Three things....
Too many denomination names ?
A couple of Madagascar's very latest coins.
The Reappearance of a Privy Mark

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Too many denomination names ?

    The Madagascan coins since independence have all been denominated in Francs and a local equivalent. The main local equivalent is the Ariary which is equal to 5 Francs. The 5 Franc types are also denominated 1 Ariary, the 10 Francs are also denominated 2 Ariary (the word for two “ROA” is used), the 20 Francs are also denominated 4 Ariary (the word for four “EFATRA” is used). It would make some sense if the 1 Franc coin had used “One-fifth Ariary” as an equivalent. Instead a different name “IRAIMBILANJA” is used, this means "One iron weight” (from - irai=one, mbi=iron, lanja=weight)" which no doubt has some historical significance to Madagascar’s monetary system. As for the 2 Francs a guess for the equivalent used here would be something meaning “Two-fifths Ariary” or "Two iron weights” but instead the words used are “VENTY SY KIROBO”.

Madagascar 2 Francs with words VENTY SY KIROBO
Madagascar 2 Francs, also denominated two-and-a-twelfth Francs in a round about way.

    To understand why this phrase was used then I should add that prior to the Ariary being equivalent to 5 Francs, in fact in pre-colonial times, it was the word given to the nineteenth century silver trade coins namely 8 Reales (pieces of eight) and MT Thalers. These silver trade coins were often divided into 4, 6 or 8 parts (but never 5). The Madagascan word for a sixth of an (old) Ariary was “VENTY” and the word for a quarter of one was “KIROBO” (and “SY” means “AND”). So the “VENTY SY KIROBO” on the 2 Franc coins means (1/6 + 1/4) Ariary = (2/12 + 3/12) * 5 Francs = 25/12 Francs which works out at two-and-a-twelfth Francs. So they do not have it quite right but I’m sure they are aware of the discrepancy ! Other local words, equivalent to denominations below 1 Franc can be seen on Madagascar’s money from the past - but not on any coins.
    Much of the above is information was obtained some time ago from users of the internet newsgroup soc.culture.malagasy by a subscriber to the mailserv list .

A couple of Madagascar's very latest coins.

    The most recent coins of Madagascar include the 1999 dated 10 Ariary (with seven flat sides, as per the similar pieces of 1992) and 20 Ariary circulation coins of 1999 (10 sides, as per previous dates). The 10 Ariary is a new type as it is the first time there has been a piece of this denomination since the title of Madagascar changed from “Democratic Republic of Madagascar” to “Republic of Madagascar”. Apart from the required changed to the coin’s design to drop the word “DEMOKRATIKA” there is little change. Both of these coins count as F.A.O. coins as they follow very closely the designs of the round 10 and 20 Ariary coins of 1978. These two 1999 coins are made from Steel (having a dull, greyish look - some books seem to think these coins are Nickel on Steel).

Madagascar 10 Ariary 1999
Madagascar's latest type 10 Ariary 1999.
(As KM-18 but without the word “DEMOKRATIKA”)

    One odd thing about the Madagascan seven-sided 10 Ariary coins (this one of 1999 and the similar one of 1992) is that these pieces have coin alignment. A quick look at many different world-wide types of seven-sided coins (many of these being 50 Pence coins) fails to find any others that have coin alignment. Medal alignment is of course normal for seven-sided coins as having an odd number of sides means that either the rim around the top of the design is pointed and the rim around the bottom of the design is flat or occasionally vice verse.
    Finally, the issue of 1999 dated 10 Ariary and 20 Ariary coins must mean there is still much need for circulating them in present day Madagascar. So likely there will be 50 Ariary coins turn up some time in the future, with newer dates than 1996 (the latest currently known to me). Can anyone tell me anything about this.
    The F.A.O. is the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. There are a few hundred world coin types relating to various F.A.O. themes/programs, quite a number of these designs include the letters “F.A.O.”.

For more information on F.A.O. coins of Africa and the world see Juan's World FAO Coins .

The Reappearance of a Privy Mark

    I was interested to learn, a year or so ago, of the mention of Malagasy Republic 20 Francs type (KM-12) in the Royal Canadian Mint Report of 1989. My initial reaction to this was that surely the RCM didn’t make coins of that type, as the privy marks of Paris Mint appear on these coins. Eventually I got around to taking a closer look at a number of dates (starting with the first date 1970) of the two Aluminium-Bronze types KM-11 (the 10 Francs) and KM-12 (the 20 Francs). A short survey of my pieces and those in one or two other collections gave a quite interesting finding.
    All pieces have the “cornucopia” mint privy mark for Paris Mint. Pieces of 1970 to 1974 have the “owl” as the Engraver General’s privy mark (for Engraver General Raymond Joly). Pieces of 1975 to 1988 have the “dolphin” as the engraver general’s privy mark (for Engraver General Emile Rousseau). Pieces of 1989 were the interesting ones with the “owl” making a reappearance on these, yet it is not known to have reappeared on any other coins of the world that show the privy marks of Paris Mint.

Madagascar 10 Francs with different privy marks
10 Francs KM-11 - Reverse with “owl” (as per 1970 to 1974 and 1989), obverse 1989 (all obverses are the same as this
except for the dating) and reverse with “dolphin” (as per 1975-1988).

    Should you happen to have a few coins of the Malagasy Republic types KM-11 and KM-12, then you may notice that the “owl” and “dolphin” are only easy to make out on higher grade coins. Paris Mint has apparently realised this, since on many of the types they produce, as an aide to identification, they have the pair of privy marks “point” in a different direction each time the Engraver General’s privy mark is changed. With these two types of Malagasy, the pieces with the “owl” privy mark have an owl under the cow's left eye that points to the north-west and to accompany this the “cornucopia” privy mark is located under the cow's right eye and points to the north-east. In contrast to this the pieces with the “dolphin” privy mark have a dolphin under the cow's left eye and points to the north-east and to accompany this the “cornucopia” privy mark is located under the cow's right eye and points to the north-west.

Madagascar 10 Francs privy marks close up
Close-up of arrangment of privy marks - cornucopia & owl and cornucopia & dolphin

    I can think of one quite plausible explanation for this reappearance of the “owl” privy mark in 1989 on these two coin types. That explanation is that the 1989 dates of KM-11 and KM-12 were all made by the Royal Canadian Mint. The RCM would have needed to have had quite a number of working dies to strike the 1989 dated 10 and 20 Franc coins. They would also have needed some other tooling i.e. master dies and/or working punches with which to make plenty working punches/dies, after all the contract would likely have been for a few million pieces of each type. All the reverse side tooling received by the RCM from Paris for this contract must have been old and hence the only reverse designs received would have been the original reverse die designs i.e. with the “cornucopia” and “owl” privy marks, as appeared on the first dates of these types. Hence new coins with old privy marks due to a different minter. This explanation all fits in quite well with the appearance of the 20 Francs (KM-12) in the 1989 Royal Canadian Mint Report, which in itself was an strong suggestion of the RCM having made at least these pieces for Malagasy in 1989. The 1989 RCM Report may not mention the 10 Francs but surely the other evidence available is sufficient to show with some certainty that both 10 and 20 Franc coins with date 1989 were made by the RCM even though with old Paris Mint privy marks.
    Of course the RCM were not going to realise the ins and outs of another mint’s small symbols, but they sorted things out for the next time they made coins of either of these denominations. The 1989 pieces of 20 Francs KM-12 were the last pieces with that general design. The 10 Francs design as on KM-11 was used in 1991 (KM-11a) and with revised legends in 1996 (KM-22). These later two 10 Franc types were in Copper-plated-Steel (a less expensive coinage alloy, well used by the RCM, but not by Paris Mint until the advent of the 1, 2 and 5 Eurocent coins), had a milled edge (not plain as per the Aluminium-Bronze pieces) and more importantly had three tiny French design elements removed - the two privy marks from the reverse and the small designer’s mark from the obverse. This small designer’s mark on the obverse had appeared on both types (KM-11 and KM-12) upto and including 1989, it always appeared above-left relative to the date. This symbol also appears on the old French, Stainless Steel, 1 Centime (KM-928) and 5 Centimes (KM-927) just to the lower-right of the ear of wheat. This symbol is a bit like a flower but also a bit like a round monogram. I have seen this symbol called the mark for “Atelier de Paris”, I would suggest a translation of this as being “Paris Mint in house design team”.
    The appointment, by the Paris Mint during 1994, of a new Engraver General saw the introduction of a new Engraver General’s privy mark. This new privy mark, a “bee”, can be seen on the Republic of Madagascar 5 Francs of 1996 (KM-21). This is a strong suggestion that all Madagascar/Malagasy pieces of denominations 1, 2 and 5 Francs in Stainless Steel have always been made in France and hence never by the RCM. As for the other 1990’s circulation coins of Madagascar - there is various evidence that they are all products of the RCM.

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The info entitled "The Reappearance of a Privy Mark" above was published in the November 2002 edition of the Numismatics International Bulletin (pages 353-354, pages numbered through the year).