The franc (Franken, French and Romansh: franc, franco; sign: Fr. or SFr.; code: CHF) is the currency and legal tender of Switzerland and Liechtenstein; it is also legal tender in the Italian exclave Campione d'Italia. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) issues banknotes and the federal mint Swissmint issues coins.
The smaller denomination, a hundredth of a franc, is a Rappen (Rp.) in German, centime (c.) in French, centesimo (ct.) in Italian, and rap (rp.) in Romansh. The ISO code of the currency used by banks and financial institutions is CHF, although Fr. is also widely used by businesses and advertisers; some use SFr. for Swiss Franc and to a lesser extent Fr.sv. The Latinate "CH" stands for Confoederatio Helvetica.
Given the different languages used in Switzerland, Latin is used for language-neutral inscriptions on its coins.
Before 1798, about 75 entities were making coins in Switzerland, including the 25 cantons and half-cantons, 16 cities, and abbeys, resulting in about 860 different coins in circulation, with different values, denominations and monetary systems.
The local Swiss currencies included the Basel thaler, Berne thaler, Fribourg gulden, Geneva thaler, Geneva genevoise, Luzern gulden, Neuchâtel gulden, St. Gallen thaler, Schwyz gulden, Solothurn thaler, Valais thaler, and Zürich thaler.
In 1798, the Helvetic Republic introduced the franc, a currency based on the Berne thaler, subdivided into 10 batzen or 100 centimes. The Swiss franc was equal to 6 3⁄4 grams of pure silver or 1 1⁄2 French francs.
This franc was issued until the end of the Helvetic Republic in 1803, but served as the model for the currencies of several cantons in the Mediation period (1803–1814). These 19 cantonal currencies were the Appenzell frank, Argovia frank, Basel frank, Berne frank, Fribourg frank, Geneva franc, Glarus frank, Graubünden frank, Luzern frank, St. Gallen frank, Schaffhausen frank, Schwyz frank, Solothurn frank, Thurgau frank, Ticino franco, Unterwalden frank, Uri frank, Vaud franc, and Zürich frank.
After 1815, the restored Swiss Confederacy attempted to simplify the system of currencies once again. As of 1820, a total of 8,000 distinct coins were current in Switzerland: those issued by cantons, cities, abbeys, and principalities or lordships, mixed with surviving coins of the Helvetic Republic and the pre-1798 Helvetic Republic. In 1825, the cantons of Berne, Basel, Fribourg, Solothurn, Aargau, and Vaud formed a monetary concordate, issuing standardised coins, the so-called Konkordanzbatzen, still carrying the coat of arms of the issuing canton, but interchangeable and identical in value. The reverse side of the coin displayed a Swiss cross with the letter C in the center.
Although 22 cantons and half-cantons issued coins between 1803 and 1850, less than 15% of the money in circulation in Switzerland in 1850 was locally produced, with the rest being foreign, mainly brought back by mercenaries. In addition, some private banks also started issuing the first banknotes, so that in total, at least 8000 different coins and notes were in circulation at that time, making the monetary system extremely complicated.
To solve this problem, the new Swiss Federal Constitution of 1848 specified that the federal government would be the only entity allowed to issue money in Switzerland. This was followed two years later by the first Federal Coinage Act, passed by the Federal Assembly on 7 May 1850, which introduced the franc as the monetary unit of Switzerland. The franc was introduced at par with the French franc. It replaced the different currencies of the Swiss cantons, some of which had been using a franc (divided into 10 batzen and 100 centimes) which was worth 1.5 French francs.