants are also made in the jewellery workshop. Here, a jeweller sets the diamonds one by one into each medal.
Creation of the National Order of Merit medal
Monnaie de Paris is home to the last working art foundry in the very heart of Paris, where decorative castings are produced using the traditional lost wax technique, or so-called ‘V process’. The foundry draws on the expertise of many different craftspeople, including model/mould makers, founders, sculptors and finishers.
Once the mould has been created, the molten metal is cast.
Sculptors remedy any defects to perfect the casting and give its final form to the bronze.
Hot patina finish
Hot patina finish :
Finishers then give the casting a colouring to improve its appearance and protect it against the ravages of time.
In order to reach out to as wide an audience as possible and to create a new, welcoming space overlooking the city, Monnaie de Paris has launched the ambitious ‘MétaLmorphoses’ project to transform its Paris headquarters.
The project aims to make the entire Monnaie de Paris complex accessible to the public – 1.2 hectares in the heart of Paris’ 6th arrondissement – and to offer an original take on its heritage through:
•A new cultural space allowing visitors to discover the craft workshops and treasures from Monnaie de Paris’ collections that have never before been on public display. This permanent space will be further enhanced by temporary shows and prestigious events.
•A new commercial space dedicated to promoting artistic creations and excellence in craftsmanship, with a new Monnaie de Paris shop selling craft metalwork. This space will also be home to other Comité Colbert luxury brands and a concept store.
A gastronomic offer will be proposed, with two spaces required by the French chef Guy Savoy. His three star restaurant rue Troyon will be transferred in the Monnaie de Paris' salons along the Seine, and a brewery, the “MétaLcafé” will take place in a pedestrian course.
The palace, manufacturing, and Wing Mansart of Monnaie de Paris will be restored and revealed to the public, becoming a place of discovery and promenade, an attractive place for leisure and culture, on the banks of the Seine, World Heritage of UNESCO.
Exhibition curator—Sylvie Juvenal