The centenary commemorations of the Great War continue with most of the major countries involved releaseing coins in remembrance. As the country upon whose soil much of the carnage took place, France has a special right to mark the war. Their latest features a battle that occupies a special place in the French memory, not for its importance in the war, but for its brutality and lack of strategic result. Verdun is a name that remains in the national psyche and a look at the casualty figures further down make it abundantly clear why that is.

Verdun is commonly known as the ‘Meat Grinder’, a name that perfectly encapsulates the horror of war. A single battle that produced more casualties than all but a handful of wars throughout human history, Verdun ultimately broke no deadlocks, or made much difference to the the front line. It’s knock on effects cost tens of thousands of lives elsewhere (the moving of French troops to Verdun at the last moment left the British severely under strength at the Somme, leading to another horrific, drawn out battle, for example).

The 2016 coins are the third annual release to date and as you’ve no doubt already worked out for yourselves, Verdun is the focus, and it’s handled in quite a poignant way. On the reverse face wife/mother writes to a someone at the front line. On the obverse you can see him reading it while in the trenches as the battle rages. Also on the obverse taking up the whole left half of the face is a depiction of a huge convoy of supply trucks, the main method of supply to the front line. The poppy and cornflower on the reverse are there to represent the veterans of France and the Commonwealth who lost so many men at this battle and the equally brutal Somme that took place at the same time

Typical Monnaie de Paris fare, there are three formats available. The 1 oz 0.999 gold coin will sell for €2,000 and is limited to 500 examples. The ¼ oz 22kt gold coin will sell for €505 and there will be a maximum of 1,916 struck. Lastly, the usual 0.900, 22.2g silver coin, of which 5,000 will be struck, will sell for €55. All come with Certificates of Authenticity and the usual compact box the mint uses for most of its ouput. Available to order now.



The Battle of Verdun, fought from 21 February to 18 December 1916, was one of the largest and longest battles of the First World War on the Western Front between the German and French armies. The battle took place on the hills north of Verdun-sur-Meuse in north-eastern France. The German 5th Army attacked the defences of the Région Fortifiée de Verdun (RFV) and those of the French Second Army on the right bank of the Meuse. Inspired by the experience of the Second Battle of Champagne the year before, the Germans planned to rapidly capture the Meuse Heights, providing them with an excellent defensive position that would also allow them to bombard Verdun with observed artillery fire. The Germans hoped that the French would commit their strategic reserve to recapture the position and suffer catastrophic losses in a battle of attrition, as the Germans would have a tactical advantage.

Poor weather delayed the beginning of the German attack until 21 February, but the Germans enjoyed initial success, capturing the defensive position of Fort Douaumont in the first three days of the offensive. Afterwards the German advance slowed, despite heavy French losses. By 6 March, 20½ French divisions were in the RFV and a more extensive defence in depth had been constructed. Pétain ordered that no withdrawals were to be made and that counter-attacks were to be conducted, despite exposing French infantry to fire from the German artillery. By 29 March, French artillery on the west bank had begun a constant bombardment of German positions on the east bank, which caused many German infantry casualties.


In March, the German offensive was extended to the left (west) bank of the Meuse, to gain observation of the ground from which French artillery had been firing over the river, onto the Meuse Heights. The Germans were able to advance at first but French reinforcements contained the attacks short of their objectives. In early May, the Germans changed tactics and made local attacks and counter-attacks, which gave the French an opportunity to begin an attack against Fort Douaumont. Part of the fort was occupied, until a German counter-attack recaptured the fort and took numerous prisoners. The Germans changed tactics again, alternating their attacks on both banks of the Meuse and in June captured Fort Vaux. The Germans continued the offensive beyond Vaux, towards the last geographical objectives of the original plan, at Fleury-devant-Douaumont and Fort Souville. The Germans drove a salient into the French defences, captured Fleury and came within 4 km (2.5 mi) of the Verdun citadel.

In July 1916, the German offensive was reduced to provide artillery and infantry reinforcements for the Somme front and during local operations, the village of Fleury changed hands sixteen times from 23 June to 17 August. A German attempt to capture Fort Souville in early July, was repulsed by artillery and small-arms fire. To supply reinforcements for the Somme front, the German offensive was reduced further and attempts were made to deceive the French into expecting more attacks, to keep French reinforcements away from the Somme. In August and December, French counter-offensives recaptured much of the ground lost on the east bank and recovered Fort Douaumont and Fort Vaux.

An estimate in 2000 found a total of 714,231 casualties, 377,231 French and 337,000 German, an average of 70,000 casualties a month; other recent estimates increase the number of casualties to 976,000, with 1,250,000 suffered at Verdun during the war. The Battle of Verdun lasted for 303 days and became the longest and one of the most costly battles in human history.





€10 EURO 0.900 SILVER 22.2 g 37.0 mm PROOF 5,000 YES / YES
€50 EURO 0.920 GOLD 8.45 g 22.0 mm PROOF 1,916 YES / YES
€200 EURO 0.999 GOLD 31.104 g 37.0 mm PROOF 500 YES / YES