The Half Franc coin is a circulating denomination of the Swiss Franc. Given that Switzerland has four official languages, it has three different names: Franken in German, franc in French and Romansh, and franco in Italian. It is worth noting that the denomination is a “half franc” and not “50 centimes” for historic reasons, being initially modelled on a denomination of the French franc which was a “demi franc”, and to distinguish it from the smaller denominations; initially, all “francs” (including the half franc) were full-bodied silver, while the centimes were either billon (low-grade silver) or base metal.
The first version of the half franc coin featuring a seated figure of Helvetia was designed by Friedrich Fisch and engraved by Antoine Bovy. The reverse shows the value, a numeral ½, and a language-neutral abbreviation of the denomination, Fr. within a wreath whose left part consists of oak branches and the right part of various Alpine flowers. This original reverse has remained unchanged and is still used on current coins. This version was heavier than current coins (2.5 grams) and made of 0.900 silver. It was only issued in 1850 and 1851 and was struck by the Paris Mint. It was demonetised on 1st January 1869, then for several years there were no half franc coins in circulation.
In 1875, the obverse was changed to a new design by Albert Walch featuring a Standing Helvetia. This version was issued to the specifications of the Latin Monetary Union and had a composition of 83.5% silver and 16.5% copper.
This second silver version of the Half Franc was issued until 1967 and was demonetised on 1st April 1971 when the country changed to the current cupronickel Half Franc coins.
Coins issued in 1966 circulated for only five years.